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Back home after the storm

Though much of the city still is without power, including our side of our block, and though there are downed trees and fences throughout, Corpus Christi was fortunate in its encounter with Harvey. The storm came ashore just north, putting the city in the storm’s weaker semicircle. Port Aransas and Rockport were near the eye in the dangerous semicircle, and suffered (youtube) the brunt of it. Residents currently are allowed only limited access to Pt. Aransas, and non-residents not at all.

The decision to evacuate before a storm is not as straightforward as many think. Harvey intensified very quickly from a tropical storm to a category 3 hurricane. There is a large cost to leaving early at every threat. But waiting too long, there can be more danger on the crowded roads than in riding it through. For a city like Houston with several million residents over a sprawled area with only a few good highways out, there may not be a practical window to call a city-wide evacuation. That was tried in 2005 when Rita threatened, and as a consequence:

Dozens of people died on the road — in a horrific bus fire, in traffic accidents, of heat stroke. After all that, Rita changed course and dealt Houston only a glancing blow. The direct death toll from the storm itself was fewer than 10, a fraction of the death toll of the evacuation.

Nonetheless, there are many articles second-guessing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s decision not to repeat that. A little knowledge of local geography and history can knock the wind out of the opinions of those working without that. Vox, which often has quite good articles, published a piece of nonsense about the border checkpoints impeding evacuation from Harvey. Those checkpoints work on the northbound lanes of the highways from the valley. Anyone evacuating from Harvey would be traveling southbound. Unimpeded.

We battened down what we could before Harvey hit, then boogied out on Thursday afternoon. IH37 was congested then, but the weather still was fair and we made it to Kerrville in the early evening. Spending the weekend with family in the hill country was more pleasant than watching a hurricane pass over. We’re back home, with gas, water, and internet, but no grid power. The post-storm breeze is keeping the house cool as I watch some other neighbors without power wander over to the good doctor’s house, with power, for a hot shower. I’m using the Prius to drive a 2kW inverter to run our fridge and give us some sockets for modem, wireless, phones, and computers.

Our large hackberry in front fell onto the front of the house, bending the gutter out of shape and dinging some shingles on the eaves. Another tree in the back lost a large limb. At the marina, the La Niña replica sank, and the Bay Yacht Club’s new floating home ended up on the breakwater. Still, this community fared well compared to what Harvey wreaked on the small towns of Rockport, Fulton, Aransas Path, and Pt. Aransas, just north.

And what it still is doing to Houston.

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