Help Is Here

I’ve been posting about Hurricane Harvey from my vantage point north of Houston, and I found this post so profound and moving.

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I returned home just days following Hurricane Harvey’s rampage through this part of Texas, getting a first hand view of the devastation to some 100+ families, not including the dozens of businesses that were impacted in our small town. The saddest part of this tragedy is most of those affected could not afford these life changing events.

They lost everything…except each other. They have no clothes, no shoes, no food, no furniture,  no school supplies, no homes, no direction…and no money.

Rebuild? How? With What?

Move? Where?

Pull yourself up with your boot straps? Who has boots?

I sat with a restaurant owner yesterday as she handed out grocery store gift cards, clothing store gift cards, and cash to her staff members who have no place to live, and no means to ‘start over’. It was important that the restaurant open because these folks needed to get a paycheck, and that wouldn’t…

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Washington Post: “Texans’ do-it-ourselves rescue effort defines Hurricane Harvey”

People from the Lone Star State have an almost genetic disinclination to rely on the government for anything. So during Hurricane Harvey, the people saved each other.

Source: Texans’ do-it-ourselves rescue effort defines Hurricane Harvey – The Washington Post

Cooking Up a Storm After Harvey

People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson
AOL image of Cajun Navy volunteers rescuing people and pets in Dickinson

There have been lots of news stories about people pitching in and pulling together to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. One of my colleagues with a flat-bottomed boat rescued more than 50 people and 13 dogs in Northwest Houston. Volunteers have poured into Southeast Texas from all around to help with the rescues and begin the cleanup. Folks who were unaffected are helping out those who were in any way they can – with donations, with muscle, with prayers and moral support, with organizational skills to help run shelters or aid distribution centers, with spare bedrooms for the displaced.

At Glover Gardens, we’re firing up the kitchen to cook and freeze meals for a couple of families who are too busy to cook while they’ve begun the demolition and cleanup phase. They’ll be doubling up in one unaffected house while working together on the flooded one. Our contribution is tiny compared to the heroism so many have shown, but it feels good to help. Deal with a storm by cooking up a storm.

There’s a strong emotional pull to make comfort food, so today’s goal is to make these dishes from the Glover Gardens Cookbook:

And if there’s time, perhaps even “Mema Rolls,” the best yeast rolls ever, a tried and true recipe from my paternal grandmother (you’ll learn a little bit about her if you check out the Sweet Potato Biscuits story and recipe). There are already two frozen main courses, my No Name Soup (AKA “everything but the kitchen sink and I never make it the same way twice”) and Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (haven’t documented this family favorite yet).

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The sweet potatoes have been baked and are ready to peel for the biscuits, and the poblanos have been roasted for the chili and the corn pudding

Gotta go – cooking up a storm today!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

On August 29

As Harvey now threatens Louisiana, The Storyteller has posted a very powerful reminder of Katrina’s force and the experience folks in New Orleans will never forget.

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Healing prayers

August 29, 2005.

That was a day most of us who live in New Orleans will never forget. Hurricane Katrina blew in, and made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. The levees broke and 80 percent of the city was under water.

August 29, 2017.

Hurricane Harvey, now Tropical Storm Harvey, finally makes a turn away from Houston, where most of the city was flooded. Harvey sat over the gulf and refueled, headed northeast and then northwest. Towards us.

So far, in New Orleans, we’ve had 5.85 inches of rainfall. Our diminished pumping capacity is not really keeping up. Streets are flooding. All schools are closed. Many government offices are closed. Our smart phones have been going off all morning with flood advisories.

I know. 5.85 inches of rain is nowhere near Houston’s 40 to 60 inches of rainfall. But, our ground is already saturated. Our pumping capacity is down…

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Coldplay: “Houston, you got to keep on keepin’ on”

Awesome, Coldplay. Just awesome.

In yesterdays post, How You Can Help Texas Right Now, I said:

Sometimes even the simplest expression of encouragement resonates and becomes a rallying cry.

Coldplay gave us a rallying cry, indeed! The band had to postpone last Friday night’s concert here in Houston because of Hurricane Harvey, and used their spare time to write a song for us, playing it last night in Miami.  The refrain ends with:

Houston, you got to keep on keeping’ on.

