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September 14th, 2008:

Volunteer opportunities

From the corporate home office:

The City of Houston is in need of volunteers to assist with setting up and supporting two shelters in the Houston community. The shelters will be used to house local individuals that have lost their homes.

Set-Up: Sunday – September 14
There are two area shelters that need to be up and running this afternoon that would welcome your help and are open to volunteers arriving as available. If you are available to assist with this effort, and can safely respond to this call for volunteers without putting yourself or your family in harm’s way, please select the location closest to your home.

  • Third Ward Multi Service Center
    3611 Ennis (intersection of Ennis and Alabama)
    Houston, TX 77004 – Key Map 533C

    Site Focal Point – Ricardo and/or Susan, both with City of Houston

  • Acres Home Multi Service Center
    6719 W Montgomery
    Houston, TX 77091 – Key Map Location 412Y

    Site Focal Point – Susan and/or Todd, both with City of Houston

Shelter Support: Sunday & Monday – September 14-15
Two area shelters are open to volunteers arriving as available to provide operational support for running the shelters. If you are available to assist with this effort, and can safely respond to this call for volunteers without putting yourself or your family in harm’s way, please select the location closest to your home.

  • Third Ward Multi Service Center
    3611 Ennis (intersection of Ennis and Alabama)
    Houston, TX 77004 – Key Map 533C

    Site Focal Point – Ricardo and/or Susan, both with City of Houston

  • Acres Home Multi Service Center
    6719 W Montgomery
    Houston, TX 77091 – Key Map Location 412Y

    Site Focal Point – Susan and/or Todd, both with City of Houston

Volunteers will assist in setting up, preparing and providing operational support for the shelter to accept individuals ranging from manning the registration desk to setting up cots and handing out food and necessities, etc.

And another via email:

“Channel 2 is looking for volunteers for a disaster phone bank today and tomorrow from 1:00 – 6:00pm. They have lights, air conditioning, TV, water and hot coffee. If you are able to give them some help call Kathy at 713-724-8850.”

If you have anything to report along these lines, please drop me a note.

Weekend link dump for September 14

And the links came tumbling down…

100 clues you’re not going to a really good college, via MeMo.

Some big-picture thoughts on light rail from Austin Contrarian.

Why the “Dog Whisperer” ain’t all that.

Who opposed the “Bridge to Nowhere”? Not you, Sarah.

A Previous Message Repeated, Slightly More Forcefully. Not for those who don’t like naughty words.

Headline of the week: “World Doesn’t End”. Well, as far as we know. Not yet, anyway. Fortunately, all we have to do is ask.

Lipstick on a pig, indeed.

Palin and family warned by a judge to stop “disparaging” the reputation of her ex-brother-in-law.

Texans Chick is back with the Chron.

A timeline of lies.

Reasons 1, 2 and 3 why we need transit.

Libertarians for Obama. And Ed Koch, too

Quantum Physics for Dogs.

Who owns the Arctic?


Donate to the Red Cross.

A report from Houston

The following is from Houston City Council Member Melissa Noriega:

If you are reading this, you are blessed–you are connected!

Just a few things for your reading audience: There is beginning to be ice and water coming in. Some stores are starting to open. We know the water is low and everyone is out of power. The water is a high priority and the power is working as fast as CenterPoint can…there are folks from other areas helping.

Stay put. Check on your neighbors. 311 is down; 911 works–only use in real emergency, NOT for low water pressure or questions about where to get ice. Watch for Sonics opening–they make their own ice. There is additional flooding and the roads are dangerous.

There are folks in a few of the Council offices–the number is 832-393-3005 here, but I am leaving soon to head to the George R. Brown to help there. If you need something, contact whatever local official you can, or call and we will see what we can do to help. I am certain there will be staff in council offices tomorrow–call numbers until you get an answer on Monday, if you don’t get anyone today. (I am not sure how long anyone will be here, so if you don’t get someone, don’t count on a message.)

George R. Brown has opened as a shelter. HISD is closed tomorrow. Stay out of downtown–it is a mess.

