There's plenty we can do to help Houston (and our own communities)
While the worst of the weather has passed over Houston, the images and stories coming out of Texas make it heartbreakingly clear that residents of that flooded city are still in dire need of help.
We understand the urge to get up and do something. And while stories of volunteers pouring into the Lone Star State are inspiring, we urge you to leave your drift boat and used camping gear in the garage and instead consider these options.
Open your wallet
Yes, billions of dollars in federal aid will be coming (eventually). But the need will far exceed what the government can provide. Sadly, there are plenty of scams out there, so be wary. Here's a sample of local organizations recommended by our colleagues at the Houston Chronicle:
• United Way of Greater Houston: https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood/flood-donation
• Galveston County Food Bank: http://www.galvestoncountyfoodbank.org/
• Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/
If you want your money to carry more local significance, consider making a donation through the Gresham Rotary Club, which is working with Rotary Clubs in Texas and Louisiana to bring support to the hurricane victims. The club is accepting donations through it Gresham Rotary Foundation. That money will be passed through directly to Rotary districts in Texas and Louisiana, with assurances that 100 percent of the funds reach those in need in their communities.
To donate to the Gresham Rotary Foundation, send your checks to P.O. Box 3041, Gresham, OR, 97030. Gresham Rotary Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and your donations are tax deductible.
Text the Red Cross
The American Red Cross lets you donate $10 to hurricane relief simply by texting 90999.
Call your representative in Congress
Touring the Texas floodwaters last week, President Trump praised his administration's response to the historic storm. What he didn't mention was the proposal by his congressional allies to cut $876 million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (while spending nearly twice that, $1.6 billion, on the president's Mexican border wall). A flood of phone calls to congressional offices could turn the tide on this outrageous — and potentially deadly — idea.
While Texas is flooding, many Oregonians are dealing with forest fires that threaten thousands of homes. Again, the best contribution you can make is cash, and donations to the local chapter of the American Red Cross ensure your money will get to those who need it most: http://www.redcross.org/local/oregon/ways-to-donate/wildfires
Get serious about climate change
The floods in Texas were caused by historic rainfall. The fires in Oregon are fueled by record droughts. Those who deny our climate is changing are playing with fire — and water. In addition to targeting FEMA, the proposed federal budget slashes money from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These agencies, which forecast storms and help coastal residents prepare for disaster, also employ scientists who continue to point out a truth that our president finds inconvenient: Our climate is changing. Readers should demand their representatives in Congress fight to restore this funding, which saves not only lives, but also money.
Yes, we all should have a week's worth of water, food and lots of batteries. But in addition to taking care of our families' safety, we need to look out for our communities. Many Oregonians live next to rivers or forests. As noted above, historic weather events — once characterized as "hundred-year floods" or "fires of the century" — are now occurring every 20 to 30 years. That time frame should concern Oregonians who remember the devastating floods of February 1996. Historic neighborhoods in North Portland are still protected by a levee. New subdivisions are sprouting near the Tualatin River. And of course, the largest local concern remains the potential for a devastating earthquake. As seen in Houston, residents and public officials need to be thinking about disasters well before they strike.