Just jotting down a few observations throughout the day of living in an area that just experienced a major natural disaster.
FEMA, take note
Although The Woodlands did not suffer as much damage as many other parts of the Houston metropolitan area, it’s interesting in my travels around town over the past several days that I have seen no evidence whatsoever of any federal relief.
For example, it seems to me that there are a couple of basic things that the federal government could do to facilitate recovery efforts. First, move as many portable generators to selected service stations throughout the region so that citizens can become somewhat mobile again. The primary problem at this point is not lack of gasoline. Rather, it’s lack of power to operate the pumps to get the available gas into cars.
Even though large swaths of Houston remain without power, many areas are getting power back by the hour. Folks in areas without power can be much more productive if they can travel to areas that have it and work. Unfortunately, as it stands, there is no gas to get to those areas and then return home.
Another irritation is that no one in an official capacity attempts to do anything to facilitate communications for the citizens directly affected by a natural disaster such as Ike. Ever since the storm, cell phone usage has been spotty in most residential areas, and serviceable in only a few commercial areas. Perhaps damage to the cell network equipment is the cause of the poor service, but I haven’t heard anyone contend that such is the case.
Just as the deadly hurricane of 1900 changed the nature of Galveston, my sense is that Hurricane Ike has done the same thing in 2008.
Prior to the 1900 hurricane, Galveston was Texas’ largest city, port and commercial center. The devastation from that storm put into the motion the changes in Texas’ development that resulted in Houston becoming the major port and cities such as Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth becoming the major commercial centers. As Houston grew into this region’s major center of commerce, Galveston evolved into a tourist center and a weekend beach getaway for folks in Houston.
Despite that tourism development, the City of Galveston has been slowly dying for years. Jobs and commercial activity largely revolve around the tourism industry (even the port is now owned by the Port of Houston Authority). Most young people now move away from the city after high school, so older folks constitute an unusually high percentage of the "town folk."
My sense is that Galveston will come back as a weekender community and a modest tourist vista, but that commerce not related to the tourism industry will continue to decline at an accelerated rate. My sense is that what we might see in 20 years is a community comprised of a few high-rise condos and resorts along the seawall, the ubiquitous weekender homes on the West Beach and not much else.
It will certainly be easier to evacuate such a community.
Radio anchor people
As a general rule, I do not listen to much radio. Maybe an occasional traffic report or Charlie Pallilo’s sports talk show in the rare event that I am driving somewhere during it.
But I’ve been shocked at how bad the radio anchor reporters have been on KTRH, the main station providing disaster information to the public. Although a number of the KTRH field reporters are OK, the anchors often sound as if they are blithering idiots. It seems as if they aren’t asking inane and non-challenging questions to "experts" or public officials, they laughing and making bad jokes at inappropriate times or in regard to serious issues.
Walter Cronkite, where are you when we need you?
Houston sports teams
I noted in this earlier post in the run-up to Hurricane Ike that the high number of variables that become involved in reacting to hurricanes often generates some abysmal decisions in reaction to the storm. That observation was certainly validated by a couple of decisions that were made with regard to Houston sports teams.
From University of Houston Athletic Director Dave Maggard’s absurd decision to have the University’s football team play in Dallas while the storm was still hammering Houston (!) to Major League Commissioner Bud Selig’s equally preposterous decision to haul the Houston Astros players and coaches away from their families (to Milwaukee of all places) the day after a terrible natural disaster left the players and coaches’ families without power in a devastated city, it’s hard to imagine the fractured thought process that went into either of those boneheaded decisions.
Sports competition at the major-college and professional level requires a high level of concentration. Given the circumstances under which these games were played, it is not surprising in the least that the Houston teams lost each one of them. How could the players and coaches be concentrating on a damn game?
It’s only God’s grace to both Maggard and Selig that no family member of either a UH or Stros player or coach was hurt or killed in the aftermath of the storm. Why do either of these fellows still have their respective jobs?