If your burglar alarm system is beeping (the house system, not a smoke alarm!), go find the box in a closet or where ever it is, open it (may need a screwdriver) and disconnect one of the 12V batteries inside. It should stop beeping. Reconnect when your power goes on (be careful) and it will recharge in 24 hours.

Frozen food in a full freezer will last 48 hours; half full–only 24. Cook it if you can and give to your neighbors. Fridge stuff–only 4 hours. Time to throw the mayo away. Mustard and ketchup are probably ok!

It looks like Bolivar is gone–anyone have real info, let me know. We probably lost a house we have had 40 years, and it is a grief. Otherwise, this could be a lot worse. The City and the County did a terrific job! It is easy to lose sight of how grateful we should be to be alive in the misery of no air and spoiled food, but we are very fortunate. All of us, and especially folks reading on the internet–be grateful for every day. Let’s help each other.

God bless Houston, and God bless Texas!

I will post more stuff like this as I get them. Thanks very much.

A report from Galveston

I’ve received the following email from Galveston native Joe Jaworski:

“Just spent 2 hours on the island with mayor, city manager and city department heads. They are brave heroes for riding this destructive storm out. We had to navigate army convoys, three checkpoints, debris of all kinds and finally the last of Ike’s rainbands. Everyone we saw was tired, but happy to be alive. The destruction is widespread, but the debris removal contractor I am working with assures me it could have been much worse – as was the case in Waveland, MS when Katrina’s storm surge essentially removed the community. The authorities here include federal, state, local and a noticeable military presence – as in exotic, camouflaged rolling stock with uniformed men with helmets driving. The police will enforce a 6pm to 6 am curfew. There is an ongoing search and rescue effort. I believe there will be deaths reported. I believe electricity won’t be restored for at least one month – CenterPoint’s main terminal for Galveston was fried. They will let us on to do inspections of our homes but we will have to leave again while the city is cleaned of debris and restored to some level of functionality. More later today.”

More when I receive it. I’ll say again – please donate to the Red Cross to help them help everyone who needs it. Thanks very much.

The recovery

It’s gonna take awhile.

Houston Mayor Bill White said this morning ice and fresh water are on the way, although he couldn’t give a timetable. He said fuel is being distributed first to those with “critical needs,” such as hospitals and emergency facilities. Power restoration is focused on the same buildings as wells water treatment plants.

“We have stressed to CenterPoint, the private company which owns the wires carrying electricity … we’ve emphasized to them that everything humanly possible should be done to get the grid back up as soon as possible.’

This morning’s rain is not expected to cause major flooding from bayous, but residents should stay inside their homes, County Judge Ed Emmett said today.

“I cannot stress this enough – transportation arteries are still very, very dangerous,” Emmett said. ”Please don’t venture out unless you absolutely have to.”

Still, the latest deluge complicated the recovery effort after Ike, whose toll and property and life was still coming into focus today. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff could not yet put a dollar amount on damage, except to say that it would likely rival some of the “legendary” damage figures of storms past.

“By any measure, it was a huge storm,” Chertoff said.

RMS, a company that estimates insured damage for companies, put the initial estimate in a wide $6 billion-to-$16 billion range. That doesn’t count flood damage or uninsured losses, which certainly will amount to billions more.


In Galveston, ground zero for Ike’s assault, the wreckage surpassed that of any storm in recent memory. Ten buildings burned to the ground, another seven collapsed because of wind — including two apartment buildings — and huge portions of the island remained underwater and by this morning had not been reached by emergency personnel.

They probably won’t be able to get rescue crews onto the island until tomorrow. The known death toll so far is two. That’s going to go up by a lot.

Most of the region, encompassing perhaps 5 million people, from Brazoria County into Louisiana, remained without power Saturday, although more pockets were lit, such as along Mason Road south of the Katy Freeway. Neighbors with power ran extension cords across streets to help neighbors without in some places.

Full restoration of power to the area was expected to take two to four weeks, according to CenterPoint Energy, the area’s primary transmission provider.

We actually have power at our house again, according to Andrea, who stayed there last night. CenterPoint is tracking its progress at restoring power here, but it has a huge task ahead of it.

And the truly amazing thing is, it all could have been worse.

The fact that Galveston Island has a future today can be attributed to a final landfall by Hurricane Ike just east of forecasters’ projections.

