Friday, September 12, 2008


For years, when we lived in Houston, I dreaded the possibility of a major hurricane shoving itself up into Galveston Bay and in into Sweat City.

As a kid, I remembered all too well the breathless accounts of Hurricane Carla, which smashed into the Texas coast between Port Lavaca and Port O’Connor on September 11, 1961. Floods! Snakes! Death and destruction!

I had had some limited experience with hurricanes, having lived through Hurricane Donna in 1960 and Esther the following year. However, that was on Long Island. Northeastern hurricanes, while they may be intense, typically blow through very quickly owing to the steering and accelerating effects of the jet stream. We had power outages that lasted for days, and a lot of trees down...but the biggest impact that had was to reduce the amount of shade on our street - and to precipitate a neighborhood grilling frenzy that consumed the contents of every freezer on the block.

But we didn’t have floods. Or snakes.

We managed to dodge the Flood Bullet during both of our lengthy sojourns in Houston. One heavy rainstorm storm in 1993 brought water to within inches of our door (and filled the downtown stretch of Interstate 10 with sixteen feet of water)...but we were lucky on the tropical weather front. No equivalent to Carla struck while we lived in Houston.

One reason for concern was - and is - that since 1961, there has been a massive influx of population to the Greater Houston area. Driven by NASA, the oil economy, and (much later) by high technology, millions now live where only roaches and snakes once tussled for territory in the sweaty, fetid bayous of coastal Texas.

Concurrently with that population increase - and partly because of it - there has been heavy ground subsidence as subterranean water supplies have been pumped away. The entire area was never very much above sea level to begin with, and now it’s even lower. Parts of Baytown have been underwater for years, homes abandoned to the encroaching Galveston Bay.

Now add a monster storm surge, coupled with many hours of winds in the triple digits. Scary.

The Weather Service is using unusually strong language to encourage Galvestonians to beat it out of Dodge: “Certain Death.” That’s more direct than the usual NOAA weasel words.

Sure. We’re all gonna die. But this time, it really looks like Houston is staring down the barrel of a very big, very ugly gun...and the fuse is lit.

Our prayers go out for the safety and well-being of the folks in Houston and the surrounding area. There but for the grace of God, and all that...

Update: Saturday morning, September 13.


The black dot shows (approximately) where we lived from 1991 to 1998.

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