Just a few weeks ago, we witnessed Hurricane Harvey relentlessly batter the Gulf Coast and wreak havoc on communities that millions of Texans call home. After days of punishing rain and rising rivers from Corpus Christi to Rockport, Katy to Beaumont, and from Galveston to Houston, we all wondered when Harvey would finally go away.
With winds reaching over 130 mph, floodwaters rapidly inching higher and higher, bayous overflowing, and historic rainfall totals surpassing four feet, this brutal hurricane was one of the most powerful storms America has ever seen. At least 82 people lost their lives, hundreds were hospitalized, and billions of dollars in damage was left behind. Almost nothing was spared from its catastrophic path.
In the midst of this tragedy, we also witnessed something else. We saw the courage and conviction of our first responders who answered thousands of calls to rescue those whose lives were in danger. Helicopters were flown to save families from the roofs of their homes and boats were dispatched to help people stranded in their cars and left praying for a miracle.
However, these heroic acts were not only carried out by emergency personnel. Thousands of generous Texans and Americans across the nation took matters into their own hands. They waded out into murky waters filled with snakes and fire ants to save loved ones, aided their neighbors, and even helped complete strangers who were in danger. The compassion didn’t stop there. Many grocery stores like Kroger and HEB remained open for anyone who needed food, while local churches, faith-based groups, and schools sheltered anyone they could assist.
We also saw volunteer groups and task forces like the Cajun Navy of Louisiana come from far away to rescue those who were trapped. Through local reporting, social media, and national news outlets, the devastation of this storm was front and center; but it also brought out the best in us.
In this time of trouble, we saw the spirit of Texas come alive. Because of these acts of heroism, along with a strong and coordinated effort between federal, state, and local officials, many families who were separated during the storm were reunited with their loved ones and thousands of lives were saved.
Now we face the daunting challenges that come with rebuilding.
We need to reconstruct many roads, bridges, schools, businesses, and houses. Sadly, many Texans are left feeling like they need to rebuild their entire lives. Natural disasters and devastating tragedies always test our strength, but when Texans are united there is nothing that can beat us.
Infrastructure improvements will be critical to provide a proper initial response, while also thinking ahead for future disasters. Cypress Creek is one example where we can be proactive in our efforts to mitigate future flooding events. In the 1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers created a map that called for the construction of a levee system near Cypress Creek, but no such system was ever built. While a levee system is not the answer for today’s Cypress Creek it would be reckless to once again overlook structural investments in our long-term recovery efforts.
That is why I have been working with local, state, and federal officials to explore all legislative options to ensure we authorize and fund the right fix for the area in an expedited manner. We must protect the Greater Houston Metro Area from future flood disasters.
As part of the process of finding the right solution, I brought Chairman Bill Shuster, of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, along with A&M Chancellor John Sharp, who the Governor tasked with overseeing the recovery efforts, to Cypress Creek and the Barker and Addicks Reservoirs. They agreed that we need a long-term infrastructure solution. Speaker Ryan also joined members of our congressional delegation in Houston to reiterate Congress’s commitment to the rebuilding underway.
President Trump traveled to Houston and promised the full support of his administration to Texans as we undertake this massive effort to rebuild. Resources from the federal government will be an enormous help, but our success will depend on how well we can work together.
Congress and the administration stand firmly behind Texans in our recovery efforts. There is no doubt this will be a long recovery, and all of us have an important role to play. I look forward to continuing to work with FEMA, Governor Greg Abbott, and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that we can accomplish important infrastructure projects to rebuild our great State.
Recently, it’s been easy to turn on the television, listen to the radio, or pick up a paper, and learn about the latest news story that only pushes Americans further apart. Today, we have a historic opportunity to put our political differences aside and embrace what we have in common.
Congressman Michael McCaul represents the 10th District of Texas. Currently, he serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.