Watch it here:

The Lyrics

I’m dreamin’ of when I get back to Houston
I’m dreamin’ of that very special place.
I’m dreamin’ of when Houston has no problems
In that city where they send you into space.
I’m dreamin’ of when I get back to Texas
Corpus Christi, Harris County, Galveston.
There’s a harmony that bonds down there in Houston
Oh, Houston, you got to keep on keepin’ on.
From Miami, we are sending love to Houston
We’re praying that you make it through the rain.
I know nothing’s gonna break the will of Houston
Oh, how we can’t wait to go down there again.
I am dreamin’ of when I get back to Texas
Corpus Christi, Harris County, Galveston.
There’s a harmony that bonds down there in Houston
Oh, Houston you got to keep on keepin’ on.
Oh, Houston you got to keep on keepin’ on.
Yea, Houston got to keep on keepin’ on.

 

Awesome, just awesome.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 ~ except for the Coldplay stuff and cover photo by Brent N. Clarke, Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP

How You Can Help Texas Right Now

All up and down the Texas coast, folks are dealing with the havoc of Hurricane Harvey.

Many across the world are watching this unfold, from the devastation all around where Harvey made his landfall, to the catastrophic flooding across the Houston metropolitan area where 6.6 million people live.

And still the rain comes.

So many caring and concerned people have asked how they can help.  Thank you ~ this means the world to us. Here’s a short list.

Pray or Send Good Juju

The power of positive thinking is indisputable. Your concern, prayers, thoughts and wishes are sustaining and reassuring.  They tell us that we are not alone, that someone is listening, that the world cares. Sometimes even the simplest expression of encouragement resonates and becomes a rallying cry.

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Come Help

If you have a high-water vehicle or a boat (and can get here safely), help is still needed.

Individuals and groups from all over the area and beyond have heeded this call, the best example being the “Cajun Navy”. Those rough and ready volunteers in this longstanding but informal group have experience with this stuff.

People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson
AOL image of Cajun Navy volunteers rescuing people and pets in Dickinson

Otherwise, Stay Away

The city is overwhelmed right now and in the near future, just trying to get everyone to a safe place. Our roads are the textbook definition of “hot mess”, although I guess in this case “wet mess” would be more appropriate.

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Donate Blood or Host a Blood Drive

Wherever you are, someone can benefit from your blood donation, and adding to the supply will help prevent any shortages. The Red Cross has all the info you need to give blood or even host a blood drive.

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Give Money – for People, for Pets, for Rebuilding

Many organizations are collecting financial donations to help make Harvey’s victims start getting back to normal.

  • The Salvation Army is sending out over 40 “mobile kitchens” to places hardest hit by Harvey, each of which can serve 1,500 meals per day; you can donate here.
  • The American Red Cross is taking donations in several ways: at www.redcross.org, 1- 800-RED CROSS or by texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • HEB stores across Texas will have donation slips in the amounts of $1, $3 and $5 you can add to your grocery tab.
  • Austin Pets Alive and the SPCA of Texas are accepting donations to help them help animals displaced by Harvey.
  • Houston Texan football player JJ Watt started a Houston Flood Relief fund on YouCaring, starting with $100K of his own money.

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Know where your money is going; local news organization ABC 13 said, “The Center for International Disaster Information recommends checking with a charity monitoring organization like GiveWell, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or the Better Business Bureau before donating.”

Donate to Food Banks

If you’re relatively local, you can donate to an area food bank – remember, some folks have lost everything.  The Houston Press published a list here.

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Support Your Town’s Shelters

Neighboring areas outside of Harvey’s path and wrath are gearing up to help; Dallas is readying a shelter with the capacity to temporarily house up to 5,000 Houston evacuees and there are already two smaller shelter open there. San Antonio i sIf your town is close enough to be viable and far enough to be safe and dry, let your officials know that you are on board with this deployment of the Golden Rule.

