August 28, 2017

"A split between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner over whether the metropolis should have been evacuated..."

"... is raising questions about officials’ response to damaging floodwaters as a catastrophe continues to engulf the region. Mr. Turner, a Democrat, and other local officials urged residents to stay in their homes as Hurricane Harvey... approached Houston on Friday. But at a Friday news conference, Gov. Abbott, a Republican, suggested otherwise. 'Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating.'... Mr. Turner defended his decision on Sunday, saying it would have been foolish to evacuate 6.5 million people from Houston and surrounding areas without knowing the course of the storm."

The WSJ reports in an article that seems to be outside the paywall.

145 comments:

M Jordan said...

The Houston mayor is Democrat so he can't be wrong. Plus he's AA so he can't be criticized.

It's Abbott's fault. And Trump's.

Bay Area Guy said...

Umm, if a hurricane is coming, and you have a car, and you have relatives/friends inland, and you can leave, well, probably evacuation is the better choice.

Mayor Turner is a Democrat and not that bright -- which is redundant.

If you don't have the means to venture inland, well, that's a separate problem. The local authorities can address it with busses and shelters, etc, etc.

Achilles said...

Evacuation efforts should be focused on the vulnerable and infirm. The mayor is right you can't just have everyone everywhere leave every time there is a storm.

But the people who can't go up and down stairs by themselves should be treated differently.

And it is a good thing for the mayors sake he is a democrat. The media and democrats would have charged him with murder if he was a republican.

robother said...

"Shelter in place" and blame Republicans for all consequences seems to be the Democrat standard hurricane plan.

Michael K said...

Nagan II

And Nagan was re-elected by what was left of NO.

MountainMan said...

I would think that there should have been a plan to evacuate the most vulnerable, such as the senior citizens in a nursing home that were sitting up to their waists in water.

Other than that, I would think that the Corps of Engineers and Houston's city planning department would have developed some time ago, given all the hurricanes that have come through there in the past few decades, at least a plan for evacuation based on the priority of parts of the city that are most vulnerable to flooding. I do agree that trying to evacuate 7 million people is impossible oh short notice and the last evacuation, before Rita, was a bigger disaster than the hurricane itself. You don't want hundreds of thousands of people stuck in traffic on highways as the water is rising. But if there had been a priority ordered plan it seems they could have directed certain parts of the city to evaluate while asking the remaining, less vulnerable areas. to shelter in place.

WisRich said...

I think the "right decision" is subjective. Although in hindsight people should have evacuated, the realty is the only a handful of people have died so far.

sodal ye said...

(any WSJ article that you click to from their FB page are outside of the paywall)

MadisonMan said...

People who can't evacuate because of poverty or infirmity will always be there. If you issue evacuation orders and massive traffic ensues, that takes away services from the poor and infirm and throws it at the rich in cars.

You cannot evacuate a big city.

I note that for many in Houston, this event is an inconvenience, not dire peril.

mockturtle said...

"is raising questions about officials’ response to damaging floodwaters as a catastrophe continues to engulf the region."

This 'is raising questions' line always amuses me. Who are raising the questions besides the media? Sometimes it is written as "questions are being raised". Let's promote divisions where none exist and maybe even make it a race issue between a white governor and a black mayor.

Balfegor said...

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honorè, who led the Department of Defense response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said that experience has made officials wary of ordering an evacuation. But, he said, officials should have evacuated residents of flood-prone neighborhoods as well as other vulnerable populations like the elderly and homeless.

This seems right. Saying they couldn't evacuate 6.5 million people is a bit of a straw man.

“Now is not the time to second guess the decisions that were made,” Mr. Abbot said Sunday. He said he left several messages on Mr. Turner’s cellphone offering assistance, but hadn’t heard back.

This is . . odd. But it sounds like the governor has been in regular contact with the county official in charge of natural disasters (?), so the lines of communication are open.

mockturtle said...

And no matter what decision is made, questions will be raised by the media to second guess it.

Scott M said...

Houston?

Another "chocolate city"?

alan markus said...

I would think that there should have been a plan to evacuate the most vulnerable, such as the senior citizens in a nursing home that were sitting up to their waists in water.

When they did that last time (Hurricane Rita) 23 nursing home residents died while being evacuated when the bus caught fire. Me, I would opt for sitting in waist deep water waiting to be rescued versus being incinerated alive.

Scott M said...

And Nagan was re-elected by what was left of NO.

The subtle irony being that a great many New Orleans resident relocated to Houston after Katrina.

steve uhr said...

They should have reached a consensus and presented a single voice to the residents. In hindsight, givnen the small number of fatalities (so far) it appears the mayor made the right call.

DLS said...

I know people in Houston right now. It's not all under water. They should have simply evacuated those in low lying areas that everybody knew would flood -- an evacuation focused on specific neighborhoods. They wouldn't even have had to leave Houston -- it would have been enough to just remove themselves from the floodprone areas, so that they wouldn't need to be rescued later.

Ann Althouse said...

Where is Ray Nagin now?

In prison, where he'll be until at least 2023 (unless he gets executive clemency).


"In 2014, Nagin was convicted on twenty of twenty-one charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering related to bribes from city contractors before and after Hurricane Katrina."


"Many of the initial proposals to rebuild New Orleans focused on rebuilding areas with the highest likelihood of economic return. Many groups expressed concern that this might radically change the racial make-up of the city.[31] The land deemed most economically viable was mostly city land above sea-level, in which the most economically-advantaged and white citizens resided; the majority of New Orleanians, especially black residents, lived in the outer edges of the city, where land was mostly below sea-level and deemed less economically viable.[32][33] Nagin disavowed such proposals, and in response to residents' concerns, he used the phrase "Chocolate City" to signal that New Orleans would remain a majority black city.[34] He first used the phrase during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration speech in New Orleans on January 16, 2006 and repeated the metaphor several times. This was seized upon and parodied by some commentators, cartoons, and merchandising. Various designs of T-shirts with satirical depictions of Nagin as Willy Wonka were sold in the city and on the Internet.[35]"

Kevin said...

It's all Trump's fault.

He should have personally written code to download satellite data to his iPhone, run the hurricane models on the NASA mainframe at night so no to disturb their excellent work on climate change, Tweeted an expertly-written evacuation order in every language spoken in Southeast Texas, flown to Houston while picking up the tab to shield the taxpayers from any cost, assisted putting elderly and homeless people on busses while simultaneously helping them kick their opioid habits, driven all the busses as the same time to get them to a safe area free of offensive statues, cooked low-calorie gluten-free meals for the evacuees that were worthy of a Michelin star, and then given all the credit to Elizabeth Warren and her properly-respected Native American heritage for inspiring him to do so.

As our media reminds us time and again, anything less is unpresidential and most likely evidence of Hitler worship.

Balfegor said...

Re: alan markus:

When they did that last time (Hurricane Rita) 23 nursing home residents died while being evacuated when the bus caught fire.

I think it is somewhat unusual for buses to burst into flames (I ride buses all the time and this has never happened to me). One of the issues seems to have been that buses with expired registrations were allowed back on the road in the emergency, so the buses were riskier than normal. Another seems to be that the bus company itself had a spotty record on logging, if not actual safety. And lastly, it sounds like the driver was an illegal immigrant. Moving infirm patients is going to be risky pretty much no matter what. But buses blowing up in a fire is a risk that can be mitigated, even under the conditions of a limited evacuation.

Lyle Smith said...

I am in Houston right now, and think both men are right. It's an amazingly fucked up natural wonder.

I like both Abbott and Turner.

Ray said...

Will Trump reputation escape the fate of what happened to Bush's reputation with Katrina?

Lyle Smith said...

Turner is actually a very bright man. He's tackled pension reform, which was what his Republican opponent ran on. He also ran on raising the minimum wage to $15, which he hasn't moved on... which makes me think he won't, because he knows it is bad public policy.

He's a nice man who loves Houston. Just like Governor Abbott is also a nice man who loves Texas. Both their statements on evacuation were done with the best interests of the people in their hearts.

