Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey… the gift that keeps on giving!

As if a Category 4 hurricane is not enough for the folks along the Gulf Coast of Texas to deal with, the storm has spawned tornadoes and catastrophic flooding as well.

The Houston area is expecting at least 50” of rainfall since Harvey made land on Friday.

Captain’s Note: By comparison, the flooding that swelled the Ohio River in our area in 2011 was caused by 15-20” of rainfall over the course of two weeks!

As water-filled images continue to come out of the greater Houston area, relief agencies like the American Red Cross, UMCOR, and the Salvation Army have been mobilized. Donations continue to be requested for what will be a long recover for that area.

And as is often the case, people took to social media calling for prayers for those in the storm’s path.

And Houston TV evangelist Joel Osteen shared his prayers for the people of Houston.

Which may have been the wrong thing to do.

The backlash was ugly!

Osteen presides over the largest Christian congregation in America. His 30,000 members worship in the former Compaq Center, which was the home to the Houston Rockets from 1975-2003. Osteen’s organization moved into the facility in 2005 (purchased it outright for $7.5 million in 2010) and converted it into a 16,800-seat worship arena.

Osteen, known for his feel-good messages and his plastic good looks, also lives in a $10.5 million home in a suburb outside of Houston. (It is unclear at this writing if the Osteen home is in the flooded area.)

For obvious reasons, Osteen has been the target of critics for years. But now, in Houston’s time of need, Osteen failed to marshall his resources and lend Christian aid and shelter to the very people who put him where he is!

Instead, he offered them his prayers and best wishes.

In the same way President Trumpf said “Good Luck!” to the people of the area as Harvey drew near.

And this is President Trumpf and his wife, Melania, headed out for Texas yesterday to survey the flooding.

Notice her stylish aviator glasses, a very understated and utilitarian flight jacket, and flood-appropriate footwear.

Only after much social-media outrage did word begin to trickle out yesterday that Lakewood Church was preparing to open its doors to some of those displaced by the flooding.

To be honest, the Captain doesn’t have much use for Osteen or his television ministry.

But let’s stop for a minute to think about what it would mean for Lakewood Church to open its doors as a shelter for flood evacuees right now.

Think back to 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Although officials did not want to shelter people in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (for reasons that became obvious after the fact), they did open the doors as the storm came ashore on August 28 – 12 years ago yesterday! Some 15-20,000 people took shelter in this aging building that was intentionally designed to withstand most storms.

Captain’s Note: Throughout the course of the storm, portions of the roof were blown away and flood waters did creep in to some areas.

However, the Superdome wasn’t properly equipped to shelter so many. The National Guard delivered water and MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat), enough to last 15,000 people for three days. But there was no water purification system onsite, no chemical toilets, no antibiotics or antidiarrheal medicine, no medical staff, and not enough cots and blankets for the onslaught of homeless.

Three people died in the process.

Within two days, it became obvious this was not a workable solution and the evacuees were moved to another location.

And due to the storm damage and conditions left by the evacuees – first and foremost the stench of the failed sanitation system – some city leaders feared the Superdome would have to be demolished. But it was repaired and cleaned and continues to serve the New Orleans Saints well.

Who Dat!
The Lakewood Church in Houston is most likely even less prepared to receive thousands of flood victims than the Superdome was. Being a TV ministry centered around the charisma of its pastor, the Captain seriously doubts they had a realistic disaster plan in place.

Imagine if, in your own home, there was a person sitting in every chair you own and laying on every bed you have… people who have slogged through nasty flood waters to get there… with crying babies and soaked pets and all the personal possessions they could carry – also soaking wet.

For the Captain and First Mate, that would come to about 31 people… Maybe a few more…

Then multiply that number by two.

Holy Shit!!!

Could you… would you… welcome them into your home?

Would you be able to care for them? Could you feed them? Would your 2 ½ baths accommodate their toileting needs?

What would be your plan?

And that’s what is needed. More than just a roof over one’s head, there has to be a plan in place.

In 2009, an ice storm struck Kentucky, leaving 609,000 people across the state without electricity and communications for up to three weeks. 

In the midst of that storm, a United Methodist Church rose to the occasion. Under the leadership of a lay person who had been trained for just such a situation, the church began organizing excursions into the community, knocking on doors to make sure people were safe. It organized hot meals for the linemen trying to restore power and for anyone who had no food. Generators were set up, gasoline was trucked in. While overnight shelter was not offered, for two weeks the church fellowship hall was the center of recovery operations in that community.

