Hurricane Harvey has been ravaging southeast Texas for days, and it’s now expected to be one of the costliest storms in U.S. history. While Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it’s still dumping rain on Houston and other cities in Texas and Louisiana — some areas may be inundated by more than 50 inches before the storm completely dissipates. On Sunday morning, the National Weather Service said the hurricane was “unprecedented &all impacts are unknown &beyond anything experienced.” While it’s unclear how much the storm will cost, estimates range in the tens of billions of dollars.
Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long says he expects half a million people to request help, and according to Vice President Mike Pence, 22,000 people have registered for disaster assistance. Long also points out that thousands of people are still in need of shelter: “This shelter mission is going to be a very heavy lift. We’re anticipating over 30,000 people being placed in shelters temporarily.” The catastrophic damage caused by Harvey has mobilized tens of thousands of Americans — from the entire Texas National Guard (about 12,000 people) to the Red Cross to individual donors and volunteers around the country.
Topekans and other Kansans are among the volunteers who are traveling to Texas to help with relief operations. On Monday morning, 43 people from Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa arrived in Texas in five emergency response vehicles dispatched by the Red Cross. While regional Red Cross communications director Richard Dinsdale says he’s unaware of how many Topekans are working in Texas, an emergency response vehicle left the city at noon on Sunday. Midwestern volunteers are working in Austin and San Antonio to set up shelters for Texans who are unable to return to their homes in the aftermath of Harvey.
According to Dinsdale, the Red Cross has established 34 shelters in Texas, but “that number is expected to grow dramatically. We will have dozens of additional shelters opened by the end of the week.” Jane Blocher is the executive director of the local Red Cross chapter, and she says the response to Harvey will be the organization’s largest since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Westar Energy is also taking part in this massive relief effort. CenterPoint Energy is an electricity and natural gas provider in the Houston area, and it requested Westar’s assistance in restoring power to 60,000 customers. Westar is part of the Midwest Mutual Assistance Group, which connects utility companies with one another to deliver services to parts of the region that are affected by natural disasters and other emergencies. On Monday afternoon, 40 Kansas-based Westar employees left for Texas.
The entire country is reaching out to those who are suffering in Texas, and Kansans should be proud that their state is a part of this effort. A natural disaster as vast and devastating as Harvey is horrifying to witness, but the response has been an edifying example of what Americans can accomplish when their compatriots are in dire need of assistance. Just imagine if this sense of national solidarity could persist after the floodwaters recede. Imagine if we approached every problem — political or otherwise — in the same spirit of mutual respect and genuine concern.
While there will be debates over how the Harvey recovery is handled (New York Rep. Peter King has already exploited the tragedy to attack Texas Sen. Ted Cruz), we shouldn’t forget the remarkable generosity that Americans have shown toward their neighbors over the past week.
Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.