Michael K said...

It could be worse. Texas could have Jerry Brown as Governor.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Approximately 100 people got illed as a result opof the evacuation in advance of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and many others went through miserakle experiences stuck on the road.

It's important sometimes to say don't do something, stand there!

First, do no harm.

roesch/voltaire said...

Yes and I saw one of the mayors of a coastal city say he would let people decide if they wanted to evacuate because they didn't need the govt to tell them what to do, now of course these same politicians who refused help to the Katrina disaster are begging for socialist government hand outs.

rhhardin said...

I have a collection of Ray Nagin 2006 parodies by Bernard McGuirk on Imus, ad libbed interviews with Imus, from back when Imus was willing to be funny about black people who are clueless and in charge. I'll try to upload it...

http://rhhardin.home.mindspring.com/allnagin.ra

(real audio, a bunch of segments run together)

Florence said...

This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue -- the mayor and governor's statements don't even really conflict, unless you want to contort it to do so. There were not mandatory evacuations, but the governor urged those who can to go ahead and evacuate (i.e. voluntary evacuations).

This is a logistics issue. Is there any example, ever, of a successful evacuation of 6 million people in 24-48 hours from an area like Houston with limited evacuation routes (and in this case, where the majority of the routes aren't safe because of the same storm from which you are evacuating)?

Even assuming you get everyone out, where do they go, and for how long? What about all of the people that are then stranded elsewhere (after evacuating) that live paycheck to paycheck and just spent their money on gas to get out of town -- do they stay in shelters for months? How many deaths would that cause?

How many deaths has staying in place caused -- I've seen 5 confirmed thus far; there will probably be more, but will it reach 100 like Rita? Rita was the largest modern-day documented evacuation ever and it went horribly. Houston has grown tremendously in population since then, and the entire area floods, not just some parts that are easy to pinpoint.

john said...

About that nursing home.

People need to realize that the flood mitigation value of perhaps 20 - 50,000 sets of Depends (not just being worn, but those still packaged on the closet floor), should not be dismissed as trivial. Their absorptive capacity is enormous.

Think of these elderly people as bulwarks.

Browndog said...

Many do not trust the weather forecasting, and for good reason.

Hurricane Rita was only 12 years ago, many anguished and died on the highways trying to evacuate a non-event that was supposed to be Katrina II.

Yancey Ward said...

The mayor is correct here- you simply can't evacuate the city of Houston without leaving many of them trapped on the highways because of epic gridlock. This is the sort of situation where you, as a resident, need to be self-aware about where you live- it isn't all that difficult to figure out if you live in a flood-plain. You can tell from the initial estimates from FEMA that the vast majority of the people in the area haven't been forced from their homes into shelters, and won't be.

alan markus said...

The flooded nursing home was not in Houston. It is in Dickinson - a city of less than 20,000 population. Police Department is 32 full-time officers and 4 part-time. They do not appear to have a regular Fire Department - looks to be a volunteer organization.

Balfegor said...

Re: Florence:

How many deaths has staying in place caused -- I've seen 5 confirmed thus far; there will probably be more, but will it reach 100 like Rita? Rita was the largest modern-day documented evacuation ever and it went horribly. Houston has grown tremendously in population since then, and the entire area floods, not just some parts that are easy to pinpoint.

The entire area is at risk of flooding, but there are some areas that are apparently at significantly higher risk of devastating flooding. That's why, in anticipation of additional flooding, there are targeted evacuation orders coming out now in Houston. In the case of Rita, a lot of the gridlock that resulted from the mass evacuation was caused partly by the mayor's decision to recommend total evacuation (and partly from the decisions of millions of people to evacuate, seeing as there is only a tenuous causal link between "what the government commands" and "what people actually do" in the great state of Texas).

Big Mike said...

The big mistake seems to be the notion that all of Houston had to be evacuated versus none of it should be evacuated.

First of all, the mayor of Houston ought to have maps showing the areas subject to a 100 year flood. Expand those polygonal areas out to easily identifiable landmarks (major roads, malls, railroad lines) and tell everyone in those areas to leave via TV, radio, and emergency personnel going door to door. Yes, a large number of people died on the roads during the Rita evacuation, but if you stage it according to 100 year floodplain, then a larger area at less but still significant risk, then to the 500 year floodplain, it should be manageable. (Unless all of Houston is in the 500 year floodplain).

Second, approximately ten years ago I saw a demo of software to identify, prioritize, and make one way the roads into (for responders) but mostly out of (evacuees) an area. It was interactive, so the emergency managers could mark out areas that had flooded and the impact on these routes in near real time. Why the federal government would pay to develop such software and no one use it is beyond me, but after thirty years of working for federal contractors I don't suppose there is any level of governmental stupidity that is beyond imagining.

Michael K said...

"these same politicians who refused help to the Katrina disaster are begging for socialist government hand outs."

Who might that be, R/V ?

Or is this just another Tourette's syndrome manifestation you have?

Steve Uhr said...

"First of all, the mayor of Houston ought to have maps showing the areas subject to a 100 year flood. Expand those polygonal areas out to easily identifiable landmarks (major roads, malls, railroad lines) and tell everyone in those areas to leave via TV, radio, and emergency personnel going door to door. Yes, a large number of people died on the roads during the Rita evacuation, but if you stage it according to 100 year floodplain, then a larger area at less but still significant risk, then to the 500 year floodplain, it should be manageable. (Unless all of Houston is in the 500 year floodplain)."

There was no "stay-put" order. People should know whether or not their house is in a flood plain, etc.. What about independent responsibility folks? Do you need the government to tell you how best to care of your family?

Florence said...

Here's a map of the (100 yr) floodplain overlaying population density:

http://www.arch.ttu.edu/courses/2009/fall/5502/Shared/Assignment%20Files/Assignment%201/Images/From%20Peter%20Smuda/FloodDensityMap.jpg

Nonapod said...

Humans are short term thinkers, we're not particularly good a dealing with problems that go beyond the time frame of a typical human lifespan. A law that forbids building new structures on anything less than a 250 year floodplain would be rational and logical, but it probably never pass.

Matt said...

Can we please stop the political 'Democratic' 'Republican' game? Please? Please.... [Sigh]

Florence said...

It's interesting to see so many people not from the area have strong opinions on what should have happened in an area in which they do not live. Houston is colloquially referred to as the Bayou City for a reason. The place floods, has always flooded, and if you want to have a career in learning how to deal with regular flooding, Houston's a great place to work/study. The people that live there know that it floods, they know whether or not they are in a flood plain, and there is about 100 years of history of the city/government trying to make the place safer during floods.

Harvey is going to end up being the worst flood they've ever seen. There will be lots and lots to learn from this, which hopefully will result in even better planning for the future. Hopefully the total loss of life stays low; we've had five official confirmed deaths this far, and that will likely rise, but hopefully not by much.

It's easy to quarterback on Monday, but second guessing decisions from last week needs to be made considering only the information had from last week -- there was no way to know that it was going to be worse than Allison flooding before it was too late to evacuate (even for those who are saying targeted evacuation; that sounds great, but is still a logistical nightmare in Houston).

https://hubpages.com/education/Perspective-on-the-ups-and-downs-of-water-in-houston

(see floodplain maps and high water spots in the article)

It will be interesting to see an overlay of Harvey flooding -- I've heard lots of reports that areas that never flood are flooding. That's typical Houston -- you never really know what areas are going to flood and sometimes areas that typically flood, don't.

BGrear said...

I'm in NW Houston. Turner is right that trying to evacuate everyone would be a terrible idea. I was in the Rita evacuation - 14 hours to go 30 miles. There are 1-2 million more people in the area since Rita. A wide-scale evacuation would have been crazy.

Some areas known to flood could have had mandatory evacuations I guess. Problem is that it depends where the rain falls. Some areas like mine handled 15" of rain. If it rained 25" like other areas we would have flooded for sure (still might depending on where it rains). It all depends on those feeder bands with the train of storms and how fast the rain falls - no way to predict with pinpoint accuracy - a few miles one way or another can make the difference of being dry or being under water.

