For those of us that were not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, it was an emotional rollercoaster watching people fleeing their homes, to seek safer ground.  Coast Guard helicopters rescued hundreds of people who otherwise would have been lost to the storm.  But the real story of Harvey was how people helped each other to escape the imminent threat of flood water caused by more than 50 inches of rain.  Areas of Houston which rarely flooded were inundated with water flooding houses and carrying away cars.  Photos and short videos showed how people rescued each other, and helped one another get through the first phase of the storm.

Following are four images of people either escaping to safer ground, or cases where people were helping each other.  Each of the images is an acrylic painting on canvas or board.  Painting these images was an emotional experience, and now that we are bracing for yet another, more powerful hurricane, in Irma.

A young family seeking the safety of dry ground. This was the first painting that I did, and it was very emotional to think about this father and mother protecting their children from the flooding caused by the hurricane.

This is the second painting, and it shows people walking through knee high water as they go to the safety of a shelter.

This is a police officer carrying a young woman and her 13 month old son. In addition to officials such as this police officer, thousands of people were rescued by ordinary citizens who came to the aid of their neighbors.

The water level on this street is nearly to the mailbox, and yet, this father is moving his son to safety. It was a magnificent photo to paint.

For people living in the path of Harvey in Houston and many towns, especially to east toward Beaumont and Port Arthur are still in the midst of the worst hurricane to hit Texas.  It was the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. since Wilma in 2005.  It was classified as a Category 4 storm, but because it essentially stayed in the Houston area for several days, excessive amounts of rain fell on the city, in fact, more rain fell during the storm than the city gets per year.  Category 4 and 5 hurricanes do not occur very often, but when they do, they cause severe damage, seen in the aftermath of Harvey. Since 1969 there have been only two class-5 hurricanes (Camille, 1969, Andrew, 1992) that hit the United States, and these were outrageously damaging storms.  Camille hit the coast of Mississippi and Alabama, while Andrew devastated Florida.  And since Camille hit, there have been only two other category 4 hurricanes (Hugo, 1989, Charlie 2004).  However, any hurricane can bring damaging winds, rain, storm surge, and flooding as we saw in Katrina in 2005.

We’ve driven to Houston twice each year since 2004 to go to the Round Top antiques festival, where we set up at Marburger Farm.  We know the area very well, having had vehicle breakdowns, and an accident on I-10.  We have good friends who live in Houston whose home was flooded during Harvey.  They are in the midst of recovery by cutting out sheet rock that was damaged.  According to the law, they must cut out sheet rock up to a level of four feet in the entire house, and then remove the flooring, and then continue the process of drying their house to remove any trace of water.  The real culprit in the aftermath of flooding is mold.  Mold, especially with the warm temperatures in Houston, can grow in a matter of hours after flooding has occurred.  The sooner people act to rid their homes of belongings and parts of the house touched by water, the better.  But, we are talking about a massive amount of work–hard work, in temperatures bordering the 90s.  The front yards of one house after another are piled high with debris from their homes.  The debris sits and sits.  When it will be removed is anyone’s guess.

According to FEMA, more than 90,000 residential structures in Harris (Houston), Galveston and Fort Bend counties could have been damaged by Harvey.  However, Harris country officials estimate that at least 136,000 homes were destroyed by Harvey.  FEMA data is an estimate based on earlier flood maps, which as we know are now out of date.  Areas that were in 500-year and 1000-year flood plains, places that are rarely flooded were flooded, and these areas are not eligible for flood insurance.  This is an example of not doing long-term planning, and making estimates based on “changing conditions” of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.  Each these has been affected by global warming so we have hotter air temperatures and increasingly hotter oceans, especially the Gulf of Mexico.  When you take these changes into consideration, more extreme weather events are going to happen, such as Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, more tornadoes, increased flooding, and more fires.




About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University