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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Context to appreciate the miraculously low death toll (so far) from Hurricane Harvey

[From a post I left on Facebook at 3:01 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, 2017:]

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is, by far, the worst natural disaster in American history as measured by numbers killed. Even at the low end of the estimations, at least 6000 died, and it might have been twice that. The 1906 San Francisco fire & earthquake and 9/11 are the next-runners-up, at around 3000 deaths. But so far, the death toll from Harvey seems to be in single or very low double digits.

Front page, San Francisco Call, Sep. 10, 1900

The property damage being created by Harvey is simply mind-boggling, and with it the emotional toll — which ranges from the mild exhaustion felt by those of us (like me) who've been comparatively unaffected otherwise, to those of us (like some people I know) who've lost everything they own, including all their most precious keepsakes, and who are now having to contemplate rebuilding their entire lives.

And each of the deaths we have had — most recently, to the collective shock and horror of our city, 60-year-old Sgt. Steve Perez of the HPD, drowned while trying to report back to work — are tragic, not to be minimized or forgotten in looking at the big-picture statistics. For the Perez family, the low overall casualty figures are very poor consolation, except insofar as they reflect the combined bravery of Sgt. Perez and everyone else like him who are involved in the rescue & recovery efforts during this crisis.

HPD Sgt. Steve Perez, Fallen Hero: Requiescat in pace

But compared to most other recent large-scale natural disasters — Hurricane Katrina in 2005 jumps out immediately in our memories, with 1833 fatalities attributed to it — it is nevertheless ASTONISHING that the Harvey casualty tolls are so small, especially given the vastly greater population involved and at risk.

We aren't past this by any means. The death toll will rise, for much risk remains and some rivers and bayous are still rising, and there may already have been some deaths that haven't yet been discovered. But there is already SO MUCH that we have to be grateful for and appreciative of! Take heart from that, and let it buoy your spirits (pun definitely intended) as you continue to view the heartbreaking images from this event.

Posted by Beldar at 03:01 PM in Current Affairs, Texas | Permalink


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