There is estimated to be 30,000 people in the Houston area displaced from their homes by the flooding left in Harvey’s wake. Without a plan, Lakewood Church would find itself in the same situation – and condition – as the Superdome was in 2005.

Which does not excuse Osteen for his failure to step up and assist the needy people of his community.

In some way.

But maybe this storm will spur that congregation – and yours! – to better prepare for the future likelihood of another such storm.

Because it will come.

Captain's Addendum, 09-01-2017: The Captain had so wanted to follow up to this blog with an announcement that the kerfluffle around Joel Osteen was simply a misunderstanding and that Lakewood Church has been actively engaged in the flooding recovery efforts from the beginning. Unfortunately, on Wednesday Osteen made the circuit of morning TV shows in a failed PR attempt to turn the growing tidal wave of complaints away from him. As I listened in, he made at least four different excuses contradicting statements about the status of Lakewood Church.
1) We never closed our doors to evacuees.
2) We didn't open our doors immediately because we had flooding of our own.
3) We have been a distribution site from the start. (...but not taking in evacuees.)
4) We were never asked to be a shelter.

Frankly, that last one was most damning of all. They should have taken a cue from "Mattress Mack", who immediately opened up his furniture store and took in evacuees. He allowed his displaced neighbors to sit on the furniture AND sleep on the mattresses that comprised his only source of income.


He did it because it was the right thing to do... the Christian thing to do...

As for Joel Osteen, his final word was no less satisfying. He assured the nation that Lakewood would open its doors to evacuees "as soon as the other shelters have reached capacity."

Awfully big of you, Mr. Rich TV Preacher. Awfully big of you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Captain’s Note: I know. I know. I still haven’t written anything yet about Las Vegas.

I suppose, as the commercial says, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Sorry about that.

Just know that Vegas is not the Captain’s cup o’ tea.

But yesterday! Wow!

To be honest, the Captain was not looking forward to the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

Two 1/2 minutes of darkness... Whee...

And no, it’s not some mysterious sign from God.

It’s science.

But the First Mate could hardly contain herself. She took a vacation day just for this event.

We live along the path of “totality” (yes, the Captain has learned some new words this week), so the area chambers of commerce began hyping this one about a year ago. Area emergency services began holding mandatory monthly training sessions.

For the past several months we received daily updates on the status of hotels in the area – yes, they claim every hotel room in the area was booked…

Although I can name a few local fleabag motels that probably still had space.

Some were charging as much as $900 per night.

Then there was this.

We were warned that ½ million visitors were going to converge on the area.

We were warned about gas shortages reminiscent of the late 70s, long lines at the pumps, and price-gouging.

Around here, the price actually went down 4 cents per gallon!

The local TV station recommended treating this like a snow storm.

A friend warned me to watch out for pick-pockets.

Even after I told her I was going to be out in the middle of the lake in a private boat!

Someone took to Facebook to warn parents about child-snatchers who would travel for hours just to snatch your precious little one while you and everyone else are gazing at the skies, and in those two brief moments would be long gone before you realized it.


Captain’s Note: The Captain is not a parent, so, yes, what do I know about these things…

And we were amazed that, despite months of hype, people were still scrambling for the special protective eyewear as late as that morning!

And then there was one idiot who didn't think he needed any eye protection at all...
The weekend arrived and we began receiving almost hourly reports on traffic conditions.

Look at all that traffic!
Sunday night at the Home Port felt like Christmas Eve… except without the tree, the lights, and the presents.

Sleepless nonetheless.

And then the big day arrived. We left home at 8:30 in the morning, fearing the marina would be full and we would have no place to park.


Where were the crowds? Where was the traffic? Where was the madness and mayhem?

What am I going to do with all this bread and milk now!?!
All those fears may have been realized somewhere… but not here.

Perhaps because all the emergency services were on the ball and had everything under control.

Perhaps because it was a Monday. 

Some people have jobs…

Perhaps because many people didn’t really care.

Or, perhaps because when you spread ½ million visitors over a 2,000 mile swath of America, it’s not really going to have a major impact anywhere along the way.

So, much ado about nothing?

No. This was awesome!


During totality...
The First Mate's photo!

The Captain & First Mate
Next solar eclipse that passes near us occurs in April 2024. We’ll be there too!