Both Turner and Abbott have the best interests of Houstonians I do believe with regard to the storm. This is an unprecedented flood. What's really cool to see is all the people volunteering and helping in any way they can - Texans taking care of Texans (and many coming from other states too.). It's becoming almost impossible to travel anywhere in Houston as even most of the elevated interstates are getting high water areas which is blocking traffic.

Also want to give a shout-out to HEB (a big grocery chain in Texas) and their employees. They brought in tons of supplies last week and have been able to keep many of their stores open during the storm and are open now. They didn't defer to the government - they took the initiative to stock up and provide survival supplies to the people here. Kudos to HEB.

Big Mike said...

@Steve Uhr, yes and no. I checked the floodplain map before we signed the contract to buy our house, but not everyone does that. There's a reasonableness test that checking floodplain maps may or may not pass.

Earnest Prole said...

Democrat bad Republican good -- or the other way around depending on who you talk to. What's funny (meaning dopey) is the kind of person who reduces all things on earth to this.

Michael K said...

"Can we please stop the political 'Democratic' 'Republican' game? Please? Please.... [Sigh]"

There is the history of New Orleans and Katrina. That's what this is about.

Nonapod said...

When thinking about this disaster you have to realize that there's a series of priorities that don't align among the various groups.

If you look at one group, the left leaning, anti-Trump main stream media, one of their top priorities is to ensure that no matter what happens, Donald Trump is blamed (and as a corollary that any Democrat politicians escape most of the blame and conversely Republican politicians receive most of the blame). Blame assignment is crucial, far more important than reporting the actual truth. This sort of strategy mostly worked during the Katrina disaster where Bush received the lion's share of the blame.

It's obvious to anybody with a brain in their head that the Democrat mayor was clearly in the wrong in this case. Thus, this story must be either suppressed or failing that, somehow spun in such a way as to lessen any Democrat culpability while increasing any Republican culpability. In war there can be no concessions.

eric said...

Blogger Matt said...
Can we please stop the political 'Democratic' 'Republican' game? Please? Please.... [Sigh]


The new rules really suck, don't they?

Jupiter said...

Blogger Matt said...
"Can we please stop the political 'Democratic' 'Republican' game? Please? Please.... [Sigh]".

Sure. Then we would have a one-party State. That always turns out well. Venezuela doesn't need a hurricane to be a bigger disaster than Houston.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The governor should not think his ass is covered. Between Corpus Christi and Houston does not necessarily include Corpus Christi and Houston. Between is fickle that way. Does between a rock and a hard place include the rock and a place? It most certainly does not.

I think it's especially hard for a mayor to order an evacuation. The evacuees are leaving the mayor's jurisdiction. The mayor can't really promise they will be taken care of beyond the city limits.

Static Ping said...

Steve Uhr, you would be surprised of the ignorance of homeowners as to their flood plain situation. In New Jersey, whenever the Passaic River floods - not Hurricane Sandy type floods but normal, happens every once in a while floods - we have the usual sob stories of people who had no idea that their house was in the flood plain. This includes people who bought houses that are directly adjacent to the river. The flood zones are well mapped out and easy to determine, and yet this phenomenon keeps happening.

There is also the matter than flood zones houses tend to be ridiculously cheap.

gadfly said...

Governor Abbott has had political news conferences on TV to tell the believing public that all is well in the ongoing effort to survive the wind, rain and water, calling forth his National Guard and the Coast Guard representatives to quote some meaningless statistics , and then closing with the Herculean efforts of Texas residents in their private rescue efforts.

Then on to FEMA time on TV where more wild claims are made as to the incredible efficiency of this agency which we know sucked in all Hurricanes and Tropical Storms that preceded Harvey. Meanwhile our President tweeted and tweeted about the recovery efforts and made excuses about the record rainfall. He will top-off his brilliance by visiting Houston tommorrow, creating a security crisis when none should be. But he seeks "atta-boys" as usual.

Finally the self-loving Mayor Turner of Houston didn't ask anyone about his refusal to order evacuation of Houston which was not the only choice. Memories of 41 deaths , 27 from drowning during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was the extent of his explanation, eventually shortened to "you can't evacuate six and a half million people." Supposedly, hunkering down in place gave all residents the benefit of Houston's public services. That has worked well , don't you think?

No matter what level of government that you want to pick on, not one mention was made about the existence of an effective answer to avoid six million trapped Houstonians. The solution worked to near perfection prior to landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi bringing wind and flood damage on an unprecedented scale. Fortunately, however, Hurricane Katrina also came after the development of innovative and proactive traffic management techniques that were conceived to increase the effectiveness of mass evacuations. Although glaring weaknesses existed in Louisiana’s ability to evacuate many of the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly, infirm, [stupid] and economically disadvantaged; the movement of people with the means and desire to evacuate in the hours before Katrina was accomplished at levels that exceeded the most optimistic prior projections. Studies by federal and state officials in the years before Katrina estimated about 72 hours would be required to fully evacuate the New Orleans metropolitan area. Traffic data collected during the Katrina evacuation suggest that it was actually completed in nearly half of this time.

The key features of the plan were the channelization of traffic onto routes and into directions that increased the overall efficiency of the evacuation and the early implementation of freeway lane reversals, also known as contraflow.

Jupiter said...

Nonapod said...
"A law that forbids building new structures on anything less than a 250 year floodplain would be rational and logical, but it probably never pass."

Correct. But let me tell you the law that could pass, and did; the one authorizing federal subsidies for flood insurance, without which it would have been impossible to get financing to build the houses that we will soon be paying to rebuild.

Strick said...

This has to be one of the toughest calls a mayor or governor has to make, especially after Rita. Neither man was really wrong, it was just that no call could be entirely right.

Todd said...

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The mayor can't really promise they will be taken care of beyond the city limits.

8/28/17, 1:39 PM


To be honest, they can't promise they will be taken care of within the city limits either.

As with most politicians, their real job (Mayor, Governor, President included) is to make the Government stay out of your way as much as possible. They all mostly fail miserably at that. The lure of power seems to always be too great.

Unknown said...

Like Nagin/Bush before him, the democrat media party will try their damndest to blame this on trump. The difference is
that trump will tell them to shove it up their ass

Jim at said...

"now of course these same politicians who refused help to the Katrina disaster are begging for socialist government hand outs."

Blanco and Nagin are begging for handouts?

That's news to me.

Bay Area Guy said...

It's good to hear from folks from Houston about what's actually happening on the ground.

Also, I do agree that some mass panicky evacuation of millions of people is not a good idea.

But..

There's plenty of room in the middle. The key point is who is at risk? People whose houses are in the flood zone, and who can easily evacuate, probably should have left. People who feel their houses aren't at risk, and have stocked up supplies, and have experience with the past floods, probably can make the judgment call to stay.

And, then, there's groups who have no money and no cars and are in the flood zone. Those people are greatest at risk, and the local authorities need to address them.

Steven said...

"Mr. Turner defended his decision on Sunday, saying it would have been foolish to evacuate 6.5 million people from Houston and surrounding areas without knowing the course of the storm."

Since the exact course of a hurricane is always uncertain until it's too late to evacuate 6.5 million people, this statement is the same as saying it would be foolish to ever order an evacuation.

David said...

Hurricane preparedness requires a large amount of institutional preparedness on the part of local and state government, police and other safety agencies, public utilities, traffic planners, businesses and many other people and organizations. A prepared community has detailed plans for various eventualities, multiple evacuation plans (it's not all or nothing), a robust communication network and clear lines of responsibility. South Carolina, after some bad experiences with past storms, has worked hard on this. These systems worked well last fall when Hurricane Michael came to call.

