When Harvey hit the Windward Islands folk here were already predicting doom and gloom. The NOAA and National Hurricane Center didn't help much by having a 5-day forecast graphic of a major storm, possibly a hurricane, pointing in our general area. While the storm was 7 days out and yet to traverse the eastern Caribbean (otherwise known as the place where tropical storms go to die for the high wind shear in the area) people were sharing warnings and advising to stock up on bread and water.
The long range forecast models have done a rather poor job this year and if I had my guess it's because someone hit the "inject Global Warming parameters" button by mistake. Makes no difference really since models don't predict intensity so when it passed over us as a tropical wave, there was relief and maybe a little bit of finger pointing at the Chicken Littles. Never hurts to be prepared though, that's the motto. Which brings us to Texas.
The Texas coast from Brownsville to Houston is low-lying, very heavily built up, and carries a large population of people. Perfect target for a storm that brings high wind and torrential downpours.
Politicians do not like mitigation projects because they are expensive, are pursued when there is no emergency, and proving their worth after the fact is the political juggling act of proving a negative. "Nothing happened because of this very expensive project we did last year" they say. Then the taxpayer replies "Prove something would have happened without it." So they don't like mitigation projects which nonetheless have proven over time that $1 invested saves $4 in damages and reconstruction. An awesome rate of return. So very little mitigation in place from Corpus Christie to the Louisiana border despite perfect opportunity for disaster.
Politicians like infrastructure - houses, buildings, roads. All of which take away parks, streams, and places where water would naturally drain. So not only are they taking away natural drainage ability but they're compounding the problem by putting people there. Politicians do not care. The future is someone else's problem.
No, politicians like response, clean-up, and restoration. They like action and will take the risk with the lives of their constituents and the survival of their infrastructure just to prove that billions of dollars can be spent in response instead of millions of dollars in mitigation and look what a good job we're doing in the face of this calamity. Because the second reality is a disaster declaration triggers Federal dollars. So now the pain of taxes is spread over the entire country.
Speaking of spreading the cost...the National Flood Insurance Program is more than $24 Billion in debt. Why? Well, politics of course. This from FEMA:
FACT: Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, affecting every region and state, including yours.
FACT: Flood insurance can be the difference between recovering and being financially devastated.
FACT: The damage from just one inch of water can cost more than $20,000.
If that doesn't scare people into spending a few hundred dollars for flood insurance obviously something is wrong.
The politics of the matter are two fold, first and most importantly FEMA put off updating their flood zone maps for decades because the new rates would rise precipitously and that is not good from a political standpoint. So many places would flood that never had before and many places would flood far worse and more often than ever before. And none of these place paid enough into the insurance pot to cover losses. The second is what I mentioned before - people respond better (i.e., vote) to money spent in rescue, recovery, and rebuilding than to mitigation projects when nothing is happening.
Ah, evacuation. Houston has been there before so politicians were counting on less people dying during and through the storm than would have died on the roads if they called for an evacuation. But this wasn't as much for your safety as for theirs - the number of dead makes a difference in the polls.
Finally, for now, it had been a long time since a major storm hit the US Mainland. People were complacent and unprepared. Many who didn't should have evacuated. Of those who didn't head for the hills for whatever reason, most failed to keep food, water, and other necessities stored and out of harm's way. The days of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency are sadly long gone. The few that do are labeled hoarders or crazy preppers. Bunch of tenderfoots are once again seeing the error of their ways. Who knows if they'll ever learn, coddled by politicians, free rescues, and low-interest loans...
Our prayers, support, and best wishes to those affected by Harvey as well as the first responders - police, fire, rescue, ER staffs throughout Texas who are working to exhaustion saving lives and protecting property. Even Louisiana's Cajun Navy is there doing their part as well as many, many support organizations large and small from the American Red Cross to Portlight and too many others to name helping their fellow man. Neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends, strangers helping strangers. That is more what the USofA is about than what we read in the news.