What a Month (Part II) and Hurricane Harvey: Communications, Floods, Guns, Prayers, and Volunteers

When I posted a blog a few days ago titled, “What a Month!,” I had no clue Hurricane Harvey would pound Houston for days and days, and in the process, it would destroy and upend so many friends and students and the city that I love. 

It has been a few very wild days. In Lake Jackson, we really lucked out. Comparatively, it was uneventful. The rain and wind were constantly within 30 miles in all directions but not here. Not counting the handful of times we lost power for a few seconds, we lost power once for around two hours (maybe not even that long). Currently, the main consequence has been that all roads in and out of Lake Jackson are closed due to flooding and gas stations, grocery stories, and restaurants are out of food; although, this problem seems to be abating quickly.

Elsewhere, as the media has made clear, is very different.

(Aren’t you glad we have journalists and freedom of speech in the United States – things that Donald Trump and his allies want to end, according to their rhetoric. The Free Press must be defended.)

After the storm, 85 percent of roads in Houston were flooded. My only criticism of the coverage is that they didn’t really show the very impoverished sections of Houston or the areas populated by those who are mainly racialized as non-White. East Houston and South Houston have not received the same attention as North, West, and Central Houston.

Hurricane Harvey’s power to completely change or completely destroy the life of so, so many in such a short time is amazing and baffling and humbling, all at once. The city of Houston–because of its infrastructure and size and because of the kindness and diversity of its people–is an amazing, comfortable, and unique place. During the aftermath, people have been waiting in line to volunteer, as this meme illustrates. 


Social media has greatly enhanced the power to have the latest information and to help others. Hurricane Harvey would have been much worse without the communications technology of the 2010s.

A few individuals have shown their disrespect for humanity with displays such as this:


I’m by no means a perfect speller, but isn’t it interesting that displays like this always have spelling errors? “Looting,” of course, becomes very relative when people are devastated, displaced, and malnourished. How did we get to a point where shooting someone is simply acceptable?

On this note, Facebook is wonderful in many ways, but it has a reputation for not stopping violence when it could. Cody Rollo made this comment on The Facts‘s Facebook page about the Brazoria County Fairgrounds and shelters for the displaced. 

On another note. I live literally a stones throw away from the fairgrounds. Anyone steps on my property will be shot! 

I reported this comment to Facebook, but it doesn’t violate their standards. 


My main other frustration during the Hurricane Harvey recovery is the constant reassurance of prayers from social media posts, from politicians, and from reporters. (And these are thoughts I’ve held for a long time….) Prayers aren’t really going to do anything. People need to take direct and specific action, if they can. Praying isn’t going to make a storm disappear or go elsewhere, isn’t going to make the water suddenly go away. Praying isn’t going to help fix human-made global warming and won’t correct the engineering problems that cause Houston to flood (there are solutions to this, if people and politicians will listen to science).

Praying, historically and sociologically, is what humans sometimes have done when they don’t know what to do or say, can’t do anything else, and/or don’t understand what is happening. Praying is frequently unethical too insomuch as people might pray that a storm hit somewhere besides where they live – suffering is going to happen and sometimes people wish that suffering on someone else.  

Why Christianity Must Change or Die has some excellent discussions on this topic.

Prayers (and thoughts) won’t prevent another hurricane from coming in and doing the same (or worse!) damage. Science (supported by engineering, math, biology, and history), however, can–if given dollars and ears.

Classes are supposed to resume at the University of Houston next Tuesday. I’m anxious to be back in the classroom and to see my 150 students again. Given that we had class for a week and then classes were canceled for a week, it will be a bit unusual starting back up again. I already know some of my students lost everything, so I’ll be working closely with them. Now I have to see what kind of adjustments to the course calendar I might need to make.

And I have another blog or two (mentally) in-progress, so you’ll hear from me again soon.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda