Friday, May 29, 2015

Texas Floods, an oxymoron?

Most people envision Texas looking like Monument Valley, Utah – that is unless they watch the news.  They think all Texans pull on a pair of gaudy cowboy boots and great big cactus plants stretched out as far as the eye can see.  The truth is many of us have never seen the high desert or own a pair of cowboy boots.  The closest most Baytownians have come to a rattlesnake has been to a visit at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center.

Most non-Texans are almost arrogantly ignorant about us and wish to blissfully remain so.  Some see the whole state as an aberration which produced two Bush presidents and a whole State full of obnoxious residents who brag on how big everything is in Texas. 

Most don’t realize that if you flipped the state horizontally (either way) you would dip El Paso in the Atlantic Ocean and Beaumont in the Pacific.  Most don’t realize that the Gulf Coast is wet year round and alligators are far more common that cowboy boots.

Recently they’ve watched the weather reports and believe all of us are drowning in our homes and to those who have suffered this fate; I don’t mean to sound flippant.  The truth is hardly any of us are at risk here in Baytown anyway if we simply stay inside.  It’s those folks who simply must get to work that are at highest risk of a water or traffic related accident.

If they knew they were heading out the door to sink their new car in 6 feet of water and nearly drown in the process, they would stay home.  Ah, but those of us who are committed to our jobs go anyway.  People in Dayton make that hazardous drive down SH-146 all the way to Texas City and on the way pass hometown folks heading north to the Chevron Plant in Mont Belvieu.

And to those poor souls who have to head west on I-10 into the Houston metropolis, all I can say is “May God be with you.”  It is bad enough when the sky is clear, but if we are having a deluge, it is ten times more hazardous.

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do every day.  Add in the pouring rain, standing water, and distracted drivers and our soldiers in the military are safer than we are.  Bump it up with a boiling cup of coffee,  kolaches, and the Smartphone making its peculiar identification ring (should I answer this one or wait?) and you have just blasted this commute up into an all out attack on our senses.

Many Texans don’t realize that here on the Gulf Coast we have a micro-environment different than the rest of the state and our weather can be one of severe extremes.  When we get a Harris County weather report, it most likely covers Conroe to Victoria and over to Katy and back to Baytown making it wrong the majority of the time for all of us.

For some time, my bride and I have planned to zipline west of Austin and it just so happened that this past Wednesday was the day.  We kicked it back and forth and talked to those folks out there and decided to reschedule.  A no-brainer you offer?  Yup.  I didn’t think putting entertainment ahead of the very real possibility that we could suffer something negative was a particularly good notion. 

But let’s say for the sake of argument that we would have gone and something tragic would have happened.  It would be the same outcome as going to work in a deluge.  It has been an observation of mine for many years that the main reason people have accidents in the rain is they are going too fast.  Remember when cars used to wreck on our side of the Fred Hartman Bridge due to hydroplaning?  It would be easy to blame the standing water, but the reality is cars would not slow down in the rain.

I drove that stretch of road every day and knew I needed to take that section at about 50 mph when it rained, yet people would fly past me at 70.  On two occasions I witnessed cars lose control.  One went sideways down the freeway and came to a stop.  The other clipped the barrels and went down the exit.  They eventually fixed this low spot so now people can play with their life again.

Slow down in the rain folks, or if it is bad, think twice about getting out in it.  No one wants to die to get to work now do they?


Anonymous said...

Gordon Little: I've noticed that in torrential downpours, there seems to be only two speeds for driving: 20 mph in the fast lane, or 90 mph in the rest.

Anonymous said...

We are either in 7 years of drought or 7 years of too much rain. I am thankful we are no longer in drought and trying very hard not to complain about the rain.

It's just the beginning, and trees are going to start falling over.

A couple of years ago, it was so dry, we had cracks in our yard that a cat could fall into. That is not an exaggeration. We had water bills every month that were staggering - just trying to keep our trees alive. Now we are hoping a stiff wind doesn't lay them down.

I am sopping wet from the walk into my office from the parking lot. I was wearing a rain coat that came to my ankles. It was barely sprinkling when I got out of my car. Here we go again!


Anonymous said...

Dandy Don Cunningham: Yes, Bert, I meant to send you a note telling you how great your column was yesterday.

It can only happen while shopping!

As the big man is my witness, every word of this is unquestionable and void of hyperbolic incredibility. With that taken into consid...