Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Small Towns Now Bear the Brunt" of Harvey

That's part of a headline from today's New York Times, which includes this line (see bold, which reflects my emphasis), which sums up so much about rural America and service delivery:
But as Houston, the urban behemoth that has so far been the focal point in the unfolding drama of Hurricane Harvey, began gingerly to assess the devastation, the storm marched on to conquer a vast new swath speckled with small towns that are home to millions of people who were shocked anew by Harvey’s tenaciously destructive power. Officials faced a population in dire need, but far more difficult to reach.
The story quotes a FEMA official as saying,
There are a lot of places that are not accessible by car or truck or boat, and we need to get to the survivors to get them critical aid.  
The story, dateline Newton, Texas (population 2,478 and therefore barely rural by the U.S. Census Bureau definition), reports several anecdotes from different "small towns," including from Batson, Moss Hill, Bon Weir, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, Ingleside and Rockport. Of course, it treats towns like Port Arthur, population 55,000, as "small," which would not necessarily meet my definition, but you get the idea. In fact, the story mentions that the 50 counties affected by the flood include more than 300 towns and "small cities."
Here's a quote from a resident of Moss Hill:
Ms. Price said she knew how widespread the storm’s toll was, and she knew that in the past rural areas like this one did not always get the most immediate aid. 
“We’re not forgotten,” she said. “It just takes them a little longer to get to us.” 
Rural residents insisted that they were used to being far from outside help and that self-reliance and an ethos of neighbors helping neighbors came with the territory.
This story from earlier in the storm centered on hard-hit Rockport, population 8,766, in Aransas County.  It featured this lede, which in turn featured a very colorful 16-year-old character:
In the days since Hurricane Harvey slammed into his hometown, Colin McBurney has become his own first-responder – a 16-year-old in a backward baseball cap with bare feet, a pistol and a truck. He drove to the houses of his neighbors all weekend, checking on the people no one had heard from. 
One friend made the kind of request people make in this bay town of nearly 11,000 whose spirit is equal parts fishing village, millionaire’s retreat and working-class country – please get the horse.
This story yesterday was more about events (rescues, to be precise) in Houston and its burbs, but it included this line that struck me as reminiscent of rural as much as of working class (again, see bold for my emphasis):
The volunteer rescue boat and many others like it are a sign of how the response to one of the worst disasters in decades in Texas has been, in many ways, improvised. Recreational vehicles — airboats, Jet Skis, motorized fishing boats — have rushed to the aid of people trapped in their homes, steered by welders, roofers, mechanics and fishermen wearing shorts, headlamps and ponchos. The working class, in large part, is being saved by the working class.
Indeed, the little crew of men Manny Fernandez featured in this story had driven to Houston from Lufkin, Texas, population 35,000, once they saw the need.  Lufkin is 120 miles northeast of Houston, in "deep East" Texas.        

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