Pre­pare for more hur­ri­cane Har­veys

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in The Kansas City Star:

Texas has never seen any­thing like hur­ri­cane Har­vey, ac­cord­ing to the agency ad­min­is­tra­tor Brock Long. Nor, for that mat­ter, has any other state.

“This is a land­mark event,” Long said. “We have not seen an event like this. You could not dream this fore­cast up.”

Half of the rain­fall Houston usu­ally gets in a year has fallen in the last cou­ple of days, and the other half is on its way. You’ve seen the images of stranded nurs­ing home pa­tients chest-deep in wa­ter, and with anx­i­ety con­tin­u­ing to rise, Clyde Cain of the Louisiana-based res­cue out­fit Ca­jun Navy told CNN, “We have boats be­ing shot at if we’re not pick­ing ev­ery­body up. We’re drop­ping an air­boat right now to go res­cue a cou­ple of our boats that broke, and they’re kind of un­der at­tack.”

On the ground — or what used to be ground — it’s right that, as Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott said, “all of our at­ten­tion is fo­cused on sav­ing lives.” (And there will be many fewer lives in dan­ger be­cause the Houston mayor es­sen­tially coun­ter­manded Ab­bott’s pan­icked ad­vice to evac­u­ate the fourth-largest city in the coun­try.)

The many who have risked their own safety to bail out neigh­bours, the gov­er­nor said, show “what Texas is all about.” The rest of us will pitch in any way we can, too, and show what our coun­try is all about.

But with ex­treme weather events oc­cur­ring ever more fre­quently across the globe, we can no longer af­ford to pre­tend that “never be­fore” won’t be­come the new nor­mal.

And in­stead of sim­ply do­ing away with ref­er­ences to “cli­mate change,” as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing, we have to re­verse course and address the ef­fects that cli­mate change is hav­ing right here and right now.

Ver­non Loeb, the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the Houston Chron­i­cle, posted this ac­count on his Face­book page Mon­day morn­ing: “The work week dawns in Houston, 600 square miles of con­crete poured on the prairie hit by a storm the likes of which Amer­ica has never seen be­fore. Bush air­port recorded 16 inches of rain yes­ter­day, twice the record. Many parts of Houston got more than 30 inches over the week­end. And as the rain lets up to­day, we’re go­ing to be in­un­dated by rivers and bay­ous over­flow­ing their banks.

“The po­lit­i­cal blame game has be­gun, of course. But noth­ing could have been done with this much rain. What we’re re­ally look­ing at here are the ef­fects of cli­mate change — a hot­ter planet with much more ex­treme weather events . ... A Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist has used the words un­prece­dented, cat­a­strophic and epic to de­scribe this.”

Har­vey is also just the be­gin­ning, and the most com­pas­sion­ate thing we can do in the wake of this dis­as­ter is to rec­og­nize that re­al­ity.

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