HOUSTON—Lightning crashed all around as I dashed into the dark night. The parking lot outside my apartment building had become swollen with rains, a torrent about a foot deep rushing toward lower ground God knows where. Amazingly, the garage door rose when I punched the button on the opener. Inside I found what I expected to find—mayhem.
In dismay, I scooped up a box of books that had been on the floor. As I did, one of the sodden bottom flaps gave way, and a heavy book splashed into the water: From Dawn to Decadence, a timeless account of the Western world’s great works by Jacques Barzun. Almost immediately, a current from the rushing water beyond the garage door pulled the tome away, forever. Damn, I loved that book. An indescribably bad night had just gotten that little bit worse.
This little scene played out on Sunday morning, around 4am, after sheets of rain from Hurricane Harvey had drenched southern Houston for the previous 12 hours. A few miles away, amidst the tempest, my wife sat on the front porch of her sister’s new home. It had been built on pilings to keep it safe from flooding. But when 24 inches falls in less than 24 hours, as it did over Clear Creek south of Houston, bad things happen.