At least 12 people are dead and damage could be $1 billion
June 10, 2001 3:29 PM   Subscribe

At least 12 people are dead and damage could be $1 billion as a result of flooding in the US' fourth largest city of Houston. Some areas received more than two feet of rain in a 24 hour period this weekend after the remains of Tropical Storm Allison regrouped and poured on southeast Texas. Why does this story only get one page on the major news sites, when the Seattle quake was covered extensively all over the country?
posted by LeiaS (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite and only have these a small stories on their front page. Is this not news?

I-45 became an automobile cemetery as waters filled low-lying roadways and motorists ran for higher ground. One woman was killed as an elevator took her into a flooded basement. Houston-based Continental Airlines cancelled 1,000 flights, alligators swam the interstate highways, major hospitals were (and continue to be) without power, and ATMs all over the country had service disrupted. Twenty-eight counties were declared disaster areas. An estimated 10,000 homes have been affected, 11,500 are without power, and 15,000 people are in shelters.

More links: A local weblogger's account. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, slideshow. The Greater Houston Area Red Cross has an online donation form if you would like to help.
posted by LeiaS at 3:30 PM on June 10, 2001

Here's my story:

My friend is in Houston and is moving to Gainesville,FL. He chose this weekend. About noon yesterday he calls me on his cell phone from the moving van - "I-10 is shut down, I don't have a map, you have to go online and give me directions!"

So I end up navigating him for 2 hours to route around the flooding, until he got to Gainesville today. Whew!

The storm is being covered, but not to the magnitude it usually is and should be - I don't know if its becuase its a "tropical storm" and not a "hurricane".
posted by owillis at 3:36 PM on June 10, 2001

It's been on the BBC news for the past couple of days. Of course, it's followed by mention of Bush's trip to discuss climate change in Europe ;)
posted by holgate at 3:38 PM on June 10, 2001

5. Slow-motion disasters are less newsworthy; by the time they become major, they've been covered extensively.
4. Flooding is actually pretty common. Earthquakes are rare.
3. This happens to Houston every spring, it seems. When y'all gonna move to higher ground?
2. We just hate Houston, and love Seattle. It's the coffee.
1. McVeigh, McVeigh, McVeigh.

Really, I think it's just bad timing. Blame it on the FBI for causing the execution delay. I've seen several stories on cable news this weekend, even though most coverage has been of McVeigh.
posted by dhartung at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2001

As Dan mentions, it's "dog bites man". A major earthquake in Seattle is "man bites dog" because we don't expect earthquakes like that in Washington state. (They're supposed to happen to us in California. 18 months ago we got an even more intense quake here in SoCal which didn't get anything like as much coverage.)

How many times has Houston been pasted by a big tropical storm or hurricane? I've lost count.

Ironically, the long term effect of this is probably positive. That whole area has been suffering from a major drought, and the Rio Grande no longer reaches the sea. If this storm moves inland and really drenches Texas and northern Mexico, it could really help things a lot after the short term problems dissipate.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:04 PM on June 10, 2001

The biggest reason for the difference in coverage is that the flooding took place over a weekend and the Seattle earthquake occurred on a Wednesday. It takes a lot to get the media to come in to work a weekend.
posted by rcade at 4:33 PM on June 10, 2001

Now, if the floods had been in NYC, or anywhere else within commuting distance of the city (i.e., where the reporters all live), it would have been top-flight news from the get-go.
posted by briank at 5:17 PM on June 10, 2001

Why does this story only get one page on the major news sites, when the Seattle quake was covered extensively all over the country?

Perhaps for the same reason a flood like this would get a few minutes coverage on Australian news services while a flood that killed 10,000 in Bangladesh might not get mentioned at all.
posted by lagado at 5:28 PM on June 10, 2001

This happens to Houston every spring, it seems.


this does not happen to houston every spring. even when we get hurricanes, flooding's never this bad; at least it hasn't been in the twenty-two years i've lived here. i've never had to wade to my house through water almost waist-deep, past dozens of cars filled almost entirely with water. i've never seen eighteen-wheelers floating down the freeway.

the other possible reasons why the flooding isn't receiving coverage (mcveigh, slowness, coffee, etc.) do make sense. but considering the many months and many millions of dollars it will take to repair all the damage, if this happened to houston every spring, i'm quite confident that we'd no longer be the fourth-largest city in the US.
posted by bluishorange at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2001

rcade: you are correct. We will probably see much more coverage about the disaster in Houston on Monday.
posted by culberjo at 9:00 PM on June 10, 2001

And if the airports and roads are closed, how are the national journalists going to get there?

Tristan da Cunha, the most isolated island in the world, was devastated by a storm three weeks ago. It took nearly two weeks to get the short-wave radio working again, to tell people what happened. Even in a world of instant news, you can pull the plug and restore the effect of distance.
posted by holgate at 9:08 PM on June 10, 2001

Regarding media coverage, it was being covered fairly extensively here in Dallas. I found out about the flooding Saturday morning when turning on the local ABC station to see a live feed from their sister station in Houston and was able to watch live coverage all weekend on Texas Cable News. There were at least two news helicopters in the skies over Houston reporting on rescues and damage. The media was there, and reporting live despite having several inches of water in their newsroom.
posted by LeiaS at 9:08 PM on June 10, 2001

The kind of people who have the authority to start an orgy of press coverage are in New York and take the weekend off. It makes a difference -- in Washington, the best time for a politician to release bad news is late Friday after the press has gone home for the weekend, and every August the media slows down considerably as a bunch of bigwigs take their yearly vacations.
posted by rcade at 9:37 PM on June 10, 2001

Yeah, I've never seen it flood this bad in houston before... flood, sure, but not *F*lood, with a capital F. My grandmothers house got flooded. My exgirlfriends place got flooded (ah well, I guess thats ok) and my good friends place got flooded (2nd floor).

And usually when it floods in houston, its the southern suburbs that get hit the worst... the brunt of this one hit right in DOWNTOWN. Wacky shit.
posted by Espoo2 at 11:30 PM on June 10, 2001

This is clearly George W. Bush's fault. Not content with messing up Texas, is this the kind of environmental disaster he's going to unleash upon the whole nation?
posted by straight at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2001

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