Miami residents know what water can do to homes and businesses and to the individuals who find water coming upon them. Our floods have been slow disasters, but never slow enough to prepare well enough to beat it. Water wins and consumes and can ruin all it touches. And this water leaves images and feelings many never want to visit again. But when big water makes the news and we see others struggling and walking through water to dry land with a look of astonishment and loss on their faces, memories come back, clear crisp harsh memories to those who have suffered high water.
That kind of suffering, I have never experienced, but spending all those years as a counselor, I certainly have had the opportunity to listen to those who have. But the grand scale of the numbers affected in Texas and surely Louisiana, the amount of water that kept falling, accumulating, rising. One third of Houston flooded, plus thirty other counties. Mind boggling.
That place in Texas is significant to Oklahoma. Bartlesville and Tulsa lost their special status in the oil and gas world when their corporate offices left moving to the "nest" in Houston, closer to where much of the refining and export of their product occurs. Chemical manufacturing companies located near their source material churning out products made from oil and gas. And a remarkable little known fact: Texas had the highest number of people living within a mile of an active well at 4.5 million people.
As the water continues to recede more and more will be known on how these industries have been damaged and how much additional environmental devastation they will have caused the area. The state lifted the reporting regulations as the storm was approaching allowing the companies to self-report their releases and losses.
My dad saw a lot of change through those decades working as an electrician. Some of his first jobs were in Vinita, replacing the gas light fixtures in homes with electricity, while working in the county, perhaps not far from our land, rigging up an electric light in homes run by wind. Imagine, all those years and one day perhaps not that far in the future, we will all be using wind and solar to generate the electricity we use to run all of our home appliances.
We will put the oil and gas industry to bed. They can’t be proud of the changes to our earth’s atmosphere and the climate extremes linked scientifically to the use of fossil fuels over the last century. The denial of climate change Exxon and other companies claimed to the public didn’t match internal documents that have been discovered going back as far as 1979 revealing the industry knew continued use of these fuels would cause warming of our atmosphere and cause extreme weather events.
All those oil and gas operations located along and in the gulf coast of Texas and the corporate offices in Houston are experiencing the damages they and their own neighbors are experiencing in their homes and residential developments. When It gets personal it can start to make more sense.
Watching the scenes of rescues on the rivers streets had become, rescuers, regular people who got their boats out of the garage or from their backyards and answered the call. They developed a citizen navy, leading and walking their boats in many cases back into their own neighborhoods to bring their friends and strangers to dry land. Amazing scenes we will never forget and we only saw the images. What it must have been like to take themselves out of the victim role they had all been dealt, and become the hero to the boat load of folks they went out and retrieved. Talk about empowering. Talk about life changing. It certainly has been just to see it. The other striking images were the boats arriving on the highway, each lined up ready to serve.
The human emotions the flooded feel, we will experience with them. We have empathy and through this are becoming Texans (which of course is easy for me to say having been born and raised there).
We are understanding the power of water, too much water and the importance of clean drinking water.
LEAD Agency’s summer intern McKalee Steen reached out to PUR, a company that produces water filtration systems and made a donation request for 50 filtration systems with a year's worth of filters, and the company agreed! We will be working with the Ottawa County Health Department and the Northeast Tribal Health System to place these systems in homes first with children who may have been lead poisoned and secondly for some of our other families with health issues. We plan to have them available to be picked up during the 19th National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek September 26 and 27 where you know water will certainly be a topic on our agenda.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim