And again, he did not disappoint me.
“We’re all right,” he told me. “We dodged a bullet. We’re blessed. ”
Millions of others, he noted sadly, were not so lucky.
When at last this storm passes, it will have dumped as much as 15 trillion gallons on coastal Texas. To put that into perspective, if all of that water came out of taps and faucets rather than in buckets from the sky, it would be enough to fill the needs of every man, woman and child in this country for 42 days, according to 2010 estimates of Americans’ water use. It’s more than twice the amount of rain that fell during Hurricane Katrina.
By any kind of reckoning, it is a monstrous storm.
And in the days to come, scientists and pundits will inevitably debate the role that the changing climate played in all of this. They’ll challenge one another over the extent to which the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico — waters that were as high as 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average as the hurricane gained strength — may have supercharged it. They’ll argue about the extent to which the black carbon that the president of Finland warned the president of the United States about just Monday might have warmed the Arctic and whether that was enough to stall the high-level winds that might otherwise have spurred the slow-moving storm along.
Those who resist the idea that a changing climate driven by our consumption played a role in this catastrophe will argue that Texas has always been a land of extremes, a place where crippling droughts often follow close on the heels of killer storms. That is true. Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, is what it is today in large part because earlier savage storms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries leveled the city of Indianola and ravaged Galveston, clearing the way for Houston to become pre-eminent.
The cycles of storms and droughts are, as my rice farmer friend will tell you, an inevitable fact of life in Texas. But as he will also tell you — even if you could make the case that climate played no role whatsoever in Hurricane Harvey’s fury or that we weren’t to blame at least in part for the severity of the last drought or the next — those storms and droughts are still more destructive than they ever were before, simply because there is more to destroy.
He will tell you that in the 16 years since Tropical Storm Allison deluged Houston, that city, which famously balks at any kind of zoning regulation, and the surrounding region,…