In March, 2016, independent journalism organization ProPublica ran a story in conjunction with Texas Tribune entitled "Hell and High Water" about the state of hurricane preparedness in Texas, and especially in Houston.
The article was heavily researched and included quotes from interviews with public officials from both parties, scientists, businessmen and women, heads of agencies, and other experts. It was focused around Hurricane Ike, which hit in 2008, the potential for a much stronger and worse hurricane than even Ike (which caused the third most damage in US history behind Katrina and Sandy), and the city and state's total lack of preparation and preparedness since Ike hit.
I stumbled upon this article just a few days ago while reading a "Best of 2016 Journalism" list compiled by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, and was shocked and appalled. I was incredulous at a city and a state's total unwillingness to do something, anything to prepare for something they knew was coming.
In the article, Phil Bedient, the co-director of the Storm Surge Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center was quoted as saying, "We're sitting ducks. We've done nothing. We've done nothing to shore up the coastline, to add resiliency...to do anything."
Later in the article, the authors note, "Six count executives formed a coalition in 2010 to study the issue, but for years it had no funding to do so."
Look, I know that no amount of preparation, preparedness, or precaution could have totally prevented the disaster that Hurricane Harvey is and will continue to be for so many people whose homes and lives have been wrecked. I know that natural disasters are not preventable and that no matter how much preparation Houston could have done, there still would have been massive damages and costs on both an economic and human level. But we could have done so much better.
Seemingly everyone in both the scientific and political community knew that Houston and the state of Texas were at great risk of a dangerously large storm hitting sometime in the foreseeable future and, yet, they did practically nothing.
There has been much politicizing--for better or worse--of certain aspects of this storm, but this lack of regard for the risk to people in communities now devastated by Hurricane Harvey knows no political party. Both Democrats and Republicans alike are to blame for the government's inexcusable lack of action and preparation.
The fact that we knew that this was coming, that we knew the risks of people losing their homes and their lives, that we knew whole communities would be crippled and devastated possibly beyond prepare, that we knew and we did absolutely nothing to try to alleviate the inevitable pain and suffering this storm would cause makes me sick.
America is supposed to be a great country, a country whose government cares for and about its citizens. In Houston, this vision of America failed.