It’s Coming Sylvester…Prepare Thyself

 

Harvey

What’s’ coming?    A Hurricane Harvey sized bucket of criticism.

I’ve never been a fan of Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, career politician.  He’s been running for various offices for decades.    He ran for mayor when I first moved to Houston as a Reporter in 1990.    He finally won his mayoral lollipop in recent years, when I’m not sure, but fairly recently.    I’ve interviewed the man on several occasions and frankly, found him modtbunlikable .    Yes, he’s Black and of course, that instantly makes me a racist.

Please.

My dislike of the man had nothing to do with his color— it was with the man.    He was arrogant and a bit prickly during my encounters with him.   Unlikeable qualities in a person of any color.    And I wasn’t  the only Houstonian to feel this way.    Look at his won/ lost record in political contests over the last 30 years.

Anyway, I’m seeing interviews of rescued flood victims AND their rescuers on various news organizations blaming Sly for not ordering a mandatory evacuation.    Several people rescued said had they known it was going to be “that bad” they would have left last week.

Well, had they listened, read or watched local and national to newscasts for the past week, they would have known.   Does Mayor Turner not own a TV?     God knows, he never shied away from a live mic in his life, so we know he’s familiar with television.    So now, the city he’s fought so hard to lead is underwater and he’s going to get blamed.     He ordered no mandatory evacuations, there were no “all hands on deck” email or texts for first responders, much less “get out now” Houstonians.   Again this is according to some very  tired angry and damp first responders and the tired, angry , and damp people they rescued.  All agreed the city wasn’t ready….not even near ready for weather they  HAD to have known what was coming.

Well, that means, he was either given very bad advice or made a stupid decision on his own because he wasn’t paying attention.   The track of this storm was well-known, as were they unprecedented meteorological factors that they knew would keep it basically stagnate, spinning and meandering the Texas coast going nowhere.   By Saturday morning, weather experts were even more certain this would be a major rain event for Houston than they were a day prior to the storm making landfall.

Let’s be fair– Mayor Turner had the same access to the same weather information as Houstonians.    For a flooded out, big gut Bubba waiting on an air boat to come take him to safety to say he had no idea this was going to be the rain event is just an example of his ignorance.

But why didn’t Turner order a mandatory evacuation?    I haven’t seen any interviews with him.   Other mayors of the tiny coastal towns that Harvey all but erased from the map have been interviewed….often more than once.    In fact, I’ve been watching coverage consistently , and haven’t even heard his name mentioned, only his title. Why?    This is Houston.   A financial hub, an oil Mecca, it has a massive international shipping port and by the next US census, it’ll no doubt, be the country’s third largest city.

Back to Turner:  .a mandatory evacuation order can’t force people out of their homes.    And trying  to get more than two million people out of the metro area alone would be an even bigger nightmare.    But would it be any less calamitous to try to rescue two million people stuck on rooftops tiny 12 feet of water mere feet from their toes, are rescued boat by tiny  by tiny boat ???

So, why no directs communication with citizens?   Why hold a televised press conference when the bulk of the city has no electricity ?   When they had power, they  were told to hunker down.    How in the hell do you do that in six feet of water in a single floor home in an area that historically can flood during a simple Spring  thunderstorm????      How or why does that happen?    And if there wasn’t a mass evacuation plan, especially  after the deadlyn, massive traffic jam caused by Rita, 12 years ago, why not?      Didn’t Houston’s  emergency management team learn  anything?    And what about the responsibility of the citizenry?   They must be held accountable, too.    But people who stay put  are either in denial, have a non-chalant attitude or are just plan too lazy or crazy to leave.  They risk lives calling for help  when the water in their  homes rises up to their waists.

There could and should be mandatory evacuation  plans designed specifically for  every community  with a bayou in it, ready  to implement at a moments notice 5068199during every hurricane season.   Other than that, telling someone to hunker down who lives a block away from a bayou about to experience a very well publicized 500 year flood is damn near criminal.

I remember during Hurricane Ike, the director of FEMA shocked people up and down Galveston Island that if they chose to stay,  they should get a permanent marker and write their names and SSNs on their arms or legs so recovery teams could ID them.   Many stayed, and many died, mainly on Crystal Beach, north of  Galveston.     Many who stayed are known as BOIs which stands for ” born on the island”.   This is apparently, a major source of pride…..and stubbornness.      They know better.   They ride out storms in their  homes and ultimately have burials at sea.   Like captains who go down with their ships.    That mindset also exists in Houston; and other places,  too.     I get it—home is where the heart is.    And you can replace stuff but not people, yes, but stuff isn’t all that’s that easy to replace either.     You saved what feels like a lifetime for a house, a car, a big TV….other things.     I can understand wanting to stay to protect home and hearth, but I have  MUCH better understanding of not wanting to die.

Despite, what Turner did or didn’t do politically (or humanistically—I’m no longer a Houstonian, don’t live there and have no idea as to his specific mayoral involvement), I’m very proud of my former fellow Houstonians  who needed no federal prodding to get their own small boats, ski boats, air boats,  air mattresses—anything that would float to help in the rescue process .    Blacks pulling white people on makeshift rafts ,   Whites rowing an Hispanic family in a boat to safety.    Asians, blacks and whites, young and old alike, working together with one goal— surviving the flood.    It was the biggest kumbaya moment of the year.

But soon, that’ll all be forgotten .    This storm is already being politicized.

The Sunday morning network news shows were asking Texas officials about President Trump’s response, how good or bad it was, how fast or slow he’d been to react.     But Mayor Turner won’t be left out of the equation.    He can’t be.   Everything begins at the local level during anyemergency.      This situation is too serious, too big and still ongoing as I type and sadly, with a still unknown casualty count.    Trump will be criticized just because well, he’s Trump.    For many People, that’s just habit, but Turner also has some very serious questions to answer.

He’s a Democrat, by the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One comment

  1. While I can appreciate your blog, I can tell you that I know people and politicians I do not like, including some who are African-American. That does not automatically make me a racist. It just pretty much means that based upon my character preferences, and ideals, those folks just don’t fit my likeability list.

    On the evacuations? Just where do you inject two million people without creating localized hardships, particularly on a storm with such short lead time. Definitely not making excuses for anyone, as you know that ain’t my way, but being back in Houston after more than 20 years, i can tell you, it’s still up to folks to take care of themselves and their families.

    Deciding to bug out is based upon local conditions and personal experience. My arthritic joints do not like cold and damp, so I will not get wet. Loss of electricity makes life dull, and means I can’t work, so I won’t stay where there are prolonged power outages.

    If i decide to leave, I will take my tale (wife, grandchildren, great grandchildren and sister-in-law) with me, and the dog will go too.

    Keeping context on this storm is the challenge. Nothing like this in the 40 years I’ve been covering them, so I start there.

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