- Nearly a year later, many struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey
- Invasion of big, voracious lizards threatens U.S. South: Study
Nearly a year later, many struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey
By Elizabeth Lee
HOUSTON — The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season has begun, but many families in Houston are still struggling to recover from the devastating floods brought last year by Hurricane Harvey.
For Samantha and Justin Scott, trying to get their life back to normal has been a living nightmare.
“It’s emotionally exhausting.I think when my kids think back to the past year of our life, especially our oldest, I think he’s just going to remember that I cried a lot,” said Samantha, who lives in the Bear Creek Village neighborhood just west of Houston with her husband and three children who range in age from one to five.
They are still rebuilding their home after last year’s flood caused by Hurricane Harvey, one of the wettest storm systems in U.S. history.
Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas a Category 4 hurricane, the first since 2005 to make landfall in the United States. But its impact was just beginning.
For the past year,Samantha and the kids temporarily moved away, while Justin stayed behind to work on the house. Their youngest child was only a few months old when floodwaters entered their home last August.
“I pretty much missed out on the better half of the first year of his life,” Scott said of his youngest child, Kyle. “Missing things like watching him walk for the first time. Watching him do a lot of the stuff that kids do for the first time, I missed.”
A few more door frames, doors and baseboards need to be installed.A shower still has no promise of being built.
The Scotts are not alone. Storm damage is also still visible in the neighborhood.
“It just hits you. It’s like a slap in the face every single time.It’s like it doesn’t end, like the hurricane is just continuing,” Samantha said.
Throughout Bear Creek, “for sale” signs are posted in front yards, and construction debris is on the curbs. On one street, a neighbor said only three families decided to stay.The others wanted to sell their homes.
For the families who stayed, rebuilding has been a slow process. Many people do not have flood insurance.
The Scotts’ neighbor, Joe Franz, moved to Bear Creek in 1994 and canceled his flood insurance in 2013 to save a few dollars. Hurricane Harvey was the first time floodwaters entered his home.
“We ended up gutting the whole house.I’ve been married over 40 years, and my wife and I pretty much had everything out here at the curb as the other neighbors did too,” said Franz.
Bear Creek flooded because it is next to a reservoir. Other homes in the Houston area flooded because they sit on floodplains.
“Floodplains are like little valleys, and they can hold just about anything nature can throw at us, including Harvey,” said John Jacob, a watershed management expert and an extension specialist at Texas A&M University System through its AgriLife Extension Service. “But over time, we’ve encroached in those floodplains, and we’ve actually put people right in the floodplain.”
He said preventing catastrophic floods will take time.
“Fifty years from now, we need to be able to reclaim all these floodplains.So, part of this can be through buyout with federal money. But the other part is just going to be awareness,” said Jacob.
He said there will be other storms and floods in Houston, so when residents look for a home, they should study elevation maps and look for houses built on high ground. Another solution is to elevate houses, Jacob said. He lives in a house with a one-meter crawl space underneath the home.
The advice may be helpful for some, but the Scotts are stuck in their existing home for now.
“This has kind of put us in a situation where we can’t really afford just to pick up and leave,” Justin said.
They are counting the small blessings. On the day VOA visited them, their new bedroom furniture was delivered.It was the first night the family was together in their home since the flood.
Invasion of big, voracious lizards threatens U.S. South: Study
AUSTIN, Texas — A group of South American lizards that can grow up to four feet long (1.2 meters) has established a home in the Florida wild after being brought to the United States as pets, and the reptiles could begin a voracious march across the U.S. South, according to a new study.
Tegu lizards, which currently live in two large colonies in Florida, could expand into an area from the Carolinas to Central Texas, according to the scientific report published in July on the website for the journal Nature.
“They are voracious, omnivorous predatory lizards that can live in a variety of habitats, but we can’t know what is going to happen or how intense this invasion is going to become until the effects are upon us,” said Lee Fitzgerald, a professor at Texas A&M University and curator of its Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections.
Fitzgerald, a co-author of the study, said in an interview this week it could take years for the tegu lizards to reach their potential range, but new hot spots pop up as more pet lizards escape or are dumped in the wild by owners.
There are no current estimates of wild populations of tegus in the United States. In South America, the large-bodied lizards range widely east of the Andes and include species such as the Argentine black and white tegu.
Armed with strong jaws and tails that they can wield as thumping weapons, the lizards in Florida devour the eggs of American alligators and ground-nesting birds, wildlife officials said. The reptiles also have a taste for insects, fruit and birds.
“As far as being a damaging invasive species, it really depends on what the threatened resources are in the areas where you might get tegus,” said Robert Reed, chief of the Invasive Species Science Branch at the U.S. Geological Survey, and another report co-author.
Tegu owners describe their pets as big, calm and occasionally affectionate lizards that like sunning themselves and are not picky about what they eat. But they can also be ornery and tough to handle.
In Florida, local wild populations of breeding tegu lizards are found in at least two counties, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, home to Tampa, while there have been sightings in other parts of the state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
On private lands, Florida hunters without a license are allowed to kill tegu lizards if it is done humanely. On public lands, the state is trying to get rid of the lizards through traps.
“The most important thing that the public can do to stop the spread of nonnative species like tegus is to NEVER release nonnative animals into the wild,” commission specialist Jamie Rager said in an email. “Don’t let it loose.”
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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