Texas Scratches Its Collective Head After Confusing Harvey Comments from President Trump
It's been roughly nine months since Harvey tried to drown this city, and at this point, some of the details are naturally a bit hazy. But President Donald Trump's recollection of the storm fails to ring any bells at all.
"Sixteen thousand people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is. People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane,” Trump said on a Wednesday conference call with disaster relief officials. “That didn't work out too well.”
Per that dubious account, people across the Texas coast took to their kayaks and fishing boats to gawk at the massive hurricane stalled above, as if they've never seen a thunderstorm before, and exacerbated the Coast Guard's response efforts.
In reality, HPD put out a call for private citizens willing to volunteer their boats for the official effort, organizations like the Cajun Navy dispatched boats from out of state, and countless neighbors took to their canoes, kayaks, and dinghies to execute daring rescues as the rising water stranded people across the city and along the Texas coast. We chronicled these efforts in real time and devoted our October issue to telling the stories of some of those heroic individuals. Looking back at photos, none of the boaters seem to be enjoying leisure time.
Since that comment, Texas officials have made it clear the Commander-in-Chief's version of events bears no resemblance to how things went down before, during, and after Harvey.
Texas Speaker Joe Straus, often a voice of moderation among the state's Republicans, rebuked the president:
The people who took their boats into the water during Harvey were not storm-watchers. They were heroes who went toward danger to rescue friends, neighbors, strangers. Texans helping Texans in a time of desperate need. #txlege https://t.co/6jQ9YElAAT— Joe Straus (@SpeakerStraus) June 7, 2018
On Twitter, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green, whose district encompasses the east side of Houston, couldn't muster words for a response, so he just went with a reaction GIF:
Trump: Many Texans watched Harvey from their boats, requiring Coast Guard rescue https://t.co/Scwib5oKHh pic.twitter.com/K5uChJMqcW— Rep. Gene Green (@RepGeneGreen) June 7, 2018
Others posted CrowdSource Rescue maps of distress calls to demonstrate need for private boats:
All of these were reports of people needing to be rescued as of 8/29 #Harvey #Abbott #Trump pic.twitter.com/OHgLVBUKW6— Courtney Gallipo (@CourtneyGallipo) June 7, 2018
After the call ended, the Houston Chronicle asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to comment on the president's claims of storm watchers. Abbott found the most polite way for a Republican governor to handle that question, replying that he had “no information one way or another about that.” He did, however, project remarkable confidence in the state's ability to handle a similar disaster.
"We are ready, and we are taking steps on a daily basis to make sure we will be able to address any challenge coming our way," Abbott told reporters. "We're getting everything lined up to make sure that we will be capable of responding to a replication of Hurricane Harvey."
Given Wednesday's Harris County Flood Control District report confirming Harvey's rainfall totals "have never been experienced across the United States since reliable records have been kept," fingers crossed that Abbott's prediction holds true, but let's hope all of last year's rescuers are keeping their boats in good order. The 2018 hurricane season started June 1, and one early NOAA forecast predicts a near- or above-normal season with up to 16 named storms, and it's not impossible Houston could need their help again.