Twelve Years Since Katrina, and Water Rising in Houston May Teach New Lessons

Houston flooding

New Orleans   A tiny frog hopped out from under the dryer in our kitchen this morning to mark the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the wet water wonder world engulfing us today.

It’s still dark outside though close to 9 in the morning with a steady rain pouring since the predawn from our share of Tropical Storm Harvey that continues to inundate the Gulf Coast and has turned Houston’s bayous into small rivers and whole neighborhoods into lakes. The papers compared the differences and similarities between Harvey and Katrina. We had a record storm surge. They have a record rain that eventually may top 4 feet in some spots and has already equaled the average annual rainfall amount in others.

Local 100 represents school workers, but the schools have all been closed and won’t open until after Labor Day at best. We know from Katrina that some schools, as well as other public and private buildings, may be so damaged that it may be months, not days before they reopen. Where I was supposed to stay tonight in Houston on my original travel schedule reports that they have electricity, but no water, making it a campground of sorts. Chaco and I were going to catch our almost annual Houston Astros game tonight and tomorrow night against the Texas Rangers, but that game is now being played in St. Petersburg, Florida at the Rays stadium. All of my Houston work is now pushed to the end of next week, when we hope everything has dried out and things are back to normal.

We know from Katrina though that the so-called “new” normal is simply an expression that things can never be as they were before. Hearing the New Orleans mayor report that one pump in the city caught on fire and has been taken off line and trying to assure the citizens here on the Katrina anniversary that we can handle 10 inches of water if it falls between Tuesday and Friday is hardly comforting. Of course there is a “but,” as in, but if a rain “band,”as they now call them, stalls over us, many areas are in trouble.

The never normal is now coming to Houston just as it did to New Orleans, but maybe there’s a bigger difference than the papers have listed. Houston is not a majority African-American city, and is a thriving, economic engine throughout their metropolitan area growing great guns. Land is worth more, and there is more wealth. New Orleanians saw that in the response and welcome of the Houston to our refugees.

Looking for a silver lining to this climatic catastrophe, perhaps Houston will marshal the will and resources to grab the bull by the horns and finally do something different to prepare for the next time, rather than refusing to learn – or afford – the lessons of this time. Breaking out of the denier mode and forging a new path would be a gift in Houston for all Texans, and for all of the rest of us it would also show the direction and force us to follow.

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Going Bio-Diesel, New Orleans First!

IMG_2013New Orleans My crash course in the chemistry and advantages of bio-diesel started with a phone call almost a year ago from a union steward I knew who worked for the City of Santa Barbara in California.  He and a buddy had spent a world of time and no small amount of money building a mobile bio-diesel fueling operation, and they wanted to figure out a way to get it to New Orleans to help in the recovery efforts.  What a concept?  What an opportunity!

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, so it has taken us more than a year for everyone to get on the same page and figure out how to make everyone happy, but the light is now beaming at the end of the tunnel and likely by Labor Day, we’ll part a 4 x 8 trailer with 800 pounds of bio-diesel gear somewhere in the 9th Ward, I hope.

The rig can produce up to 20,000 gallons capacity a month by converting cooking grease into fuel.  If there is one place in the world that produces a huge supply of cooking grease, tell me it’s not New Orleans, so if we can put all of these pieces together, we’re going to be “cookin’ with grease!”

Of course there are a lot of slips between the cup and the lip.  The equipment needs some tune up in Cali before the pickup.  We have to work out the charitable donation papers for ACORN International to accept the contribution.  We need to get the big Suburban or something similar out to Santa Barbara to roll the operation back to New Orleans.  In the meantime we need to find a location, hopefully in our beloved 9th Ward, where we can park this baby and locate extra storage tanks and everything else that’s needed.  We need to reach out to the hospitality world to get the grease and to our friends in high and low places to agree to use the product to make this operation sustainable as we begin the evangelical work.

Yeah, like I said, it’s a long list, so this is just the scout patrol giving out advance notice and some teasers (check out that picture!) that this is coming, and it’s going to be big!

Ps.  You want to help in New Orleans to get this going or make it happen elsewhere, give a holler to wade@chieforganizer.org.

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