As the skies clear above the devastation left by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the long road to recovery begins, many are concerned about other consequences from the storms beyond property and infrastructure damage. Harvey was expected to curtail U.S. oil production for several weeks, affecting every aspect of the oil industry down to the pump at gas stations throughout the country. Public health and environmental contamination are other major concerns, as well as such destructive storms becoming the norm due to climate change.
Harvey’s excessive rainfall along the Gulf of Mexico coastline exposed a vulnerability of the energy industry regarding the refineries and chemical production in the area, according to Michael E. Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas in Austin: “Over the long term, the energy sector will have to consider the costs of additional hardening of the infrastructure on the Gulf Coast versus moving to a different location like the Eastern Seaboard.”
There may be no natural disaster more humbling than hurricanes, with their gale force winds and flood-surges that destroy people’s homes, livelihoods and lives. Now two of them, back-to-back, have battered the United States and parts of the Caribbean and Cuba in the space of three weeks, including Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, which left much of Houston underwater, and Irma, which started out as a Category 5, the biggest hurricane to hit the United States since Andrew in 1992.
“The U.S. has never been hit, since we started collecting records in 1851, by two Category 4 or stronger hurricanes in the same season,” said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and co-founder of Weather Underground.
While en route from Colombia to Rome, Pope Francis shared with journalists a passage from Psalms about the stubbornness of man as they flew over the devastation of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean:
“Man is stupid, the Bible said [...] When you don’t want to see, you don’t see.”
The pope was speaking pointedly of those who continue to deny the effects of climate change, including President Trump. “Those who deny climate change need to go to scientists and ask them,” he said. He went on to say that the science and evidence linking human activity to storms such as Irma is clear and precise, and that we all have a moral responsibility to confront climate change.
As Houston and the surrounding coastal Texas area experiences unprecedented rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Harvey, heroes from all walks of life are weathering the storm to rescue thousands of their stranded neighbors. From a major airline company and breweries, to the unlikeliest of civilians, all have stepped up to lend aid during the crisis.
Sunday evening, Southwest Airlines evacuated 486 people from Houston, including employees and customers. The Dallas based airline requested and received special permission to operate five flights out of the international William P. Hobby Airport, located in southeast Houston.