by baldilocks

Consider this excerpt a preamble to a question.

There’s no question that Irma was and continues to be destructive. But there’s also no question that it was not nearly the storm it was predicted by all the experts to be.

Last week, there was talk of massive destruction across [Florida], with damage estimates ranging up to $200 billion. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levin called it “a nuclear hurricane.” Storm tracks last week showed Irma remaining a Category 4 hurricane for a significant portion of its trek across Florida. When Irma shifted to the west as it approached, it was described as the “worst-case scenario” for the state.

However, when Irma made landfall in the U.S., it’s strength quickly diminished and the actual damages

to Florida in dollar terms will likely be 75% lower than predicted.

While those dire forecasts were being made, environmentalists and politicians were busy pinning the blame on global warming.

It was the same after Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding in Houston. It’s the case whenever there is an adverse weather event. If there’s a drought, it’s because of “climate change.” If there’s flooding, climate change. Wild fires, climate change. Blizzards? Climate change.

So will environmentalists credit climate change for Irma’s unexpected turn for the better?

During the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey and as Irma was making its way through the Caribbean, this bit of Facebook logic was making the rounds.

So, here’s my question: if Donald Trump or some unseen actor can produce hurricanes and other types of weather phenomena at will, what’s all the climate change fuss about?

Yes, I’m joking. (Can’t be too careful these days.)

On a serious note, much of the Caribbean was devastated by Irma. Pray for them and take action, if you’re inclined to do so.

FURTHER SERIOUSNESS: The task set before Houstonians.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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There is a normal tendency, when faced with an event as vast and overwhelming as Hurricane Harvey, to, while not denying the disaster’s scope, pare it down to incidents and individuals more easily managed. The person helping a person; the rescuer with a beloved pet under each arm, wading through flood waters as he or she carries them to safety. These images we can digest, expanding outward from them to, as best we can, envision such a natural disaster’s immense scope.

Another normal tendency is, when events as momentous as what has besieged Houston and other cities in Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere take place, kindly but firmly suggesting to others perpetually enveloped in their own personal drama that while (quoting Shakespeare) the quality of mercy is not strained (quoting no one I’m aware of) the amount of available sympathy is most likely severely rationed. It’s not that anyone stops caring about others when something heavy comes down, but you might have to accept a rain check and realize you’re not the universe’s center this week, with next week also in question. Spock noted in the second (and easily the best) Star Trek movie that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual or the few. This is a hard saying in today’s society, where self-definition demands the same glorification as self-glorification. Problem is, when everyone believes and acts like they are the star of the movie, the supporting cast is nowhere to be found and John Donne’s statement that no man is an island takes on a whole new meaning. The one-man or woman band quickly becomes a one-note samba providing no motivation for dancing.

This ties into the simultaneous beauty and horror of the Internet in general and social media in particular: fortunately, everyone can participate; unfortunately, so can anyone. Whether trolling others with differing views, hiding behind a screen name’s non-existent anonymity and deliberately provoking people in order to play the victim when they react, or constantly trolling for attention and/or sympathy while playing to the hilt the role of World’s Only Bereaved™, perpetually screaming online “look at MEEEEE” is the modern version of the boy who cried wolf: eventually, even if your complaint is legitimate, everyone else will have grown so tired of it and you that when you really need someone there will be no one around.

It may be utterly shocking to some – well, many – that were they to unplug once in a while the sun would rise the following morning. Equally astounding is the notion that there are other people in the world and they matter too. We all have our sorrows and our battles, this explaining why far more often than not pity party invitations are marked returned to sender. Even as it is improper to tell someone who is suffering they should get over it, it is inconsiderate to insist others allow themselves to be dragged with you as you wallow in your inability to get through it.

Loving someone is not manifested by there there-ing their perpetual plea for attention. It is manifested by knowing where sympathy is demonstrated via support. Don’t feed the attention-hungry trollers. Instead, suggest they shut up and go do something to uplift themselves other than be emotional vampires. Watch a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Listen to some Grateful Dead. Turn off Facebook and Twitter in favor of feeling some sunshine on your face and listening to the birds tweet. Do something for someone.

There is enough rain falling on us all. Refuse to indulge your perpetual individual cloud. Embrace the sunshine daydream. Please.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The tragedy unfolding in Houston and surrounding areas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is difficult to watch.  Forecasters are predicting flooding of “Biblical proportions” that will be ongoing throughout the week.  The devastation is hard to imagine.

