Harvey takes after sisters Katrina, Rita

Twelve years ago, Katrina made landfall as the 11th named storm and fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. By the time she dissipated on Aug. 31, 2005, she was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States and one of the five deadliest storms ever to hit the mainland.

More than 1,800 people died in Katrina's destruction – not just from her hurricane-force winds, but also from her storm surge and flooding, which was augmented by the failure of more than 50 levees and other protective structures around greater New Orleans, which was 80 percent submerged in water at the height of the storm.

More than $108 billion in damage was reported from Katrina and she drove thousands of residents away from the Crescent City, including some who eventually made the Burnet County. The Smoking for Jesus Ministry observed the 12th anniversary of their deliverance from Katrina to Texas this past Sunday.

Elder Willie L. Monnet Sr., his wife Elect Lady Minister Claudette Monnet and their congregation of some 50 families fled the Ninth Ward in New Orleans and found a home here in the Highland Lakes.

Marble Falls and Burnet County was not the first stop, though, for these refugees. They first made their way to Lumberton, Texas, where they stayed for three weeks until Katrina's ugly stepsister, Hurricane Rita, threatened Southeast Texas.

It was believed that Rita could possibly slam Houston and cause massive flooding and devastation, but a slight course correction caused the storm to make landfall further up the coast near the Louisiana border. As a result, damages from Rita were limited to $12 billion and Houston escaped major damage other than extensive power outages, downed trees, shattered windows and some destroyed structures.

But while Houston was spared the brunt of the devastation of Rita, it would not be so lucky this past weekend.

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, made landfall at Rockport late Friday evening and has become what acting Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long has called “a landmark event,” with widespread flooding and destruction throughout southeastern Texas. Harvey is the first hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in 2008 and the strongest to hit the state since Carla, a Category 5 storm which rocked southeast Texas in 1961 after making landfall in Port O'Connor.

What was feared most about Rita came to pass with Harvey. Instead of veering off, Harvey came to town and has outstayed his welcome. Rainfall has deluged the city. Most of the Houston area received more than 20 inches of rainfall between Friday and Sunday night with an additional 15-20 inches still expected as Harvey continues to hover over the city.

My wife grew up in Houston and her family is still in Kingwood, The Woodlands, Spring and Tomball. I have family and very close friends in Houston, Spring and the Bellaire areas, so we are very anxious about their safety. None of them evacuated as both the Harris County and Houston governmental authorities cautioned residents not to begin a widespread panicked evacuation that could leave some 3 million residents stranded on flooding motorways.

On Monday, Aug. 28, I watched the news conference in which Long told reporters they were still operating their coordinated response “in the midst of a tropical storm.”
“There are conditions where it is not safe to fly,” Long said. “The good news is thousands of lives are being saved. But we are not out of this by a long shot.”

Long said FEMA volunteers and other emergency responders have even taken to Twitter feeds and other social media to look for people who may need rescuing, using Google Maps to pinpoint their locations so they can coordinate rescue efforts.

An estimated 30,000 people may need shelter of some kind as I write this. It is expected that more than 450,000 people will be filing for some sort of governmental assistance due to flooding, especially through the National Flood Insurance Program.

So what can be done to help? I know of several volunteers from Burnet County who have now gone to Houston to help with rescue efforts. H-E-B has sent truckloads of food and supplies and manpower to help with distribution.

Blood donations are critical at this time. We are Blood, which serves the Central Texas area, had already announced a critical shortage of O type blood. Blood donations are encouraged from healthy individuals who are able to donate.

Monetary donations also can be made to a number of organizations which have “boots on the ground” and are trying to assist with food, water, shelter and other essentials. They include the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Save The Children, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Coalition for the Homeless and Heart to Heart International.

Feeding Texas, a network of food banks throughout the state of Texas, is also accepting donations of food and money to help people affected by the storm.

Once Harvey finally leaves Texas and eventually dissipates, he will leave behind devastation and destruction that could rival his older sisters Katrina and Rita. But we can come together as Texans and help our neighbors regroup, rebuild and recover..

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