Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, and the city has always been a shining example of Texan pride. But Hurricane Harvey, the category 5 mega-storm, is testing that pride. Harvey gave Houston a hard lesson in climate change, and no one is sure if Houston will ever be the same again. Houston is not the same Houston after 51 inches of rain put the city in the record books. One part of the city is still the same old Houston, and the other part of the city is an overflowing bathtub filled with floating debris and displaced citizens. Many of Houston’s subdivisions are still underwater, and the streets are dump sites for furniture, household belongings, and the remnants of personal items that are waterlogged and useless.
But in the areas of the city where the rain was not as hard, the streets have damp curves, a little silt on the pavements, and the smell of mildew in the air, according to an Associated Press article. But in the areas of the city where the rain put a forever message in the minds of Houstonites, hip waders and construction masks were a new reality. Rafts and boats are the means of transportation and flooded cars are the flavor of the day. The amount of auto damage is still unknown, but hundreds of thousands of cars are being towed to one spot so insurance companies can assess the damage.
The part of Houston with some sort of special layer of protection from Harvey is almost back to normal. Couples are shopping at Whole Foods again, and runners and bikers are back in the park along the Buffalo Bayou, even though there are some McMansions near the Buffalo Bayou that are still underwater. But Downtown Houston is still the same downtown, according to some of the folks who are able to get out and shop or do business. People downtown are not dragging soggy furniture to the curbs, and they are not busting out walls and tearing up floors to start the rebuilding process.
The question is, will Houston become one city again? Or, will it be another New Orleans? A city where half the population moves away and never comes back. It’s too soon to answer those questions, but Houston is still in Texas. And Texans don’t like to quit or move out of Texas. So the Texans who like to bet say Houston will be back, and it will be great again.