When I first moved to Houston the first thing that really got me worried was the pamphlet laid out on the kitchen counter top that was blue and had nice wee swirly symbols on it, hidden under the leasing agents stuff about the keys and rules of the pool. I saw it the morning after I arrived, jet lagged and confused, drinking a coffee from the simple rations that the company had left in my cupboards, as I wondered what I was doing living in the States.
The pamphlet was "Hurricane Preparedness" and gave an overview of what to do if there was a hurricane and a mass evacuation. I mentioned this on Monday to my new coworkers and whom had looked after the previous exchanges, and they spoke about the earlier year, 2008, in hushed tones - Hurricane Ike had made landfall as a Cat 2 storm a few days after the exchanges had arrived and had put the windows in on their then apartment, as well has taking out the offices a bit as well.
I wondered aloud if there was a chance it'd happen in 2010, the year I was there, and they said yes - normally they come in two-year cycles, and 2008 was the last one, so 2010 was likely to have one.
A few weeks after I arrived in Texas, a huge storm did swoop in and I was glued to my television. The storm, Tropical Storm Hermine, dropped a lot of water on the city. I blogged about it here, with a video soundtracked to the most wistful Boards of Canada (that you should watch) I could muster, shows my complete astonishment at the amount of water thundering down onto my apartment. In the video, I comment how they had forecast for the storm 8 to 10 inches of rain, which was unreal.
Houston this past weekend has had around 50 inches in 48 hours.
The fallout from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey is quite incredible. I've made contact with friends who live there who are all okay thankfully, and those who are sharing on social media and as bewildered as you could imagine they can be. This isn't a small city, nor a small area, this is a city that is larger that some States with a population larger than that of the central belt of Scotland, and is an important cultural, commercial and engineering hub for almost all the US. Houston is a city that gets unnoticed by most from the UK, being "Texan" for better or worse, and ignored compared to the East and West coastal cities, but as somewhere I lived with Connie it's extremely close to our hearts and always will be, and to see it devastated quite literally is heart breaking.
The waters are yet to recede so we don't know the true extent of the damage, but it can only be assumed to be utterly disastrous. The area Con and I lived in, Eldridge Parkway, was under three feet of water, being right next to Buffalo Bayou and five minutes from the Barker Reservoir. We walked along the Bayou, sunned in the park, and it really feels strange to see it under water. What is even odder is that I randomly came across a video on Twitter of the flooding and recognised the street instantly, with shock.
With the flooding in Cockermouth in 2015 and Houston it really does bring home the change in climate that is happening - but the saddest thing is that it does the opposite for others. I hope that the recovery for the city is swift and strong - I know it will be, Texas is a strong state. Texas strong, indeed.