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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National recap: Houston struggles after hurricane

New problems continue to arise in Texas as residents struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey, a storm that has already killed at least 50 people, according to one estimate.

Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf on Aug. 25, with the storm moving to hit Louisiana by Aug. 31. Harvey made landfall three separate times over the course of the storm, with two of those times as a hurricane in Texas, and one as a tropical storm in Louisiana.

The total rainfall from Hurricane Harvey was over 50 inches in some places, setting a new record of the heaviest rainfall for a storm in the continental U.S.

There are approximately 300 people remaining in west Houston, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the area before the Army Corps Engineers releases excess water from nearby reservoirs.

Turner did not originally issue any sort of evacuation notice for the residents of Houston, despite the fact that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged people living between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Houston to evacuate. Though some have criticized Turner’s choice, experts have supported his decision, saying that safely putting 6 million people on the road to evacuate would have been impossible, according to the Los Angeles Times.

People remaining in the affected areas are now struggling to find food and water. The Ben Taub Hospital in Houston is reportedly running out of food for its patients, and efforts to relocate critical care patients have been hampered by rising water levels in the area. In addition, people are making complaints about price gouging in Houston, with reports of cases of water being sold for $99.

Low-income communities and communities of people of color have been disproportionately affected by Harvey, according to Robert Bullard, known as “the father of environmental justice,” in an interview with Democracy Now. “Fence-line” communities near oil refineries in the East End of Houston, which are composed of mostly people of color, are reporting strong gas smells and headaches, sore throat, scratchy throat and itchy eyes.

New issues are now cropping up in the aftermath. A chemical plant in Arkema, Texas, caught fire after the flooding from the storm compromised the refrigeration units in the plant. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have said in a joint statement that they will let the refrigeration units catch fire and burn out, rather than risk the lives of any firefighters, according to CNN.

The flooding has also caused problems with toxic waste pollution. Thirteen of the 41 toxic waste dump sites, known as Superfund sites, are confirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be flooded. However, the EPA has not been able to access the sites due to the flooding, so the exact extent and risk of the pollution is still unknown.

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy