Explaining The Geography of Texas and Weather Events to My Worried Dad

I don’t know what kind of news reaches the national stage, or even Philadelphia, where my dad lives- regarding my part of the world in Houston, Texas. Yet, I can tell you this much: if there is a potential disaster going on – particularly weather related, the media sensationalism will play it up and make it sound disastrous.

My father is an avid news watcher – who turns the volume up to the maximum, making the screaming reporters sound even more ominous. They are screaming at the top of their lungs at the listening decibel he prefers.

Not that Houston and the “Houston area” doesn’t get it’s share of weather-related disasters. We have had two major hurricanes and one tropical storm (causing flooding) in my 30 years here.

Wait! Only three events in 30 years? From the way my father calls me when he sees the national news, it might as well be once a year.

This past winter, Dallas got quite a bit of snow, which is unusual for that city. It happened around the Super Bowl, which took place there, so it got a lot of exposure.

Dallas is a four-hour north (repeat 4 hour) drive from Houston. It is about 250 miles away.

When the snow hit Dallas, the news must have said “Texas.”

So my dear old dad called and asked if we have gotten snow and how I was managing.

“Um, no Dad – in the 30 years I have been here, I have seen it snowing in Houston twice – maybe three times, and it never stayed on the ground or accumulated. In fact it melts instantaneously. Don’t forget, this is a city of palm trees.”

Dad: Well I just saw on the news that it snowed all over Texas.

Me: Texas is the second largest state in the U.S. Dad. Dallas and up north is having the snowfall you heard about.

Another problem is that when the disaster announcers talk about something happening in the “Houston area” that could be a 100 mile radius. We are in the heart of the big city, while the suburbs extend to 50 and more miles away.

This year Houston is having severe weather issues. So is the rest of the world. Philadelphia and much of the country was inundated with excessive snow and too much rain this year, but the real devastation has been from the tornadoes and Texas escaped all of that. I am also following with concern the flooding of areas from too much rain. In the midst of all that weather disaster, Texas is experiencing the third worst drought in our history.

It is a cause of distress and concern for all of us here– nature is taking a real beating from the lack of water. If I knew any Native Americans who had the ability, I would hire them to perform a rain dance. Because I have tried praying, cursing, bargaining with Mother Nature, and everything in between to bring some rain here, and nothing has worked. My trees and plants can be kept hydrated, but the lush trees that dot our very surprisingly generous green-spaced city won’t survive much longer. You can see the distress when you drive along the highways. It is really bad.

I can only imagine how farmers and ranchers in the countryside are coping with this. Their water bills must be ridiculous too.

Now, due to the extreme dryness, wildfires are starting in the countryside and in the drier parts of Texas. Just as California and too-dry areas are prone to this, they have started in parts of Texas and many homes and areas have been sadly scorched.

The closest wildfire to my area of Houston was probably 50 miles to the North of us. To give perspective – about an hour’s drive away from us. This wildfire made the national news and my dad heard it.

He left a voicemail, with his voice full of worry, concerned for my house and property due to the wildfires in Houston.

Um, Dad, I live in a very concreted area of the big city. We are probably too dry here but I don’t see any wildfires starting in our neighborhoods with our little patches of lawn. Nor do I see it happening in the concrete world of Downtown Houston and our other city hotspots such as the Galleria, the Museum District, or the Medical Center. We are in the heart of a big city, not out in the country, which you should know from visiting. A suburb is not the country. In fact, if something was happening in West Chester, which is 25 miles closer to you than the wildfire was to me, would I think your part of the big city of Philly was affected?

From Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita, (which did not make it to Houston) to other events in the Gulf, and now the wildfires, these panicked calls have been in the dozens. ( Note again: Three times in 30 years my area of Houston has been affected by a weather event.)

I fervently wish three things:

Mother Nature would be much kinder to the world

Media would not sensationalize weather events and scare elderly people

My dad didn’t spend so much time worrying about Houston related events.

2 comments

  • I think parents love to worry when kids live out of state!!! Or perhaps, the weather is simply an excuse for them to call to show they care…

  • it’s always amazes me when the top weather story is torrential rainstorms. What makes the news stations think we own TVs but not windows?

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