By James Thompson
HOUSTON - Hurricane Ike slammed into the Houston-Galveston area at about 2:10 am CDT on September 13, 2008. At the time of landfall, it was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph when it hit the Louisiana coast in 2005. Ike has been devastating to the Houston area already and reports will be unfolding over the next few weeks.
All through the night on September 12-13 the winds howled and I fearfully looked out my window to see huge oak trees whipping around like bull whips.
On Sunday afternoon, September 14, 88% of the population was still without power. Water pressure has been and still is low. Cable TV and internet access is sporadic. Debris is everywhere and I spent most of yesterday and today helping neighbors take trees off houses and cleaning up debris.
Nothing builds solidarity like catastrophe. In my very Republican, multi-ethnic, working class neighborhood, Democrats and Republicans of diverse backgrounds worked side by side helping each other with clearing the debris. One Anglo Republican, who recently lost his job told me he had voted for Bush both times, but plans to vote for Obama in the upcoming election. He is sickened by what Bush has done and knows that McCain will do more of the same or worse. A Filipino Republican attended the Democratic precinct convention and plans to vote for Obama. He also voted for Bush and feels that we must have a significant change in government.
Reports indicate downtown Houston is a disaster area with broken glass everywhere. Our limited Metro Line is out of service and authorities are advising people to stay off the streets. Major freeways are still closed due to flooding.
Interestingly, gas prices started rising before the storm even hit. Apparently, the oil companies saw an opportunity to gouge working people once again with inflated gas prices using the storm as an excuse.
As the power companies take their time restoring electricity, I wonder if anyone besides me will question the fact that public utilities are privatized. I wonder if they will realize much of the revenue generated from the people is paid into corporate profits and unbelievable CEO salaries and salaries for their cronies and members of the Boards of Directors of the utility companies.
I heard a brief local report indicating that Congressman Nick Lampson is very upset with the way FEMA is handling the catastrophe. It seems that although the agency had promised to have water, food and fuel ready for storm survivors, it didn't happen. I'm sure that more will unfold on this over the next weeks, months and perhaps years.
One irony is that many of the survivors of Katrina are still in Houston three years later. I'm sure they will suffer once again at the hands of the anti-working people Bush administration. Hopefully, Houston will join New Orleans in solidarity against the disaster relief policies of the Bush administration.
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