Our storm was considerably less powerful, and our population and population density is far less, so in many ways the two events are not comparable. What is comparable is the need for planning (including rehearsals), cooperation and coordination BEFORE THE EVENT. The fact that Texas seems to have been so ill prepared, and their cooperation so poor, suggests to me that the advance planning was seriously deficient. If that is the case the "blame" falls on all parties for not working before hand to be ready. The confusion and finger pointing is an indication of a much earlier failure that occurred before the crisis.

Nonapod said...

@Jupiter - Yeah, Federally subsidized flood insurance continues to be one of the baddest of the bad ideas. Not only are you not properly dealing with a problem (discouraging people from building stuff on known near term floodplains) but you're actually exacerbating it. There's no stupidity like US Federal Government stupidity.

MaxedOutMama said...

If they had tried a major evacuation, the odds are high that more people would have died than would from the storm/flooding.

More shelters/evacs from lower-lying areas, perhaps. One of the problems would be where to move the people - the storm forecast did not leave them a natural easy refuge route.

Houston does flood. There were bad floods in Houston in 2015 and 2016. The forecast showed that there was a high probability of significant flooding. But that still doesn't mean that a general evacuation of the area would have saved any net lives nor been possible.

The reason that we call them natural disasters is that they are disastrous events, and the damage can only be mitigated rather than evaded. If they had tried to evacuate all the nursing homes, a number of medically fragile individuals would have died. It is never that easy.

The Rita evac is supposed to have killed over 100 people. My guess is that in Houston proper, casualties from Harvey will be under 40. More casualties northwards, especially if some of the levees break. Also they only decided on the high rain forecast 48 hours before, and they would have needed more time to move all that many people (because you not only have to get them out of the city, you have to get them out of the entire rain/wind field, and that was clearly no easy job given the forecast.

Lyle Smith said...

David,

Texas was prepared. There are plans. They get rehearsed. There is good communication between the mayor and governor. The media is pushing this nonsense. The national news does not report reality!!! Don't allow yourself to be fooled.

We flood all the time in Houston. Everyone knows what can happen. It's just a monster deluge that has taken an unusual course. Stop pointing fingers out of ignorance!

traditionalguy said...

The day before when evacuation had to be decided , the chances that evacuation was necessary were 1 in 3, so the Mayor played the odds thinking he would be in far more trouble if his voters had to evacuate for nothing. And he lost his play. Hope he loses the next election, too.

But the State Authority in Austin says play it safe. And the Governor looks real good now.

Lem said...

a tweeter tread siding with the mayor....

https://twitter.com/gaypatriot/status/902014478417571842

Richard Fahy said...

Houston Mayor wins this argument. Local TV here in Fort Worth had pictures of evacuation for Hurricane Rita about 10 years ago. That was a total disaster, as mentioned in one of the posts, above. Mayor's position was based on experience, not politics.

traditionalguy said...

The Globalist Warmists are also pretending to blame CO2 warming for the unusual Rainfall. That is BS. An August Gulf Hurricane is a normal event, but it was the Canadian cool air's early descent all the way to Texas that clearly caused the blocking High that stalled Harvey from going inland, so that it sat on the coastline.

It's now being pushed back where it came from. That same Global Cooling air has again blocked the normal cross flows from west to east which is causing another temporary west coast hot spell.

Crimso said...

I once bought a house in the Bellevue area of Nashville. We knew it was near (but not in) a 500 year floodplain, and certainly weren't worried about any flooding, ever. In 2010, after we had moved out of the immediate area, they had a 1000 year flood. And that house was flooded.

George Grady said...

There's some information about how Houston's drainage system works here:

https://twitter.com/CorbettMatt/status/901959336850804737

It describes how Houston's system of reservoirs and bayous work. In particular, the major roads in Houston are designed to flood and act as drainage rivers during events like this. It would take on the order of days to actually evacuate Houston, Harvey rolled up really quickly (surprising just about all the professional weather people), and you have to balance deaths due to evacuation against deaths due to not evacuating. It's not an easy call.

SukieTawdry said...

Houston Instapundit readers really let Glenn have it yesterday for suggesting the city should have been evacuated. Apparently the last evacuation was a disaster in and of itself.

When Harvey hit, I read that the storm would wobble around the coastal areas for a while and might not reach Houston until Wednesday. Within 24 hours, the city was inundated with torrential rain. Way to forecast, meteorologists.

Jack Wayne said...

People forget that during the Rita evac, the advice was to head away from the path of the storm and head towards College Station or Dallas. Of course, Rita ended up going in the direction of CS and Dallas. Evacuation of a city this big is not a good idea unless you are positive that you're gonna get an Ike where power is lost. Rain and flooding is bad but lost power is the killer. There have been minor power outages with Harvey but nothing to signify.

The eye has reformed just south of Houston near Matagorda which I consider to be good news. Maybe it won't be able to reconstitute the wind and batter Houston. That's how you lose power. Radar shows that half the storm is drifting away to the NE, leaving Houston with a much smaller pinwheel than the last couple of days. My acquaintance is not large but no one I know is more than inconvenienced by the rain. I do know that the elementary close to me flooded. Too close to a bayou.

SukieTawdry said...

Bay Area Guy said...There's plenty of room in the middle. The key point is who is at risk?

My husband said there residents of a nursing home sitting in wheelchairs with water up to their chests. There are some people who perhaps always should be evacuated, nursing home residents among them. It's not just the storm itself but the aftermath of no power, short supplies, unpassable roads, etc.

Matt said...

Jupiter said...

"Sure. Then we would have a one-party State. That always turns out well. Venezuela doesn't need a hurricane to be a bigger disaster than Houston."

Jupiter, yeah, I'm not actually talking about a particular political system. What I am saying is let's stop with blaming one side or the other in a time of an emergency. The fact that [apparently] the Democrats had one response and the Republicans had another should only be news because they [again, apparently] they were not on the same page.

narciso said...

In 2000, a hurricane claimed some 50,000 lives when Hugo Chavez was on island off the coast of Venezuela.

EDH said...

Ironically, Ray Nagin is being held in Texas.

Federal Bureau of Prisons website:

https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/

C RAY NAGIN
Register Number: 32751-034
Age: 61
Race: Black
Sex: Male
Located at: Texarkana FCI
Release Date: 05/25/2023

Earnest Prole said...

Houston Instapundit readers really let Glenn have it yesterday for suggesting the city should have been evacuated. Apparently the last evacuation was a disaster in and of itself.

Move 6 million people in 24 hours? Even if the weather were sunny and 70 degrees, there would be a greater number of deaths from accidents than simply leaving everyone in place and riding out the storm. People who talk evacuations have no idea what they're proposing.

roesch/voltaire said...

Michael for a doctor you have poor diagnostic skills or don't follow the news much here is a link to the Texas politicians who voted against aid for Sandy( sorry not Katerina but same principle)The Dallas News says eight Texas representatives in 2013 voted against replenishing the National Flood Insurance Program, which was already running out of money ahead of Sandy.

All but one member of the Republican delegation from Texas also voted no on a second bill providing $50.5 billion in aid for Sandy victims.

Gospace said...

alan markus said...
The flooded nursing home was not in Houston. It is in Dickinson - a city of less than 20,000 population. Police Department is 32 full-time officers and 4 part-time. They do not appear to have a regular Fire Department - looks to be a volunteer organization.


For most of the country, volunteer fire departments are the regular fire department. From wikipedia, in 2014 about 31% of firefighters in the United States were professionals, the rest volunteers. Paid fire departments appear to be the exception, not the rule.

narciso said...

Right the pork laden bill, that after a year, had not reached needy sandy victims.

Michael K said...

"Michael for a doctor you have poor diagnostic skills"

I do pretty well with mental illness.

Sandy was not a hurricane and much damage was caused by the world traveler Bloomberg who neglected basic civic responsibility.

You have no idea if Texas is going request federal aid. The magnitude of things is far different.

However, I expect that no leftist will avoid a heavy load of schadenfreude, You people love to tear others down.

Jack Wayne said...

By the way, I've seen the picture of the seniors calmly sitting in easy chairs with water up to their chests. That photo looked staged. Who believes it happened that way?

