Posts from an island in the flood



Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Tropical Storm Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 28 at 1:27 p.m. CDT.

Shannon Tompkins is the veteran outdoors editor of the Houston Chronicle and a friend from my time in Houston in the 1970s. We became reacquainted when he covered the Bassmaster Classic in Houston last March. After some of us at B.A.S.S. reached out to check on him this morning, he responded with a heart-rending report on the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe as he sees it. A few excerpts:

“Susan and I are still OK . . . for now. We’ve had more than 40 inches of rain since Friday night and it’s still raining. West Fork of San Jacinto — about half-mile behind our place — is at record height and rising.  We are basically on an island, unable to get anywhere. Electricity comes and goes.  But think — hope — we are high enough to stay dry.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are losing their homes. That is not an exaggeration. But it is heartening to see so many folks with boats helping rescue so many people.

“This is an event on an unimaginable scale. Unless you are in it, you can't imagine it. So bad the incredible destruction in Rockport and midcoast from the actual hurricane impact has been pretty much ignored. 

“I’ve seen a lot of natural disasters. Been through six major hurricanes, beginning with Audrey in ’57 when I was just a child. Covered Hurricane Ike on the ground for five days in what was left of Bolivar Peninsula. I’ve seen things in those storms and their wake — things people should never have to see. But I’ve never seen anything approaching the scale of this. Biblical.

“Light a candle and say a few prayers for the folks down here.”



In another email exchange with Shannon Tompkins, who’s watching flood waters rise in his neighborhood, my friend offered some observations about the volunteers who are out in the unrelenting rain, saving lives.

Although he’s a little northeast of Houston, he and his neighbors are in harm’s way. The flooding isn’t limited to Houston city limits. In fact, Tompkins’ brother and mother in Baytown have water in their homes.

Disasters like this can bring out the best in people. In Tompkins’ words:

“The response of the ‘average’ folks who own boats has been stunning. You see them on the TV stations — swarms of them. And it’s easy to see and tell who these folks are by the boats they run, the gear they have and the way they act. Not seeing a ton of bass boats, for obvious reasons — not the best for shallow-water work or for hauling lots of people. Am seeing tons of shallow-draft bay boats and aluminum ‘bass’ boats as well as a surprising number of ‘duck’ boats: 16- to 20-foot flatbottoms with mud motors. (Those ‘mud’ motors work great in these situations because they're air-cooled and can get really shallow.)

“It's great to see all these angler/hunters coming out with their boats. And I've been proud to see them being interviewed on TV. They come across as caring, self-reliant folks who see people needing help and do what they can. Some of these guys have rescued dozens of people. 

“As I write this, my neighbor just drove off in his F150 4x4, pulling a trailer holding his aluminum boat. He had two kayaks in the boat, too. They use the boats and kayaks to fish the 60-acre lake in our subdivision. He’s putting them to another good use, now. There are thousands — maybe tens of thousands — like him in/around Houston, now. A couple who are our friends had their home flooded early in this event. They got out, relocated. Went to storage place where they kept boat and big UTV. They have been rescuing, helping people every day, all day (and half the night) since. That's the kind of people who are out there.

“Thank y'all for your thoughts and prayers. Texas needs them.”