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Cots from the American Red Cross in the Dallas convention center; the “mega shelter” for thousands of South Texas evacuees opens Tuesday. Photo by STELLA M. CHAVEZ / KERA NEWS

Get the Spare Bedroom Ready

In addition to those displaced from Harvey’s landfall in South Texas, many families are still being rescued in the Houston area and others are facing mandatory evacuations as creeks and rivers crest and water releases from the reservoirs begin. All of these victims of the storm will need somewhere to go. Shelters will suffice for a day or two, but homes and neighborhoods may be uninhabitable for weeks or more. Some folks have money for hotels, but others don’t. You may know someone ~ or someone who knows someone ~ who needs a bed for a while.

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Pinterest photo via @prettypeachtree on Instagram

Reject the Speculation about How We Should Have Evacuated

Big media outlets are asking questions about why Houston didn’t evacuate in advance of the catastrophic floods we’re experiencing right now, with inflammatory headlines like Houston knew it was at risk of flooding, so why didn’t the city evacuate? and  As Harvey submerges Houston, local officials defend their calls not to evacuate.

I’ll tell you, dear readers, that this really annoys us.  It’s just dumb. And we don’t like it. Social media here is blowing up with righteous indignation about these attacks on the wisdom of our decision.

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Why wasn’t an evacuation called for?

  1. It’s true that rain and flooding predictions were made for Houston, but it’s only now that we’re hearing terms like “800-year flood event”. Areas of the Houston metropolitan area that have NEVER flooded are under water right now.  It would have been impossible to know which parts of town would flood or the magnitude of the impact.
  2. There are over 6,000,000 people in the Greater Houston area. That’s a lot. No one can point to an evacuation of that scale has ever even been attempted, much less accomplished.
  3. Harvey only became a hurricane on Thursday of last week – and the flooding began soon afterward on Saturday night.  The hurricane was predicted to make landfall on Friday night, and no one should be driving during the event.  Roadways are not safe places during storms, and encouragement to evacuate would have filled up our already very crowded roads, with disastrous results (see #4).
  4. We have long memories, and the name Rita will always fill us with dread. People died while evacuating from Hurricane Rita.  They died from the evacuation, not the hurricane. With ~3 million people on the road, a 3-hour trip took more than 20. It was a terrible experience, a complete debacle, and is part of our collective memory. We know it just doesn’t work to evacuate that large of a population.
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Just one of thousands of images like this about the failed Rita evacuation; yours truly was one of the folks on the road that day in 2005. Photo: Ron Heflin, Houston Chronicle

Hindsight by proxy without the benefit of experience just isn’t good manners; it’s hubris.  It’s armchair-quarterbacking by misinformed people (said someone on Facebook). And we don’t like it.  Don’t mess with Texas!

Update: this blog post from The Badger’s Sett, People Need to Stop Yelling at Houston, provides a more in-depth analysis and a great rebuttal of the ill-founded criticism.

Honor Our Experience by Getting Prepared

Everyone, everywhere needs a disaster plan and survival kit. Harvey is just the latest natural disaster; there will be more to come and it is important to be prepared. At Glover Gardens, we were the most prepared we’ve ever been for an event like this, and it has had a calming effect.

Generator tested and gassed up?  Check.

Sufficient battery supply?  Check.

Extra water and ice? Check.

Ample pet food and non-perishable people food? Check.

All devices charged? Check.

Medications on hand? Check.

You get the drill.  Here’s a recent article in the NY Times, How to Pack an Emergency Kit for Any Disaster, that provides great information, advice and links to lists.

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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Look to the East

Our close friends and neighbors to the east, the great state of Louisiana, are in line for Harvey’s drenching mayhem, and they really, really don’t need that right now. Or ever again. They’ve had enough, and their water and sewer systems are taxed beyond effectiveness.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

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Come Back and See Us When This is All Over

Houston and the surrounding communities are rich with restaurants, museums, parks, attractions and unique experiences. It is a wonderful place.  Check this out: 150 Fun Things to Do in Houston. And this: 365 Things to Do in Houston.

My son, the millennial, said, “Despite the infrastructural and geographical setbacks that allowed for this flood, Houston is a gargantuan, strange, dynamic, and beautiful town, and it will overcome this tragedy we call Harvey in due time.”

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook