One week after Hurricane Harvey, and President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania were finally able to visit Houston and other affected cities nearby.
Many Americans online have been saying they have never seen a president and first lady so involved in helping their fellow citizens in person. Accompanying the Trumps were Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr Ben Carson and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Last week, Trump pledged $1m of his own money to the relief effort.
He has sent a letter to Congress requesting $7.85 bn be allocated to relief. Congress will vote on the funding this week.
Although flood water is receding in places, tens of thousands of Texans are in grave difficulty.
As of Thursday, August 31, 2017, more than 10,000 people were staying in relief centres in Houston.
The Texas Tribune interviewed Houstonians seeking shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Between 6,500 and 8,000 people are staying there indefinitely. Ten thousand had been there at the height of the storm. One enterprising woman has found a job at the convention centre as a cleaner. Others are contemplating starting from scratch:
Haley Gray and her family arrived at the Houston convention center early this week after their Channelview home flooded.
“It was almost like a river,” she said.
She and her sister’s seven children were rescued by a helicopter and have been at the shelter for four days. On Thursday, they were relocating to a hotel. From there, they’ll begin to figure out what to do next. Gray is on disability and helps take care of her sister’s kids, ages 1 to 11. The family’s car was likely totaled in the flood. Most of their belongings were ruined. Like many, they must now chart a new life with few resources and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to go back because it’s pretty bad,” she said as her nieces and nephews crowded around her.
On Saturday, September 2, the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, ordered a mandatory evacuation of 300 people who are still in their homes in flooded areas in West Houston. Some of the homes in this area were flooded when water from the Addicks and Barker-Cypress reservoirs had to be released last week.
The convention centre is one of seven large shelters run jointly by the city, Harris County and the Red Cross. Around 20 other smaller shelters are also open, however, officials would like to have residents transfer to NRG Stadium, southwest of downtown. The Trumps visited the stadium on Saturday.
Mayor Turner met with President Trump on Saturday and was one of his hosts in Houston along with Governor Greg Abbott. Turner called his meeting with Trump ‘productive’:
At NRG Stadium, the Trumps toured the facility and helped serve a hot dog and potato chip lunch. They also spent time talking with dozens of people, including children. Pictures and videos coming tomorrow.
After leaving Houston, the Trumps, Carson and DeVos went to Pearland (pron. ‘Pear-land’), where they helped distribute supplies to people driving up to the First Church of Pearland. Many people expressed their thanks to Trump, who spent time talking with some of the drivers before loading their vehicles.
The group left Texas to fly to Louisiana, where they spent time in Lake Charles, hosted by Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife.
Trump took a political risk with this trip. Last week, Turner, a Democrat, made no acknowledgement of Trump’s $1m donation and his Twitter feed expressed pessimism about federal money. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Houston) was among those at the airport to see Trump off. Neither is a Trump ally, even after his visit. And, there seems to be some negativity from the two Democrats towards the Republican governor, Abbott. Another Republican there was Trump’s primary rival from 2016, Senator Ted Cruz. Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, is a Democrat, but, fortunately, he has no complaints about Trump’s handling of Harvey efforts so far.
Elsewhere outside of Houston, some residents are without power. The Daily Caller reported:
Beaumont, a city of roughly 120,000 residents, is still without clean water or power, according to a CNN report. And the Associated Press reported Saturday that seven toxic waste sites in and around Houston have flooded.
The Guardian reported:
The scale of the disaster loomed clearer on Friday as rescuers worked their way through the 300-mile swath of south-east Texas drenched by Harvey. Some communities remained submerged; others lacked water and power. Texas officials estimate more than 185,000 homes were damaged and 9,000 destroyed. The Red Cross said 42,000 people were in shelters. At least 45 people have died.
Helping state and federal teams are groups of volunteers, including the Texas Navy and the Cajun Navy. Cajun Relief has a good article explaining how they know where to go:
The Texas Navy and Cajun Navy are fully controlled and dispatched by this organic army of tech and creative volunteers sitting behind their computers and working around the clock by organizing into shifts. If you’ve ever listened in on their Zello channel at 2am, you’ve heard one of the shifts dispatching boaters.
Here is how the whole system works.
First you need to have person to rescue. These requests come to the volunteers from their Zello app channel, called the Texas Navy. They also come by the hundreds as Inbox request sent to them from victims needing rescue through the Texas Navy Facebook page. Each request is entered into a database by one of the support team members and then vetted by another. Each of these team members are sitting in their own homes, which can be states and even countries apart. Once the need has been confirmed the dispatch team, some of them sitting in coffee shops possibly near you, advise boaters where to perform rescues.
Along with directing the boaters to perform a rescue, the citizen team also tracks where the water will be moving so they can pre-stage the boaters ahead of time. The boaters may get the glory but without the enormous efforts of citizens sitting behind their computers and using social media and technology to direct them many more thousands of lives would have been lost because boaters wouldn’t know where to go.
These dispatchers, researchers, messengers, managers and coordinators have never met, but by using technology and learning to work together they’ve had an enormous impact by saving flood victims lives.
You can see photos of the dispatchers following the article. What a diverse group of people who live all over the United States, from screenwriters to school bus drivers to small business owners.
The Texas Baptist Men and their female volunteers are busy, too. They have a mobile shower facility, which is a great idea. There are separate cubicles for men and women. The volunteers also supply fresh towels — and, afterwards, copies of the Bible:
So many unsung heroes are working around the clock, such as the owner of the Trump Truck:
So many people are getting the immediate help they need to survive. There is very little crime right now, largely because Texans won’t hesitate to shoot when necessary and, in Houston, because of Turner’s midnight curfew for everyone. It is still in effect.
Trump could well be right when he says that a lot will get done in the next six months thanks to such a positive spirit in the midst of disaster.
Videos and tweets coming tomorrow.