Hurricane Harvey provided what a former U.S. president liked to call a teachable moment — and the moment has special meaning for Central Coast residents.
The storm wreaked absolute havoc and devastation on the Houston area, repeatedly. Vehicles submerged almost out of sight on Interstates 10 and 45. People pitching tents on the roofs of their homes because the houses were flooded to the ceilings. Nursing home residents sitting in chest-deep water, waiting for help.
It was heart-breaking to watch — and those scenes of destruction raised a number of questions.
Where was the quick response from the federal government’s rescue agencies when it was evident Houston and area citizens were drowning? Why didn’t Houston officials order an evacuation ahead of the storm’s arrival? It was evident Harvey was going to be a monster, and maybe advising Houstonians to leave the city would have saved lives.
And there is that teachable moment, and a possible answer to the question about why no evacuation warning was issued. Maybe it’s because some Houston officials have long memories, and can easily recall what happened in 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.
Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Houston area, and officials of that era ordered an evacuation, sending millions of Houston residents onto highways trying to get out of town. The results were far worse than the damage inflicted by Rita, which later changed course anyway — after the evacuation stampede.
Texas agencies estimated 3.7 million people left the Houston region in that 2005 evacuation, and it was a disaster in itself.
Cars jammed up I-45 heading north in 100-degree-plus temperatures. Drivers turned off their A/C to save fuel. The traffic jam stretched for over 100 miles and lasted nearly two days. There was no gasoline along the interstate and cars that ran out greatly exacerbated the gridlock. Abandoned vehicles littered the shoulder lanes, making it look like a scene from a disaster film.
Dozens of people died on the road, some in a burning bus, others in traffic crashes. Still others died of heat stroke.
And here is our question to you — if there is a major disaster here on the Central Coast, are you ready? Do you have a plan?
We write about having plans for wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, all the things can can and do happen in California. We suspect a lot of readers don’t take the advice about having an escape as seriously as they should.
But consider this, if the Big One comes, or an out-of-control wildfire cuts off roads out of the Central Coast danger zones, what is your plan? Do you have the things you’d need to stay alive until help arrives?
These aren’t rhetorical questions. These are things every Central Coast resident needs to consider, make plans for, and when your Plan A clearly will work, have a Plan B and be ready to use it.
Wildfires are a little like hurricanes, in that you have some time to gather and save yourself and your family. Mudslides are quicker to get you, but the rains that provoke the floods are a clue.
Earthquakes are not like any of that. One minute you are doing your thing, the next minute you’re on the ground, trying to hold on.
But when the shaking stops, that’s when you need a plan, and a backup plan. It’s really just common sense, and thinking a few steps ahead of where you are at any particular moment — especially on the Central Coast, with its limited escape routes.