August 29, 2017

If There Was Ever A Moment…

If there was ever a moment for unity and peace to prevail, that moment is now.

As I write this, the states of Texas and Louisiana are experiencing a natural disaster of epic proportions. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday evening, August 25th, as a Cat 4 hurricane in Rockport, Texas, which was decimated, along with nearby coastal towns like Port Aransas. Today, five days later, Harvey’s historic tale of devastation continues. It will be another several days before tropical storm Harvey ultimately dissolves, likely around New Orleans. But, it will be a long time before Harvey’s story ends.

After making initial landfall at Rockport, Harvey quickly downgraded to a Cat 1 hurricane. As it stretched further inland towards Victoria and beyond, within 24 hours, Harvey was further downgraded to a tropical storm. However, this does not mean Harvey’s potential for destruction weakened. Harvey continued wreaking havoc, reaching as far away as San Antonio and Austin, leaving record rain totals, emergency flooding conditions and billions in property damages in its wake. But, Harvey was only getting started.

“Houston, We Have A Problem!”

Harvey continued its devastating journey, northeast along the Texas Gulf Coast shoreline, ravaging town after town all the way up the coastline to Galveston and Houston, bringing catastrophic damage with it, every tragic mile of its trek. Along its path, many friends and family from Rockport on up into Houston were losing their homes and being evacuated. Starting Saturday, the national news primarily focused on the crisis conditions in Houston, our nation’s 4th largest city. Large swaths of area throughout Houston and surrounding counties, an area equivalent in size to the state of Connecticut, are underwater. 

Houston, which is only 80 feet above sea level, is a town built on a system of bayous and reservoirs. These are prone to flood in much less threatening conditions than Harvey wields, and reports are circulating that some of them may not hold, which would further exacerbate the crisis. At this moment, Harvey has already dumped more than 50 total inches of rain in the last 72 hours in Houston alone, breaking the previous record for Houston, which was wrought by Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978. So far, the volume of rain that Harvey has mercilessly dropped across Texas and Louisiana is in the trillions and trillions of gallons, reportedly enough water to fill every NFL and Division I College stadium in America…100 times over! And, the onslaught continues.

Harvey, What Have You Wrought?

The physical destruction and human suffering that Harvey’s savage winds and torrential rains are wreaking is profoundly heartbreaking. An untold number of people have been displaced from their homes in order to escape the dangers of unprecedented rising water. The scope is so large that governmental services cannot keep up, and officials have enlisted the public to assist in rescue efforts.

As lives are being wrecked to the ground, the human story is only beginning. Homes, businesses, and public infrastructure will have to be slowly rebuilt over the coming years. Behind the physical rebuilding is the human story of lives helplessly shattered and traumatized. The human recovery is not as visible, but no less real and necessary. The ultimate financial cost of physical recovery is presently inestimable, but could ultimately reach northwards to $100 billion, possibly more. The human cost of recovery will never be known.

Harvey’s Devastating Reach Is Unprecedented 

Despite the damage already done through Tuesday, Harvey’s savage journey continues along the Gulf Coast through Beaumont and on into Louisiana. While the national news focused on Houston through Tuesday, the Beaumont-Port Arthur area was being inundated. The Golden Triangle, which includes Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, had already been on the “dirty side” of Harvey for a couple of days, while Houston was being pounded. By Tuesday, Harvey had officially moved into the Golden Triangle whose torrential is pushing the entire area to the brink of total devastation. I also have many friends and family in the Golden Triangle whose homes are right now being destroyed by Harvey’s fury. Many are even now on waiting list to be rescued from their flooding homes. 

Beyond Beaumont, Harvey continues to extend itself north into the “big thicket” of east Texas, and further east on into Louisiana, reaching all the way to New Orleans. For the state of Louisiana, there is a big tail of dangerous rains and high winds still yet to come. Once the rain stops, the water has to flow somewhere. Wherever it goes it will continue to bring threatening flood conditions for days after the actual rain events. Obviously, both Texas and Louisiana are operating under State and Federal Emergency declarations. 

American Tragedy, Or America’s Brightest Moment?

These humble words attempting to document such catastrophic events pale against the magnitude and scope of this unprecedented natural disaster. When all is said and done, Harvey’s story is certain to eclipse the Katrina narrative, simply because of the range and reach of its devastation. However, as disastrous as Harvey has been and continues to be, this is the kind of tragedy that also holds the potential to transform our lives and our consciousness for the better.

In a nation that has been experiencing a divisive rancor in its collective dialogue, a tragedy like Harvey presents an opportunity for us all to come together in unity. We have the chance to neutralize our differences and come together in a shared experience for the common good. It is my sincere hope that we do. This is not just a tragedy for Texas and Louisiana, this is an American tragedy. Yet, it could also ultimately prove to be one of America’s brightest moments, if we allow it to quell the divisive tenor of our collective discourse. The choice is ours. I pray we choose wisely. I pray we choose unity. I pray we choose peace.

If there was ever a moment for unity and peace to prevail, that moment is now. 

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