Floods and future floods

Like everyone else, Texans are well capable of  whining and complaining, but the story doesn’t end there. Scratch that surface and there’s a dogged toughness in most people living here. Maybe it seeps up through the land; maybe it’s a contagious attitude carried along by frontier genes.     

Most frontier hardships are behind us as we move into urban life. Those that remain – blasting heat, thorny mesquites, a random rattlesnake on the front porch, lots of work for little pay – are reminders that life wasn’t designed to be a piece of cake. Gut up and get going is the motto, and that’s what a Houston resident demonstrated last weekend.   

Gloria Quintanilla has lived in Texas since she escaped El Salvador’s violence in 1982. At age 60, she holds a job washing sheets for a Houston hotel, and she wasn’t about to let a flood stop her. Wading through hip-deep water when a reporter approached to question her, she explained that it was her day to work, and it was her responsibility to get there.

It may be time (or past time) for us to put that determination to work on weather changes, something human beings have never tried to tackle before. Forget the few insistent voices denying change is happening. One has to be blind, crazy or asleep not to notice that something unusual is afoot. 

Hurricane Harvey, still causing havoc in some parts the state, is the worst on record. That’s not the best possible news after the hottest recorded summer in 2011, and an even higher year’s average in 2012. No one around here has forgotten the Blanco River flood. The same year brought Plum Creek within a dozen feet of my front door, far above any established flood plain. 

Is Earth warming or cooling? Both, it seems. A warmer gulf stream melts the polar ice cap faster, which cools the gulf stream faster, which then carries less warm water toward Europe, which gets colder and sends less heated air upward, which …       

It’s the old story of the butterfly that flaps its wings in Peru and causes a tornado in Texas.

Should worldwide disaster occur, it won’t be for quite a number of years, so it’s easier to wait until we’re sure, or said otherwise, wait until it’s too late. Costly? Yes, but not as costly as devastated port cities, not as costly as hurricane-spawned tornadoes, damaged crops, destroyed buildings, and lost lives.

There are many variables. We don’t know them all and can’t control them all, but we can control a few, and a few may be enough. 

Like Gloria, we have a job to do, and it’s our responsibility to see that it’s done. Time to start walking. She got there, by the way.

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