Now that Hurricane Harvey is departing the area many will wonder what could have been done to make the devastation less severe. In times of crisis blame is easy. Blame feels good – it’s an emotional outlet. Blame also is a defense mechanism as old as The Fall in Genesis – it casts responsibility on others. But just like in Genesis blame doesn’t solve problems or resolve issues.
What’s important is learning lessons from the disaster so that when the next crisis arises the preparation is better and impact lessened. To that end, criticism of the mayor for not ordering an evacuation needs to stop. Whether an evacuation was or was not ordered would not have impacted the flooding. Blaming the mayor for not calling an evacuation is not productive. He made the right call. We were never in danger from wind or storm surge. That’s what you evacuate to escape.
Not evacuating also had benefits that aren’t readily visible for the news so don’t get reported, but do have a significant impact on reducing human suffering. The media doesn’t see the 2:00 AM property walks that discover debris filled drains and gutters that are cleared to restore drainage and in the process saves vehicles and homes from sheet flooding. Homeowners who stayed battled sheet flooding intrusions and were able to keep flooding below the power outlets significantly reducing the amount of repairs needed. None of those stories gets picked up, and the picture presented is incomplete and one sided.
There will be a time to demand accountability going forward. Now is not that time. When that time comes it’s important to focus on the future and what lessons we should learn from the disaster.