Houston Is Hurting

A report from inside Bayou City.

image by Robert Saucedo

My city is underwater. Hurricane-to-Tropical Storm Harvey has dumped literal trillions of gallons of water on Texas, and flood-susceptible Houston and its surrounding areas are bearing the brunt of that load. I write this to the ceaseless sound of rain, a sound I once loved and now dread. It won’t stop raining. Our phones are still constantly buzzing with emergency alerts, warnings of tornadoes and flash floods and more, more, more rain. We’re days in and there are days to go yet.

BMD Senior Editor Evan Saathoff and I are both lucky. Our homes still have power and, though surrounded by water, have remained dry. We’re safe, but so many others aren’t. Tens of thousands of citizens are stranded, in danger, facing the loss of their homes and vehicles and treasured memories.

Conditions have improved somewhat today, with the water level decreased in many areas. But the storm’s not over yet, and even if the rain stopped this moment for good, Texas and Houston in particular would face years of recovery. Harvey is an unprecedented catastrophe, likely to produce the greatest rainfall total of any U.S. storm in well over a hundred years.

I hesitated to write about this. Being in the middle of it feels so surreal and strange, and writing about it on our pop culture blog felt potentially trivializing. But the fact is that we’re privileged to have a big audience here on BMD, and if we can use that audience to make a difference when it counts, I guess we should.

So here are a few links I’d like to share with that audience. One: Space City Weather. This site consists of two local meteorologists – Eric Berger and Matt Lanza – who are committed to delivering Houston forecasts “with accuracy and without hype.” In other words, they’re not using terror and tragedy to drum up ratings like The Weather Channel and its ilk. Just about everyone I know in Houston is religiously reading this site right now, and it’s the only news source I’m allowing my family outside of Houston to read, in order to help manage their panic. Space City Weather offers sensible, drama-free reporting, and it’s saved my sanity more than once this week. If you're following Harvey's effects on the greater Houston area, this is the only weather report you need right now. 

Another important link: if your instinct is to judge those who have not evacuated, please read this Twitter thread by Houston musician Kam Franklin of The Suffers. I’ll say little else because she said it perfectly – I'll only add a gentle reminder that it's not a great look to offer judgment and politicizing from a safe position when others are in danger.

There are of course many ways you can donate to relief efforts for Harvey. NPR has a great roundup here. I’d like to draw your attention to two links in particular. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner launched a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Donations are tax-deductible and go directly toward victims affected by the recent floods. And United Way of Greater Houston has established a relief fund for storm victims in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Waller Counties.

Another thing you can do is simpler and probably more fun. Once the water has gone down and it’s safe to visit the city, come to Houston and support local businesses. Give this big, beautiful, unique, multicultural city your love and dollars over the coming months and years. We'll need it, and you’ll get to visit a hell of a town, to boot.

To our readers affected by Harvey in Houston and beyond, stay safe. If you can help out a neighbor, do it, but please, please be safe. We love you here at BMD, and we’re hurting with you.

And I’d like to leave you with a poem by hometown pastor Jeremy Rutledge, shared all over the city by those who know how beautifully it captures us.

If you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
in her way

pray like Beyoncé
when she was
or Billy and Dusty
shooting pool
at Rudyard's

pray like you're
sitting over soup
at Spanish Flowers
or pho at Mai's
steaming your glasses

pray like the kids
playing soccer
on the east side
or mutton busting
at the livestock show

pray like the runners
in Memorial Park
lacing them up
or the researchers
in the medical center
looking into microscopes

if you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
as quietly as
the Rothko Chapel
or Houston Zen Center

and you have to pray
as loudly as
the old scoreboard
at the Astrodome
after a José Cruz
home run

you have to pray
sitting under
a live oak tree
or standing next to
an azalea bloom
while your skin
clams in the heat

if you want to pray
for Houston
you have to pray
without pretense
this ain't Dallas
and in a neighborly way
as friends come out
to check on each other
in the rain
and those
who are far away
watch screens
and wipe our eyes

if you want to pray
for Houston
raise a bottle of Shiner
to the gray sky
and say that 130 mile an hour winds
and 9 trillion gallons of rain
are no match
for a city of such life
and diversity

you can fill up our bayou
but you will never rain
on our parade

I love you, Houston. Stay strong.