Earlier this month, Southwest Houston was warned that a Tropical Storm - dubbed Harvey - was headed for the Gulf Coast region.
Through Wednesday, the storm was expected to be nothing big. It downgraded first to a tropical depression, then merely a tropical wave, before picking back up and becoming a tropical storm again on Wednesday - two and a half days before landfall.
Over the next two days, things escalated quickly. The storm became a category 3 hurricane, then a category 4 within mere hours. By the time it made landfall late Friday evening, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in over a decade.
It truly was a perfect storm in the worst way. A high-pressure system to the west of Harvey’s landfall prevented the storm from continuing its journey inland, essentially stalling it and preventing the system from dying out. It was still close enough to the Gulf of Mexico to continue pulling moisture into bands around the system, and one of the storm bands all but stalled out directly over the City of Houston for over 24 hours. The entire city - the fourth largest in the United States - saw over 20 inches dumped within a day’s span.
There are just under 3 million people living in Houston’s city limits proper, and an estimated 6+ million living in the city combined with the surrounding suburbs. Adding in the farther-south regions that were hit by Harvey as a hurricane directly, there were nearly 7 million people that would have needed to evacuate when the storm system reached its current severity just a few days before landfall.
The last time a hurricane was headed directly for Houston, mass evacuations caused highway gridlock (after all, even the biggest highways aren’t made to hold millions of evacuees simultaneously). To prevent a repeat of the hundreds of deaths that evacuation resulted in - and to prevent hundreds more from cars trapped when the water levels rose - the city was advised to stay put.
The storm has been unprecedented, though. People who have lived in Houston for 40, even 50 years - and never flooded - have found their homes completely under water. Families living more than an hour inland are watching their roads slowly submerge, and the residents farther south are waiting on their roofs for rescue. There have been over 2,000 rescues so far, and - as of the writing of this - there are at least 200 pending 9-1-1 calls alone, not including home dwellers being rescued by volunteer boats.
That amounts to thousands - if not millions - of residents from Houston, Galveston, Port Aransas, Lockport, and other outlying areas losing their homes, belongings, and livelihoods. The damage will take months (if not years) to repair, and it will take years to recover.
Many Avalanche fans likely live hours and hours - if not more - from Houston, so it may seem hard to fathom how to help.
My parents live in Houston, so I’m here during the storm - and I’ve been collecting a comprehensive list of local organizations that need a ton of help. For those looking for a way to help, here’s a good list:
It’s hard to fully explain exactly how much help food banks in the area will need. Many families will be returning to decimated homes (if they’re able to return at all), and even more will be spending days - if not weeks - in shelters, where they’ll need to be fed. Many low-income families rely on hourly wages, which they’ll lose for however long the city is underwater (maybe longer). The city will need to feed them.
Houston Food Bank: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/
Rockport Good Samaritans: http://www.rfgoodsam.com/
Galveston Food Bank: http://www.galvestoncountyfoodbank.org/
Corpus Christi Food Bank: http://www.foodbankcc.com/
If you’re looking for a familiar name in charity, no better place to give than the Salvation Army of Houston. They’re currently operating four shelters in the city for evacuees of flooded residences, and they’ve been working on six mobile food kitchens to supply the area.
A state-wide volunteer organization, TSAR is a professionals-trained group that deploys around the state of Texas in the case of emergency. They provide everything from extra manpower for fire departments, police task forces, and the Coast Guard to response for cold cases, body recovery, search and rescue, and missing persons search groups.
Texas Diaper Bank
This organization works year-round to provide aid for infants, seniors and the disabled. They’re currently putting together relief packets for these groups affected by the floods and the hurricane farther south, and accept monetary donations to help fund that effort.
No group is going to be more affected by the flood than the homeless population in Houston - both because the streets will be under water for so long and because that particular population itself could triple (if not more) as a result of the storm. HH serves as a readiness and homeless prevention effort, working to provide stability - and ultimately a safe place to live - for that population in the city.
Foundation Beyond Belief
This is a secular, humanist organization that provides everything from education in impoverished areas to finances for disaster relief. They’re currently concentrating the bulk of their funds to aid with Harvey relief, although they are currently awaiting instruction on the city’s greatest needs to allocate the finances.
More ways to give:
- Donate blood. There’s no easier, cheaper way to contribute to disaster relief than giving blood. Between the relocation of those in hospitals in the affected area and the potentially injured victims yet to be revealed, the medical community is always grateful for the gift.
- Give to the Red Cross. One of the nation’s largest disaster relief organizations, The RC remains an easy and effective way to contribute. They’ve been under fire for reallocation of funds for PR and trouble with their relief effort during the last few Hurricanes, but they’re a large-scale organization with a ton of manpower to get things done. The easiest way to donate is to text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 contribution.
- YouCaring Fund. Organized by Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, the fund has already raised over $400,000 and that number keeps growing. The money will go to the victims of the flood. Donate here: https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053
- Many pets get lost or abandoned during natural disasters. The Humane Society is in Houston helping out and looking for donations: https://www.humanesociety.org/
- Also, the Houston SPCA is doing as much as possible to help our furry friends that have been displaced by the storm and floods. Many families aren’t allowed to bring their pets to the evacuee shelters and it’s causing a huge problem. www.HoustonSPCA.org