Hurricanes Make Everything Worse
“This challenge is complicated and made even more severe seeing that it is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19.” - Gov. Greg Abbott
This weekend saw the Texas coast's first official hurricane of the season, Hurricane Hanna. Under normal circumstances, this kind of event can cause unspeakable damage to property and human lives, but this year isn't like other years. This is 2020, where it seems that everything that can go wrong, will undoubtedly do so.
The Valley and the Texas coast were already seeing spikes in COVID-19 outbreaks and have been deemed hotspots in areas prior to Hanna making landfall. Now, officials in the area and around the state are scrambling to mitigate the damage caused to life and limb in an unprecedented time where we all still need to stay away from one another.
So a typical gymnasium that we could put 200 people in, now you can only put 50 people in because of the square footage requirements per individual because of COVID-19,” said Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider.
As the Brownsville Herald reported,
Power outages, for instance, are not an inconvenience. They’re a threat that could kill the unprecedented amount of people relying on emergency medical equipment. High winds and flooded roads do the same, grounding ambulances and slowing doctors and nurses from reaching their patients.
Having COVID-19 at home is dreadful, surely. Having COVID-19 at home, in the dark, alone, while the sheets of rain pelt your roof and tree limbs fall outside and the water creeps up the driveway is the stuff of nightmares.
The paper went on to mention the "tangible evidence...of these times...eight pages of obituaries and dozens more death notices..."
Financial Disaster Relief
Last legislative session, fresh off of the horror of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, the Texas Legislature approved $1.6 billion in storm and disaster response funding. The plan is called the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund, part of which helps local communities apply for state and federal funding matches to get needed assistance when disasters happen.
The bill package also authorized a spend-down of $3 billion from the state's rainy day fund for Harvey-impacted areas to mitigate damage from the next catastrophic storm.
Unfortunately, many of the plans and training funded by the package of bills have had little more than 12 months to take effect and be implemented. And much of that work has likely been either postponed or deprioritized with the pandemic hitting the country roughly six months after the bills' passage.
Additionally, none of the specific pieces of funding that went towards Harvey-relief will have helped the Valley which was largely unaffected by that storm, but which needs relief now.
Fortunately, there will be some federal relief available, Unfortunately for that area of the state, the "perfect storm" they are handling at the moment will have to be endured until the Legislature can convene again, but the hopes for a similar rainy day draw-down as there was post-Harvey should be tempered a great deal.