Instead of coming ashore across the island’s west end or even Jamaica Beach, Ike came in directly over the east end of Galveston. This brought the storm’s maximum surge to bear on Bolivar Peninsula — completely drowned for a time — and a long stretch of the upper Texas coast.

It’s just scary to think about. And since I’ve seen some comments wondering about how Reliant Stadium could suffer such damage in a storm with relatively low wind speeds, there’s this:

But the alternative was so much grimmer. Forecasters expected Ike to blow up into a major Category 4 hurricane.

For whatever reason — dry air? an ungainly large size? — Ike did not.

Some parts of Houston still got a taste of what might have been had Ike gained such an intensity. Because of the storm’s odd configuration the winds were significantly higher just a few hundred feet off the ground, reaching Category 4 levels.

This explains why Ike ripped half the roof off the $450 million Reliant Stadium, but not the much more modest homes nearby.

Speaking of which:

Damage to Reliant Stadium caused by Hurricane Ike has forced the NFL to move the Texans’ game against Baltimore, which had been rescheduled for Monday night, to Nov. 9, which was supposed to be the Ravens’ open date.

The Texans and Cincinnati Bengals, who were supposed to be off Oct. 26, will play on that date instead of Nov. 9, as they had originally been scheduled to do. The changes mean the Texas will still host the Bengals and Ravens; the question is whether they will be able to play them at Reliant Stadium.

Ike’s wrath took five panels out of the stadium roof.

“The facility will not be usable (on Monday),” SMG president Shea Guinn said. “There is some structural damage to the roof. Part of it is off. There’s also other damage on the property caused by wind and water. We’re in the process of assessing the damage.”


The Texans and the NFL didn’t want to comment about the possibility of not being able to play at Reliant Stadium, referring questions about the damage to Guinn. Guinn and other SMG officials are waiting for estimates from experts before commenting.


When Hurricane Katrina drove the Saints from New Orleans, they relocated to San Antonio and played their games in the Alamodome.

A more viable alternative for the Texans might be Rice Stadium, but it’s too early to speculate until an assessment of Reliant is complete.

I cannot imagine them playing at Rice Stadium. It just isn’t a suitable facility for NFL games, and parking would be a nightmare. Frankly, the Alamodome would be a far better choice, even three hours away. I presume the Astrodome is out of the question – it can’t possibly be event-worthy. My money’s on the Alamodome if Reliant can’t be fixed in time. The Astros, meanwhile, will play in Milwaukee, while the Comets will close their season in San Marcos.

Finally, I’ll say again that if you want to know the best way to help, I recommend donating to the Red Cross. They need every penny you can spare right now.

Raising the driving age

We’ve talked about the drinking age recently and whether or not it should be lowered. But what about the minimum age for getting a driver’s license? Some folks think it should be raised.

Taking aim at a longstanding rite of passage for 16-year-olds, an influential auto safety group is calling on states to raise the age for getting a driver’s license to 17 or even 18.

Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, acknowledged the idea is “a tough sell” but noted that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers.

“The bottom line is that when we look at the research, raising the driving age saves lives,” Lund said. He plans to present the proposal today at the annual conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Not surprisingly, a lot of teens hate the idea.

“I would really be upset because I’ve waited so long to drive,” said Diamante White, a 16-year-old in Reading, Pa., who got her permit in July. She said learning to drive is a “growing-up experience.”

Many parents agree. They also like not having to chauffeur their teens to school, sporting events and any number of other places.

“Do we really want our kids dependent upon parents for virtually everything until they go to college, can vote and serve their country?” asked Margaret Menotti, a mother in Uxbridge, Mass.

Put me down for having a lot of sympathy for Margaret Menotti’s position. My parents had the good fortune to live someplace where their four kids could walk or take public transit to school. Only my sister Eileen, whose high school was a few blocks from where my dad was working at the time, got regular rides to and from school. Most parents aren’t that lucky – I probably won’t be, at least for the most part. I’d favor making driver’s license exams tougher – the road test in Staten Island was pretty notorious back in the day – but I don’t think it should be taken away altogether. It just isn’t fair, and it isn’t workable for the way we live.