|COURTESY PHOTO:Man clings to the hood of a car as flood waters rose in Houston.
BY HAZEL TRICE EDNEY
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – At publication deadline this week, more than 9,000 people – an overflow of evacuees – had packed into the Houston Convention Center fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Additional people on higher ground south of Houston had been urged to leave their homes immediately due to the possiblity of broken levees. More than 17,000 were in shelters across the state. And more than 30,000 people were expected to seek shelter before it’s all over.
Even with a 49 inch record rainfall for the U. S., Texas forecasts predicted even more heavy rain for the remainder of this week as the Hurricane appeared to boomerang, hitting the city for a second time. Parts of Louisiana are also under water and expected to get worse as well.
“Since the shelter opened early Sunday morning, I’ve seen throngs of survivors coming in, people who have barely the clothes on their backs, soak and wet, their belongings in their hands,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said in a live CNN interview Tuesday. “But they’re resilient, they have faith, they’re looking for a future. And they believe that they’re going to get help. That’s an important message for those who now have nothing. We now have an obligation to commit to them that they will have a future and that the resources will come.”
Lee said after conversations with rescue workers, volunteers and others in charge of the rescues, the key issue was to continue focusing on getting people to safety. She said she believed that there are “certain pockets in this community – including Beltway 8, Tidwell and Northside – where we need to continue to rescue people.”
Lee and Congressman Al Green agreed that thousands of additional people could still be awaiting rescue at that time on Tuesday morning. Congresswoman Lee estimated that the damages and rebuilding after the Hurricane will surpass $150 billion across Texas.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flew into Corpus Christi and then to Austin on Tuesday. In Corpus Christi, they received a briefing from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The White House says the President did not fly closer to the worst disaster areas in Houston because he didn’t want to distract from rescue efforts.
Gov. Abbott thanked Trump for the advance preparations that had been going on for 10 days, saying “Texas has been tested. But our response to this challenge has been made much more effective because of the very effective way that the” Trump Administration has responded.
“This was of epic proportion. No one has ever seen anything like this,” Trump said in response to the governor’s remarks. “We won’t say congratulations. We don’t want to do that. We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.”
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Administrator Brock Long referred to Hurricane Katrina, the disastrous Hurricane that killed nearly 2,000 people in New Orleans around the same week in August in 2005. In that situation, thousands died mainly due to old levees that failed to hold back New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain after the storm.
“This is not the Superdome,” said Long, referring to the New Orleans stadium where thousands gathered after Katrina and waiting for days before FEMA responded. Then President George W. Bush was strongly criticized for flying over New Orleans in a helicopter.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation, making it difficult for first responders to know where all the people needed help. Word went out for those needing to be rescued to hang large towels from their window.
Searches for family, loved ones and associates and co-workers continued throughout the week. Many depended on media to get the word out about missing loved ones.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association blasted an alert to their editors and publishers showing one of their leading publishers, former NNPA Foundation Chairwoman Sonny Messiah-Jiles of the Houston Defender, being rescued by boat along with her family.
Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards, responded to an email from the Trice Edney News Wire saying she was thankful for “God’s Amazing Grace!!!” She added, “My family and I are good. No water in our homes, we’re safe and dry. My office got a little water but nothing major to even talk about. Keep praying!”
Many are praying because thousands of others are not as fortunate. At this writing, the death count was 24 people, but authorities expect that will rise as recovery efforts begin once the water has receded. The stories of heroism, struggles and tragedies are harrowing as the elderly, sick and families with children desperately seek safety. One family of six perished when the van they were in sank as they tried to flee the waters. A police officer was also killed when his car sank in flood waters on his way to work.
The NNPA statement from Chairwoman Dorothy Leavell and President/CEO Benjamin Chavis issued an “urgent national call for support for all people who are being impacted by the devastating flood waters.”
The statement continued, “We have learned that one our NNPA member publishers, Sonny Messiah-Jiles, publisher of the Houston Defender, and her family were rescued yesterday by boat from their home as a result of rising flood waters in Houston.”
Francis Page, publisher of the Houston Style magazine had not yet been contacted.
Millions of appeals for prayers and assistance continue across the nation this week as the recovery will no doubt take years.
The NNPA statement said, “We are asking that all NNPA publishers across the nation keep all those affected by the flooding crisis in Texas in our concerned hearts and fervent prayers.” Direct support for victims of Hurricane Harvey can be made through the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.