As Hurricane Harvey hits TX, shock felt by UC Berkeley community

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Hurricane Harvey may not pose as immediate of a threat to the Bay Area as the San Andreas Fault, but for UC Berkeley students hailing from Texas, Harvey is inflicting a significant amount of damage on their hearts and homes.

“Places where I eat and hang out all the time are either halfway or entirely submerged in water,” said Hudson Attar, a campus senior whose family lives in the Woodlands, a suburb just north of Downtown Houston.

Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Harvey’s Category 4 classification makes it a “major” hurricane that has the potential to wreak catastrophic damage on both property and human life due to sustained wind speeds of 130-156 mph.

Attar is one of several UC Berkeley students from the greater Houston area who has experienced flooding and wind damage before, especially after Hurricane Ike in 2008, but not to this magnitude.

“Streets are flooded all over my town, and you can’t drive anywhere,” said Molly Hydorn, a sophomore from Pearland, a suburb about 10 miles south of Downtown Houston.

Chris Janssen, a campus senior, said many of the older homes in his neighborhood that were not rebuilt on higher ground were completely underwater. Many had to be rescued by the Coast Guard or police, he added.

“It is irresponsible of the media to talk about the Texas storm and yet never mention global warming,” said John Harte, campus professor of ecosystem sciences, in an email.

Hydorn added that she was worried about how the city is going to recover. Hydorn said she has seen a lot of social media posts from people trying to get first responders’ attention, such as tweets stating, “This is my address, please help.”

A forecast report issued Aug. 28 by the National Hurricane Center states that heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding will persist for the next several days in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

Rainfall totals are expected to reach 50 inches in the Greater Houston area, which would be historic.

California Gov. Jerry Brown deployed several search and rescue task forces Friday to aid the response to Hurricane Harvey. Brown also approved the deployment of four fire departments, including the Oakland Fire Department, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

“I feel like I have survivor’s guilt here in sunny California while my family’s stuck over there,” said Anoushka Giri, a freshman from Katy, a suburb in northwest Houston.

Giri’s parents took precautions for the flooding by bringing outdoor items inside the house and taking shelter in a windowless closet on the first floor. Giri said her family planned to move to the second floor if the flooding worsened.

The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey is especially destructive due to the Gulf of Mexico’s unusually high 90-degree water temperatures, according to Inez Fung, a campus professor and climate change specialist.

“The multiple harms that global warming cause will only increase if the science deniers continue to provide politicians with an excuse to do nothing about the problem and the media remains silent,” Harte said in an email.

Fung said most hurricanes are eventually swept back into the sea by strong winds and currents, describing them as “drifting down the river,” while she equated Harvey to a warm pond, with the moisture remaining stagnant.

“It’s weird … to be here looking at it from afar because I so desperately want to be there with them,” Giri said.

Contact Carina Zhao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @c_zhao96.

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  • Emilia M.

    Watching the tireless efforts of Texas law enforcement, the Texas National Guard and of ordinary Texans during this crisis, has been awe-inspiring. When it comes to being good Americans and doing the right thing by the citizens, those Texans stand in stark contrast to the pathetic Mayor of Berkeley and the city’s disgraceful police department.

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