Been hearing chatter critical of the decision that Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and other Houston and Harris County leaders made to not call for an evacuation of Houston with Hurricane Harvey’s Category 4 storm self bearing down on the Texas coast.
There are two major reasons why they probably called for Houstonians to shelter in place.
The first is speed in the storm development.
Harvey went from being a disorganized tropical depression on the verge of dissipating as it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula to a Cat 4 hurricane in two days after it reached the Bay of Campeche. .
This storm caught everyone, myself included by surprise in terms of how fast it developed, and there simply wasn’t enough time to plan an evacuation.
Reason number two was everyone remembers what happened during the 2005 evacuation of Houston as a then Category 5 Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Houston area and people tried to get out of its way mere weeks after Katrina devastated the New Orleans area and Mississippi Gulf coast.
That evacuation caused the worst traffic jam in Houston history and resulted in 100+ deaths
And that was in 95+ degree heat. That traffic jam was so bad it took my family, who was trying to reach our relatives in Dallas, 13 hours just to get to Huntsville, TX a mere 100 miles away. When they reached Huntsville they basically gave up, exited I-45 and successfully found a hotel room there to wait out the storm. Rita eventually veered away from the Houston-Galveston area, weakened to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border.
I still hear horror stories today about what a disaster it was and how long it took people to get to San Antonio, Austin or Dallas. .
Houston is now in 2017 way larger than it was in 2005, with over 6 million people living in our metro area. The city of Houston itself is 627 square miles, which makes it larger than New York and Los Angeles in area
So to expect a smooth evacuation with a Cat 4 hurricane bearing down on the city that was projected to drop 25 to 30 inches of rain on the area was about as likely as Dolt 45 being accepted into Mensa.
Based on the flooding those same evacuation roads and freeways are currently experiencing, there would have been people who probably would have drowned in their cars because of that fast rising water that is nine to ten feet deep in some spots.
And it’s why when this is over, the decision to have Houstonians shelter in place may have turned out to be the right call this time.