Flood-ravaged Houston: an on-the-scene reader’s report

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 7, 2017

I concluded last week’s column by indulging in a bit of irony: the preposterous notion that Mother Teresa, if faced with an overwhelming human tragedy, would ever just shrug her shoulders dismissively and say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles!”

In fact, the saintly humanitarian often responded to the enormity of the needs around her with words such as: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” In this she stood with other great souls like the deaf-blind author and political activist Helen Keller, who famously said: “I cannot do much, but I must not fail to do the little that I can.”

Such wisdom reminds me of a quote from the Talmud with which one of our email coffee companions, Dr. Denise Coleman, closes her letters:

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s misery. Do justly, now. Walk humbly, now. Love mercy, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Denise is well aware of humanity’s needs on a global scale. She is the President and Editor-in-Chief of CountryWatch, a highly regarded provider of information on each of the recognized countries of the world.

She also happens to live right in the middle of the worst-hit part of flood-ravaged Houston, Texas. I wrote her to see if she was okay and if she had anything to share with our other readers in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Here’s her response:

I LIVE IN WEST HOUSTON, one of the hardest-hit parts of Houston, close to the bayou as well as the Addicks and Barker Dams, both of which spilled over, destroying homes in the area. This area is regularly featured in the news because it is mostly under water. I am on one of the streets at higher elevation in a house on an incline that appears to have saved me.

On the nights of the hurricane – nights in the plural, because the storm just parked itself over us for days – I never slept because I was afraid the house would flood and I needed to be ready for that, and also because of the hourly tornado warnings that sent me into the closet to hide with the cat.

As other houses to the north, east and west of me flooded, and with roads impassable, we were told to climb onto our roofs and call the coastguard for rescue. I am glad it didn't come to that for me because I didn't have a ladder and I didn't know how to get on the roof with a cat without killing myself.

As the storm eased, the flooding increased and everything around me was under water and all roads were impassable. Then came the news that the Addicks/Barker reservoirs had spilled over, and without proper flood management, would likely have flooded all of Houston, essentially destroying the city.

Since that horrible and disturbing news broke, flood control has been using controlled releases to ensure that the dams do not fail and turn the entirety of Houston into Atlantis. The result of controlled releases is that most homes along the bayou are completely under water. While tragic, it was done with the larger goal in mind of saving the city.

It has been a terrifying and awful experience for so many people, and I'd be lying if I said that did not include me. Please hold us in your thoughts. So many people in Houston are suffering right now.

—Denise Coleman, Houston


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page