Residents in the coastal area around Houston, Texas, need our help this week and for the foreseeable future. Much of the nation’s fourth largest city and its surrounding lands lie underwater after Tropical Storm Harvey left history-making rain and flooding over the weekend.
The death toll is likely to rise far beyond the 20 lives confirmed as lost as of Wednesday morning.
Aid groups as well-known as the American Red Cross and countless other local agencies and crews were doing their best to help thousands of families get to safety. Legions of volunteers were also in the act.
But it may be months before many lives are returned to normal and years before the full region recovers, and the need for emergency supplies is now.
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Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have called on Northwest residents to give money to help but they cautioned about potential scams.
Wyman and Ferguson said to first check out an organization’s registration status in this state via sos.wa.gov/charities or by calling 800-332-4483. They recommend that people resist high-pressure tactics from telephone fundraisers. They also caution to not give out a credit-card number by phone, to avoid cash donations, to write checks directly to a charity rather than to a fundraiser, and to be wary of fake victim solicitations on social media.
The state’s Combined Fund Drive for state employees has a Harvey relief page that lists some charities.
President Trump paid a visit to the Texas region Tuesday. It is in the nation’s interest that Trump seeks adequate humanitarian aid to all parts of Houston and surrounding communities and that Congress provides it.
The disastrous flooding around the Houston likely was worsened as a result of poor local land-use policies, which led to paving over many natural grasslands that once helped the land absorb heavy rains, according to Hell and High Water, a 2015 report by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica. They documented how the Houston area was a sitting duck for catastrophic damage.
Scientists suspect climate change played some role by adding moisture to the storm as it originated in the Gulf of Mexico. But reliable estimates of global warming’s impacts can’t be calculated or confirmed for weeks or much longer.
If altruism isn’t enough of a prod for us in the Northwest, we should keep in mind that we’ll inevitably have our turn — whether facing ruin from a major earthquake or winter floods and landslides.
Long term, the Houston area needs more than cash aid or extra hands to rebuild. It also needs wiser on-the-ground policies that enhance environmental and community resiliency in the face of mega-storms.
Already scientists are saying Harvey is likely a harbinger for larger, wetter storms expected in the future.