02 October, 2017

Hurricane Harvey. A month after the flooding...

First of all, thank God that we didn't flood, however lots of our family and friends weren't quite so blessed.

I am seeing things with this hurricane response that make me both sad for people, and angry at FEMA for their typical lackluster response to natural disasters.

As you no doubt are aware, in late August, the Atlantic Hurricane season started beating on the United States with a vengance starting with Hurricane Harvey, which more or less parked itself over coastal texas, and dumped a years worth of rain in something like 4 days, over much of the Houston / Galveston metropolitan area.

With the massive rainfall, the reservoirs just couldn't handle the water, and teh Army Corp of Engineers elected to release water from the dam, rather than to allow the dam to break, or simply overflow.  This flooded homes, and neighborhoods outside of the published flood plains, meaning people with no flood insurance, because they believed what the government told them about the flood plains.

And to make matters worse people that WERE insured for flood, are getting reimbursements that are pennies on the dollar for the value of their destroyed property, homes, and contents.  These homes have been rendered unlivable, and yet, when insured homeowners try to claim temporaty housing benefits FEMA who manages the national flood insurance progaram, tells them they need to talk to FEMA, and of course the part of FEMA that doesn the emergency response says you need to talk to your insurance.  Meanwhile people are stuck, in houses now growing toxic black mold top to bottom.

We spent time over the weekend with folks in one of the neighborhoods that the Army Corps of Engineers water release flooded out, and, well you can certainly tell the Army was involved.

The place looks like bombs went off in every single home. The debris field goes from house, across the street to the next house... The streets are white with the broken and now ground in remnants of what was at one time peoples walls.

Home furnishings, and electronics were everywhere, and it didn't matter if it was all high end super expensive stuff, or cheap disposable particleboard garbage, it all was on the curb waiting for the hiant claw to come pick it up, and throw it all in a landfill.

I know FEMA as well as pretty much every other government agency is stretched really thin at the levels that matter, the people that actually do the real work. And the folks in the field are doing the best they can, but let's look at some realities.

#1. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrian hit New Orleans, FEMA trailer cities sprung up all over the gulf coast to house Katrina evacuees.  Now in 2017, FEAM is saying no temporary housing trailers for people because the Katrina evacuees trashed the trailers they were provided.

#2. The beaurocracy of dealing with FEMA is almost as bad as the storm itself. And folks need to know, if you don't have flood insurance, the ONLY help it seems like you are going to get, is an offer of a low interest loan, which most people can not afford.

#3. We hear about all these hundreds of millions of dollars that have been donated for the relief effort, and hundreds of millions more that have been allocated to the City of Houston by the state for Harvey relief efforts, so where is that money going, and how is it being used to help people?

Now I've got skils enough to hang sheet rock, cobble together cabinets, install insulation, replace sockets etc... But in working the volunteer efforts, to do the repairs and the builds, materials are in short supply or there is just no funding for what we need.

While I have no way of knowing for sure, I feel confident in saying that the people of Florida are experiencing much the same pain as we here in Texas are. And I can not imagine what the citizens of Puerto Rico are going through.

 In so many ways, being one of the lucky ones that didn't get flooded, I can't explain to you the sort of, well like survivors guilt we have, and the frustration we are experiencing at trying to share our sweat and skills, and all of it seems to fall on deaf ears.

We WILL get through this, and I am absolutely confident that the resources that need to go to the right places will eventually get there. It is just painful, and frustrating to watch my family, friends, neighbors, and fellow human beings have their lives put on such a painful hold while they try to pick up the pieces and put something back together.

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