Rabel said...

"By the way, I've seen the picture of the seniors calmly sitting in easy chairs with water up to their chests. That photo looked staged. Who believes it happened that way?"

Just about everybody who has looked into it.

Rabel said...

The National Weather Service is getting a pass, so far, on their failure to accurately predict the storm's development into a major hurricane.

I don't doubt that they did the best they could with the technologies they had available but they didn't see anything other than an unusually heavy rainstorm and possible Category 1 force winds coming until the storm was already impacting the Texas coast.

You can find the archive of their bulletins on their hurricane page.

exiledonmainstreet said...

When Harvey hit, I read that the storm would wobble around the coastal areas for a while and might not reach Houston until Wednesday. Within 24 hours, the city was inundated with torrential rain. Way to forecast, meteorologists.

8/28/17, 2:56 PM

Any yet, they assure us that they can tell with complete certainty what the temperature will be everywhere 50 or 100 years from now.

GRW3 said...

How will the elite react to finding out:

1) Whole Foods (Paycheck) has been hosing them for years?

2) Shopping with the Deplorables?

harrogate said...

Most everyone who lives there or who has followed it because they have people there, or just because they're genuinely interested? It's a regular refrain, some version of "the mayor and governor were not on the same page but both took defensible measures and neither deserves to be villified."

People who don't know shit? A goodly portion of that group is taking potshots at either the governor or the mayor, or trying to turn it into a discussion of other hurricane policies in other places at other times. The ignorance, it is proud.

Bob Ellison said...

Michael K, Sandy was a hurricane. They started calling it "Superstorm Sandy" while it was still alive on the shore, but it was a hurricane.

Quibbling about terminology is pointless, yet here I do it.

Michael said...

I am not sure that the commenters here have a sense of the size of Houston which is vast. Evacuation is just a word.

wildswan said...

In Mississaugua Canada they had a huge, trouble-free evacuation in 1979. A train with deadly chemicals derailed and the chemicals it was feared that the chemicals might begin to leak. So they evacuated in an ever widening circle staring with the streets closest to the derailment site. No one drove out of their own street until the streets closer to the site were cleared. No traffic jams, no gridlock. In the end the whole city of 200,000 was evacuated because the chemicals WERE leaking as the officials had known right from the start. But they didn't say so to keep the evacuation orderly. No one was hurt or died.

In other words Houston could have ordered those on Floodplain A (the most likely to flood) to evacuate, followed by those on Floodplain B. And so on. And the others had to stay in place. There would be no gridlock. They don't have to evacuate the whole city. They have to evacuate based on who is close to a flood plain. But it's easy to sit up here,safe in Wisconsin and comment adversely. I wish them all the best - it isn't over yet.

PS Maybe Trump should give the "Cajun Navy" as a whole an big Navy E for excellence. Katrina would have been a lot worse than it was without them - same for Baton Rouge and Houston. It's true that the Coast Guard and National Guard saved the majority but it's also true that thousands upon thousands were saved by the small boats of the "Cajun Navy" in all three cases - just like Dunkirk.

Jamie McArdle said...

I'm in Katy, just west of Houston; we've had 30 inches of rain so far and it's still coming down. Now, Katy is a new city (a lot of it is, anyway), and the much-maligned master-planned developments have been built to include a LOT of flood control area (disguised as pretty, if very manicured, lakes and so forth). We are doing well out here, overall, despite the - I can't emphasize this enough - epic, unprecedented level of rainfall we've all been experiencing.

Houston proper is different: we used to live in the Memorial area, which is maybe 17-18 miles from where we are now, and our house in that neighborhood, built in about 1970, regularly had a "leaf line" on the lawn within a few feet of our front door. I vividly remember my husband driving home from work with water up to the top of his truck's grill. (Side note: Buy a Toyota. That thing was unstoppable and we could treat it like a 4WD even though it was only a cheap 2WD.) I feel certain that our house is probably three feet deep in water by now.

I second the opinions of those up-thread who point out that it all depended - no, depends, because much rain is still falling and the bayous haven't crested yet - on where the rain falls - and remember, we're looking at at LEAST 30 inches of rain in many places, and up to 50 (God forbid it's more than that) by the time Harvey finally loses steam - and remember too that he was "only" a named storm until less than a day before he made landfall at Cat4 - and stalled out at 1-2mph right over this area. It's truly, truly something no major city has ever seen. I am a rock-ribbed Republican, but I'm willing to give Mayor Turner the benefit of the doubt for making the call that seemed appropriate at the time. The loss of life has been very low, the shelters in my area are oversupplied with everything but volunteers (I'll have to reassess tomorrow about that - I intended to come back in more appropriate volunteering clothes but the bayou between me and the closest shelter was only a foot below the road, and Rule One is "don't become a case of need yourself"), and lines of private pickups hauling private boats are headed eastward from us to help with the rescue efforts in western Houston.

Jamie McArdle said...

Oh, wildswan... that was Canada! Have you ever been on a plane landing late where they've begged everyone to stay seated and let the people with quick connections to get off first? I'll bet a good 75% of those who do stay seated are Canadians. (The other 25% are me and my family, my husband chomping at the bit but sitting at the window and unable to muscle his way past me.)

Ken B said...

How many people evacuate New York City daily?
Evacuation doesn't necessarily mean the whole territory does it? Can't people in the low areas leave, and end up in higher ones?
Does Houston own buses? Do the area school systems own buses?

Bob Ellison said...

Ken B, evacuating NYC, with all of its transportation infrastructure, and evacuating Houston, with almost none of that, are not comparable things. Houston is pretty flat, too. Even the buildings are flat. It's spread way out, with lots of one-story houses and buildings.

Earnest Prole said...

How many people evacuate New York City daily?

You mean to their own homes? Transportation is the least-difficult evacuation challenge, and it is formidable.

Ken B said...

Bob Ellison
Some parts of Houston are higher than other parts. People say evacuation as if it meant everyone had to end up in Tulsa. All it means is they have to end up away from the shores and out of the low areas. The mayor told people to stay home. Do people live near the shore?

Florence said...

http://www.businessinsider.com/hurricane-evacuations-traffic-jam-drowning-deaths-2017-8

"As The Tribune and other outlets have reported, most flood deaths (about two-thirds) happen in vehicles. This is because many people drive into what appears to be shallow water on a roadway only to be swept away by deceptively strong currents and deeper-than-expected flooding."

"Evacuation plans are predicated on storm surge, not rainfall flooding," Lowry said. "Rain evacuations difficult to impossible due to forecast limitations."

"The biggest reason Houston officials didn't tell residents to evacuate was to avoid clogging highways and other roads at dangerous levels."

"When Hurricane Rita barreled toward Texas in 2005, for example, an exodus of about 3 million people contributed to at least 73 deaths — though some have estimated as many as 107 — before the storm...Had Harris County issued an evacuation order [for Harvey] even several days in advance, a similar backup may have ensued — and it could have happened on roads that quickly got flooded with several feet of fast-moving water."

You've all seen the pictures of the flooded roads. Many of those are the major evacuation routes. Those roads would have been packed with cars.

McG said...

If I lived in Houston wouldn't have waited for an evacuation order. I would have called a realtor in Nebraska last April.

Ken B said...

Prole
Read what Wildswan wrote. Do you think everyone in Mississauga owned a second home?

Bob Ellison said...

Ken B, you make sense. Even ten feet can change things a lot-- that's what happened during Katrina/Rita.

Houston, though, is something like 80 feet above sea level on average, with almost no hills. Rainwater doesn't care very much about elevation. It cares about washes and bayous. You can drown a hundred feet above sea level if enough rain comes down, and I suspect that the post mortem will come down saying Houston's mayor should have said, "Get out if you can, especially if you're on low ground."

6.5m people couldn't race out of there easily. It's a light year away from the nearest large city.

But yes, you're right, of course.

Jack Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Wayne said...

Conroe at the top, Mont Belvieu to the east, Galveston to the South and Katy to the West. That's Houston: roughly 14,000 square miles of development and ranches but mostly development. Try to plan to evacuate that. Or even predict what some storm may do on average in all that area.

M Jordan said...

I see some here wish an end to the partisan game. Be nice, I suppose. But after one team has worked the refs, gotten every call, destroyed the tempo of the game trying to get the opposing coach tossed, seems a little late for that, no?

Nope. The partisan game must play out to the end.

James K said...

On the question of whether one follow what officials say regarding such things as evacuation, I recall that on 9/11 when the North Tower was hit, people in the South Tower were told to stay put. Some people followed that advice, others said "F--- that, I'm outta here."

Earnest Prole said...

Read what Wildswan wrote.

In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In theory, evacuating a subtropical American city of 6.5 million should be no different than evacuating a Canadian suburb of 200,000. In practice, there's “. . . the exodus of more than 3 million people from south and southeast Texas, one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history. As traffic jams stretched across hundreds of miles over two blistering days in 2005, dozens died from accidents and heat-related illnesses, all before Rita even made landfall. “I hope we never have another problem where we have roads shut down and traffic stranded for three days,” said Nim Kidd, chief of the state’s Emergency Management Division.

harrogate said...

Joel The Jackal Osteen, meanwhile, sure is living up to form in the midst of all this.

Earnest Prole said...

It’s easy to imagine something orderly and Canadian when speaking the word evacuation, but the Texas reality is:

"A 2-year-old Houston girl crushed beneath the wheels of a pickup; a Sugar Land man and his two young children fatally pitched from their overturning car near Madisonville; a 92-year-old La Marque woman dead after losing consciousness while stuck in highway gridlock . . .

“. . . at least 107 people were killed by last week's hurricane or died in accidents or from health problems associated with the evacuation of 2.5 million people from their homes."

“Law enforcement officers not prone to tears said they often wept openly as they dealt with the repercussions of the flight from Rita.

"It was horrible," said San Jacinto County Sheriff's spokesman J.J. Stitt. Stitt helped provide a police escort for a charter bus filled with elderly residents from the Houston area en route to a local hospital. Earlier, the bus driver had made a 911 emergency call to authorities as his passengers sickened. By the time officers arrived, two were dead.

“At Conroe Regional Medical Center, spokeswoman Fritz Guthrie said 600 patients arrived at the hospital during the evacuation . . . ‘Most of them arrived with effects of the heat — heat exhaustion and heat stroke’ she said. Others came in with heart problems or blood clots in their legs from sitting too long. ‘We had people walking over from the freeway having babies.’

“La Marque resident Mary Lou Bourgeois, 92, became another Rita evacuation victim when she reluctantly joined her family fleeing via clogged I-10. . . . After about 12 hours on the road Thursday — the family had gotten only as far as west Houston — the elderly woman began having difficulty breathing. She then lost consciousness. She died Friday . . .

“’Is the chance of dying greater in the movement than in the storm? That's the question we need to consider.’”

Narayanan Subramanian said...

May be global warmist climate scientists would be kind enough to design evacuation plan for such situations. They claim ability to process data mere mortals cannot fathom.

Michael said...

wildswan
Mississaugua is 113 square miles. Houston is 627 square miles. Different challenges. Canadians are also delighted to follow the rules and are ever anxious to be given new ones. Houstonians not so much.

rcocean said...

I know little about Houston, but i can understand that if tell 6 million Americans to get the hell out of Dodge, you're going to have traffic jams, chaos, and even the Spanish Inquisition (Nobody expects it, do they?)

Definitely last resort. And what the 6 million evacuees going to do, once they get to wherever? Who's going to shelter and feed them? Are they all going to stay at a Motel 6?

You'd better have some good planning in place, before you call for a massive evacuation.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Texas should just fall off the map. Life would be better for everybody.

Michael K said...

Sandy was, at best, a category 1 hurricane very late in the season.

Tropical Storm Sandy was the 18th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It was upgraded to a hurricane on Oct. 24 when its maximum sustained winds reached 74 mph (119 kph).

Sandy tore through the Caribbean, making landfall at Jamaica on Oct. 24. After leaving that island, the storm gained strength over open water and became a Category 2. The storm hit Cuba early Oct. 25, then weakened to a Category 1. On Oct. 26, it swept across the Bahamas. Sandy briefly weakened to a tropical storm on Oct. 27, then gained strength again to become a Category 1 hurricane before turning north toward the U.S. coast.

I've sailed through a hurricane with winds stronger than that.

Sandy was so destructive because it hit with a spring tide.

A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and amplified Sandy's storm surge. Streets were flooded, trees and power lines knocked down and the city's famed boardwalk was ripped apart. Along the Jersey shore, people were left stranded in their homes and waited for rescue teams in boats to rescue them. More than 80 homes were destroyed in one fire in Queens. Several other fires were started throughout the New York metro area.

Seawater surged over Lower Manhattan's seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. The water inundated tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown. A large tanker ship ran aground on the city's Staten Island.


Most of the NYC damage occurred because of poor preparation, sort of like the snow removal fiasco the winter before.

Bloomberg, like so many politicians with big ambitions, neglect basic civil responsibility. We have that with Jerry Brown in California right now.

Richard J Daley and Fiorello LaGuardia never had ambitions to be anything but Mayor.

They were good ones.

Someday, somebody is going to have to deal with building on barrier islands.

Disaster relief has to be reformed.

buwaya said...

"and even the Spanish Inquisition"

I want to bring this back. Would do no end of good.
And far from being unexpected, it was quite predictable.
A paragon of due process in fact.
As far as due process went there was nothing like it at the time and very little today.

Bob Ellison said...

Good writing, Michael K. Unsupported by facts.

This is a stupid argument. You may have survived a big-time hurricane on sails, but I doubt it. I may have sustained a landfall at about 85mph that dumped several feet of sand all over my town in Monmouth, NJ, but I would doubt that, too, since I was not there at the time...but that was the Cat-1 Hurricane Sandy that landed in 2012 and destroyed several towns for a few months.

Yes, barrier islands are problems all up and down the Eastern Seaboard. But lying and crapping on everything doesn't make it better.

HT said...

I thought yesterday it was a mistake not to have evacuated - a local decision, OBVIOUSLY. However, I would need to see a timeline, and we would need to know how long an evacuation of that many hundreds of thousands, millions would take. Perhaps it's at the article, but absent that information, it's hard to say definitively.

And if we're going to second guess, then let's widen out the lens and think about the larger implications.

It's funny that Ann seemed to have been baiting the MSM about the moment they would afix blame on Trump a couple of days ago.

Ken B said...

So Prole, you clearly did not read what wildswan wrote, as he or she wrote of sequential, targeted, organized evacuations. If you want to defend the mayor by talking about how ineptly he did it before, and all he's done to improve things in 10 years is nothing, so it would be inept again, have at it. But saying something is hard to do is no excuse for not having plans in place. This failure is long term. Did they organize partial evacuations of the less mobile from targeted areas? We heard basically "stay home, we got nothing".

Michael K said...

"You may have survived a big-time hurricane on sails, but I doubt it. "

You can doubt all you wish. If you knew anything about the sea, you would know that hurricanes are much more dangerous at the shore.

Cat 1 hurricanes are "tropical storms" and the damage is surge and flooding. Both of which can be badly handled by the local authorities, as seems to be the case in Sandy. The Houston thing may have been beyond the reach of competent authority but I'm sure we will find out.

By the way, "Big Time Hurricanes" are not cat 1.

Bob Ellison said...

So again with the terminology? Cat 1 is not a hurricane, despite the name "hurricane"? Don't let's be silly. You said you had sailed through worse. Video or it didn't happen.

Here are a few pictures.

That was just a medium storm that knocked down houses all up and down the coastline.

Jon Ericson said...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
Texas should just fall off the map. Life would be better for everybody.

8/28/17, 6:52 PM

WTF?

Big Mike said...

@Jon, apparently Toothless is unaware of what the Obama administration's employment figures would have looked like without the Texas economy.

M Jordan said...

Toothless no likey Texas cause Texas voted Trump.

Everything's tribal.

Florence said...

Major evacuation route Hwy 59 is completely flooded in Cleveland, which is over an hour drive [i]North[/i] of downtown Houston. So, for those saying select areas should have been evacuated, how do you decide which areas when all of the roads and massive swaths of neighborhoods in a 60 mile radius of downtown are flooded from rain (not storm surge)?

HT said...

Maybe you let that lt gen honore figure it out. But meantime, while all deaths are sad and unfortunate there are, that we know of, 9. There are likely more, but so far, I think we can ourselves fortunate. So, I guess before we start second guessing, let's see how this thing pans out. (or doesn't)

Jack Wayne said...

To add perspective, I saw a report just now that 30,000 are displaced in Houston. That's about .3%.

Michael K said...

" Video or it didn't happen."

I'm sorry to call you a fool but it seems the shoe fits.

Of course there is no "video" of sailing in hurricane force winds. I actually do have video of sailing the day after but I have no interest in interacting with you any longer.

You accuse me of lying.You make assertions that suggest you must have had some loss from Sandy. Perhaps you have an insurance claim you are worried about.

Go away.

Maybe Ritmo will take you in to his mother;s basement.

wareagle69 said...

I live in NW Houston. Evacuation sounds fine until you actually attempt to implement it. I did not vote for the Mayor and disagree with him on pretty much everything in the policy & political area. IMHO HE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION NOT TO CALL FOR EVACUATION.

All you folks posturing from your keyboards should get a bit more informed about the situation before presenting yourselves as experts. This is an unprecedented event. I don't care what "plan" may have been in place what is happening now is a .01% probability. Often referred to as 1000 year flood. Wanna do something constructive? Trailer up your boat and come on down and help.

The Godfather said...

Except for the occasional personal insults, this has been a very interesting discussion. Many commenters have relevant knowledge and even more have intelligent opinions. I've learned a lot.

But let's not forget that Mother Nature is a bitch. The idea that human beings can get through one of her tantrums with minor damage if only they do the right things is a delusion. Yes, there are some places that were so much at risk that the residents should have been moved out of them. Apparently they were in many cases, but not all, requiring rescues under trying conditions. So far, the death toll reported hasn't been large, but undoubtedly there will be more bodies found. With 20-20 hindsight we will figure out in days to come what we could have done differently. And then we can tell Mother Nature what we will do next time to prevent the catastrophe. And Mother Nature will laugh.

richard mcenroe said...

The city gov had multiple days warning the storm was coming.
The city must have known which of its neighborhoods were prone to flooding; they have floods all the time.
There was NO REASON not to advise those neighborhoods to start evacuating early; they didn't have to throw everyone on the roads at once.
Failure to do so shows an appalling lack of planning and forethought at the city government level.

By the way, many proglodytes on social media are reveling in Houston's suffering and wishing the worst on its residents. They seem to have forgotten that most of the refugees from Katrina that fled to Houston stayed there permanently. So they're happily wishing for the deaths of black Democrats...

Michael K said...

"Except for the occasional personal insults, this has been a very interesting discussion."

Oh, I agree. I don't why this veered off into "Superstorm Sandy." The Houston thing is probably far more severe than previous floods but there is a history of Houston flooding,

The evacuation arguments will go on over months from now.

iowan2 said...

When are people going to learn that the govt is just guessing? If a storm is coming, do what you need to do. Assess your own ability to absorb the risk, decide accordingly. Always making the assumption that the govt will not have the ability, or desire, to bail you out, should the situation go south.

pacwest said...

Thanks for the stories from the front lines. Very moving to hear how people are coping and helping each other. Not to be too politico, but I bet the convoy has a large Trump contingent in those trucks hauling those boats. I'm assuming the feds are all over this. I heard that several refineries had been shut down? Ripple economic effects.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Apparently the Cajun Navy is doing a fine job of rescuing people.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exiledonmainstreet said...

richard mcenroe said...
"By the way, many proglodytes on social media are reveling in Houston's suffering and wishing the worst on its residents. They seem to have forgotten that most of the refugees from Katrina that fled to Houston stayed there permanently. So they're happily wishing for the deaths of black Democrats..."

See Ritmo above, who is apparently unaware that Houston has the fifth highest number of blacks in the country and Texas as a whole has the 3rd highest population of blacks. Not to mention all those Hispanics. It's far more diverse than progtard Vermont.

But hey, Ritmo's all good with the deaths of millions of blacks and Hispanics as long as the rednecks die with 'em.

(Gee, what are all those blacks and Hispanics doing, living in such a racist state? Are they too dumb to realize how terrible Texas is? White liberals need to make them woke! They can't do it alone!)

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the individual is responsible for themselves. Government can help with some of the logistics, such as having an evacuation plan for each neighborhood that tries to distribute the traffic to avoid the worst gridlock, trying to advise people if they should evacuate, and dealing with the aftermath, but it can never do more than provide assistance and advice. If people are waiting for a government order before they get moving, the unfortunate reality is that usually by the time the government declares an evacuation, it's already too late.

Some of this is just basic preparedness and the fact that most of us aren't. I understand the dangers and difficulties of evacuating a couple million people from a city in 24 hours and understand the reluctance to evacuate on Friday when it was really already too late and it was well known by officials that the citizenry wasn't prepared enough to pull this off without chaos (see, for example, the race to the store for supplies every time a storm is brewing, no matter where it happens to be landing).

The criticism of Houston's leadership on the lack of an evacuation order, if anything, should focus more on the fact that they were preparing for and advising their people for the wrong type of event. Houston was never in much danger from the hurricane in the usual sense (i.e. winds and storm surge), it was in danger from the potential for extreme flooding even had this storm never become a hurricane and that danger was knowable well before Friday - one of the local weathermen down in Houston, I don't remember which, was tweeting that they'd been warning of catastrophic rainfall all last week.

Jamie said...

richard mcenroe, there were I think six or eight models of where Harvey was going to make landfall, as of Thursday. Our kids' school wasn't cancelled for Friday until fairly late Thursday evening. Friday morning it still wasn't clear where Harvey would go, how fast, or how powerfully; it was a Cat1, having been a tropical storm when I went to bed the night before. By Friday night when it finally hit land, it was a very slow-moving Cat4 down at the coast and we up in Katy, some 150 miles away or more from the point of landfall, were already in the rain. (Rain is still falling where we are. I feel like building an ark.) I think it was Friday night when the schools where I am announced that they'd be closed Monday and Tuesday; by Saturday afternoon or so they had called off school for the whole week.

Yes, everyone knew a storm was coming, but as you or someone else said, Houston "floods all the time" - nobody leaves Houston for an ordinary storm with water covering the sidewalks in the flood-prone areas. This is - I say again - unprecedented, at least in modern times. And everyone knows that people die in cars, not only in floods but in bad visibility, in stressful situations, and just because car accidents are dangerous. Houston had, in addition, the horrible example of Rita to look back on. To give a major evacuation order with no strong and clear justification would have been - this is important - a death sentence for some number of people on the roads, even if Harvey hadn't developed as it did. It would not have been a trivial decision, and to minimize loss of life it would have had to have been called at least 24 hours before our schools in Katy even knew they were going to have to cancel school for the next day - back when Harvey was only interesting to weather geeks and fishermen.

As for that targeted evacuation wildswan talked about: tell me how you get JUST the targeted people on the road. Tell me how you announce, "These neighborhoods will evacuate beginning at thus-and-such a time, followed by these over here starting six hours later. Any other car on the road will be cited," or whatever, and keep people (especially the well-off people who can afford to take a week off work if necessary and stay in a hotel or have a place to stay out of the area) from thinking, "If they're making those areas leave, why, I'm just outside those areas - I'm gone!" and clogging up the small roads to avoid the police on their way out of Dodge. Again, not a trivial decision nor one that could be reasonably policed.