The city of Houston accepted many refugees from Hurricane Katrina who are now reliving the nightmare.

As of Sunday afternoon, parts of Houston had taken on over 27” of rain; social media was filled with photos of flooded interstates, impassible roads, and desperate animals caught in the flood.

As the storm approached the coast as a Category 3 on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott urged anyone who could evacuate to do so immediately. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday tweeted “please think twice before trying to leave Houston en masse,” sending mixed signals to local residents.  For that, Turner is coming under fire by some.  The mayor defends his decision, saying that evacuation would have created a traffic nightmare.

By early Sunday, over 2,000 rescues had been executed as people went to their attics then to the roofs of their homes to wait for help.

Just as they did in the August 2016 Louisiana flooding, the Cajun Navy jumped into action and by Sunday afternoon The Texas Navy had been organized as citizen assistance became a critical component in the rescue efforts.  These citizen rescue groups coordinate with local officials and work with them rather than outside of them to maximize efficiency and to not hamper official rescues.  What the Cajun Navy is doing, still, in response to the Louisiana 2016 flooding has been amazing and now Texas is hopefully going to benefit from their experience and aid.

The Cajun Navy mobilized and headed to the Houston area Sunday afternoon.  If you want to listen in to the Cajun Navy as they work go here for instructions to download Glympse and Zello which works like a walkie-talkie.  You may need a password for the Zello Cajun Navy channel; if asked, the password is “help”.  You can go to the Cajun Navy page for more details.  I spent a while Sunday afternoon listening in as calls went out for fuel, gasoline, water, and baby formula in Dickinson, Texas. The coordination of the group is impressive to listen to, but chitchat is not encouraged.  You are asked not to speak unless you are actively rescuing, have a boat, or are mapping.

The Cajun Relief foundation set up a CrowdFunding site after the Baton Rouge floods last year that is still helping desperate flood victims when the federal government only fiddled and lagged in their response.  A similar site should soon be developed for Texas victims as soon as needs are assessed.

Within moments after the creation of the Texas Navy Facebook page, people began reporting locations of stranded people and animals.  A call went out for flat-bottom boats and soon volunteers from all over Louisiana and other areas began mobilizing to Texas.

Another Facebook group, Hurricane Harvey Animal Rescue, was formed for animal rescue and shelter needs.

A haunting image appeared on social media Sunday of women in a Dickinson, Texas nursing home, sitting helplessly as water rose around them. Many doubted the validity of the photo because it was so horrible, but the truth of the photo was confirmed and the women were airlifted to safety.

Late Sunday afternoon the city of Dallas made plans to open the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center to house another 5,000 evacuees in addition to the other shelters currently open in the city.

The flooding will be a problem even after the storm moves on, of course.  Rivers, creeks, and runoff will keep water levels high for some time throughout the affected areas.

There are ways that you can help from wherever you are.  Obvious organizations are the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.  But don’t forget the animal rescue groups that are transporting and housing animals, keeping them safe until they can be reclaimed by owners.  One of those is Austin Pets Alive and they could really use your donations.  NOLA has a growing list of hospitals, shelters, and charities that need help.

WFAA-TV streamed live on Sunday as school buses were mobilized to evacuate people from areas in south Texas from Galveston to Houston.

Early Sunday afternoon Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, a Level 1 trauma center, was being evacuated and was taking on water in the basement.  Houston Hobby Airport was closed until perhaps Wednesday as runways flooded.  George Bush International Airport also closed.  Thousands of travelers were stranded as all flights were cancelled.

KHOU news in Houston began flooding Sunday morning and had to evacuate the station; WFAA TV in Dallas began broadcasting KHOU’s ongoing coverage.

Meanwhile, New Orleans was bracing for up to 8” of rain from Harvey and Mitch Landrieu is still trying to get pumps up and running in the city after the last flood debacle a couple of weeks ago.  Mayor Landrieu held a press conference Sunday afternoon to assure residents that the city is ready for any flooding and reminded residents not to drive through flooded roads.

President Trump has announced that he will travel to Houston and other nearby cities on Tuesday.

Without question this has been and will continue to be a terrible disaster for some time to come. Rains will continue throughout the week and will begin moving toward north Louisiana by the end of the week.

Please continue to keep Texas and Louisiana in your prayers and donate where you can.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.