I am grateful to be safe, dry, and nothing more than bored; most of Houston's people are at least safe. Six people's deaths as of now are being "linked to" Harvey - it's terrible that anyone has died because of this storm, but I can't imagine how many more would be dead if even the most vulnerable areas had been evacuated at the point where it became clear that they were actually going to flood more than "damn, we have to replace the carpet again." I won't second-guess the city on this one.

Earnest Prole said...

And everyone knows that people die in cars, not only in floods but in bad visibility, in stressful situations, and just because car accidents are dangerous. Houston had, in addition, the horrible example of Rita to look back on. To give a major evacuation order with no strong and clear justification would have been - this is important - a death sentence for some number of people on the roads, even if Harvey hadn't developed as it did.

Amen.

Achilles said...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
Texas should just fall off the map. Life would be better for everybody.

Bitter table of 1...

You should be happy. The democrat party is going to implode and this is your chance to have something useful come out.

Or you can wish for the death of your political opponents.

It really just seems like you have been on a bender the last few weeks. Or months...

AReasonableMan said...

Looking at the pictures of Houston the first people I would blame for this mess are the local civil engineers. A lot of infrastructure is underwater. The civil engineers should have known better. It is a new city, unlike New Orleans, where most of the city was 'planned' and built before civil engineers became involved. Homeowners don't know much and builders/real estate agents are a bunch of lying thieves but the civil engineers have no excuses.

GRW3 said...

If you were BETWEEN Corpus Christi and Houston, you should have moved to higher ground.

MadisonMan said...

So much ignorance, so little time.

I don't doubt that they did the best they could with the technologies they had available but they didn't see anything other than an unusually heavy rainstorm and possible Category 1 force winds coming until the storm was already impacting the Texas coast.

You can find the archive of their bulletins on their hurricane page.

Indeed. For example, here is one from Thursday afternoon. Note point #1: Harvey is forecast to be a major hurricane at landfall (a landfall that happened ~30 hours later). Note point #3: 3. Life-threatening flooding is expected across much of the Texas
coast from heavy rainfall of 12 to 20 inches, with isolated amounts
as high as 30 inches, from Friday through early next week.


Since the exact course of a hurricane is always uncertain until it's too late to evacuate 6.5 million people,

Hurricane Track forecasts are really quite good (intensity forecasts are not as good). Given that it's always too late to start an evacuation of 6.5 M people, I suppose your statement is true however.

Re: Sandy. Sandy was not a tropical system when it made landfall, meaning it was deriving energy at the time of landfall more from horizontal temperature gradients rather than from condensation (a very stripped down explanation) -- that transition from tropical to extratropical occurred about 12 hour before landfall, IIRC -- and that made messaging very difficult. (Hence the moniker "Superstorm" which I personally think is stupid) Its storm surge damage arose from three things: Its history as a stronger storm, its unusual path into the shore from the southeast, and the timing of landfall.





Florence said...

@MadisonMan said Note point #3: 3. Life-threatening flooding is expected across much of the Texas
coast from heavy rainfall of 12 to 20 inches, with isolated amounts
as high as 30 inches, from Friday through early next week.


Hurricane Allison in 2001 dropped heavy rainfall along its path, peaking at over 40 inches (1,000 mm) in Texas. The worst flooding occurred in Houston...where over 35 inches (890 mm) of rain fell...30,000 became homeless after the storm flooded over 70,000 houses and destroyed 2,744 homes. Downtown Houston was inundated with flooding, causing severe damage to hospitals and businesses. Twenty-three people died in Texas. Along its entire path, Allison caused $9 billion (2001 USD) in damage and 41 deaths. Aside from Texas, the places worst hit were Louisiana and southeastern Pennsylvania." (Wikipedia)

In comparison, Galveston and Houston decided to evacuate prior to Hurricane Rita in 2005. "Officials in Galveston County (which includes the city of Galveston), which was devastated by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, ordered mandatory evacuations, effective September 21 at 6 p.m., in a staggered sequence. Officials designated geographical zones in the area to facilitate an orderly evacuation. People were scheduled to leave at different times over a 24-hour period depending on the zone in which the people were located. The scheduled times were set well in advance of the storm's possible landfall later in the week, but not soon enough to ensure that all residents could evacuate safely in advance of the storm...Officials of Harris County hoped that the designation of zones A, B, and C would help prevent bottlenecks in traffic leaving the area similar to those seen at New Orleans prior to Katrina and Hurricane Dennis earlier that year. Also, people in certain zones were to be forced to go to certain cities in Texas and were not allowed to exit their designated routes except for food and gas — another feature of the evacuation plan which officials hoped would keep traffic flow orderly...[A]n estimated 2.5 – 3.7 million people evacuated the Texas coastline...The combination of severe gridlock and excessive heat led to between 90 and 118 deaths even before the storm arrived. Reports from the Houston Chronicle indicated 107 evacuation-related fatalities." (Wikipedia)

So, given that information, we have a Tropical Storm that dropped a record 35-45 inches and resulted in 23 deaths compared with a Hurricane evacuation that resulted in 100 deaths before the storm hit. As MadisonMan quotes, the weather bulletins last week were predicting 12-20 inches, peaking at 30 inches. What option do you choose this time -- stay or evacuate? Do you evacuate just the 70,000 that flooded before -- what if the rain bands don't drop the rain in the same exact places this time?

rich hahn said...

Nobody I heard recommended evacuating 6.5 million people. False argument. As Gen Honore recommended, evacuate those in flood prone areas and those disabled and elderly that cannot care for themselves.

Another point is Katrina (in New Orleans) was a flood disaster, not a hurricane disaster - just like Houston.

Earnest Prole said...

The cost-benefit analysis of evacuate versus stay is difficult, so I propose we just say "fuck it" and make the judgment based on whether the mayor of Houston is a Republican or Democrat.

Bad Lieutenant said...

The cost-benefit analysis of evacuate versus stay is difficult, so I propose we just say "fuck it" and make the judgment based on whether the mayor of Houston is a Republican or Democrat.

We are in violent agreement.

Paul Ciotti said...

I really don't know how you evacuate 6.5 million people. I live in Los Angeles. On a normal weekend, there is bumper to bumper traffic both heading north and east (the Pacific Ocean is to the west and south.) If people tried to evacuate L.A. there would instantly be a 400 mile traffic jam between here and San Francisco. It would take a month or more of 24 hour-a-day, full-lane traffic to evacuate this city. And that's with good weather and no overpasses down and no panicky accidents on the freeways.

Some places can't be evacuated. don't know why Houston or Texas officials didn't just tell people to go to higher ground inside the city. Frankly, I don't even know why anyone had to tell them at all. You would have thought anyone could figure that out on their own.

JamesB.BKK said...

As for the mayor's defensive posture, what happened to the Dems' so-called "precautionary principle?" So many things we cannot by govt. fiat do because of unknown (and perhaps unknowable) risks. So many things we must by govt. fiat do or pay for because of unknown (and perhaps unknowable) risks - the primary of which being very poorly modeled and based on suspect data paid for by taxes in large part but inexplicably not open to public and peer inspection. Hurricane paths are inherently fluid but also predictable. Hurricanes are immensely dangerous, in particular flood-wise those that stall or bounce about. Yet, no actual precautions let alone application of precautionary principles? What is the basis for the defensive posture of the city government? That they screwed it up before with Rita? That is a very poor excuse indeed. The lessons: You are on your own. Don't be poor, after taxes.

James Bbkk2 said...

Nonapod @ 1:03 PM: "Humans are short term thinkers, we're not particularly good a dealing with problems that go beyond the time frame of a typical human lifespan. A law that forbids building new structures on anything less than a 250 year floodplain would be rational and logical, but it probably never pass."

What is the human defect that explains why the related law that does exist provides for tax-receipt backed "insurance" for construction, and re-construction, in flood and coastal plains because insurers acting rationally would never undertake and their shareholders would never tolerate the undertaking of such risk on a commercial basis.