Tropical Storm Imelda Devastates Southeast Texas

Photo: Tropical Storm Imelda sent barges crashing into bridges and other structures in the Houston area.

By Jennifer Kelly

From Wednesday to Thursday southeast Texas experienced major flooding as a result of tropical storm Imelda. Formed only hours before making landfall, the storm took residents by surprise. There was little warning of the impending floods.

Many of the people who lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey, particularly rural residents in the area around Beaumont to the east of Houston, have lost their homes again. Imelda was the fifth “500 year flood” to occur in the last five years, and in many places the flooding was worse than it was during Harvey.

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Aerial shot of Jefferson County east of Houston.

Yet again, southeast Texas is experiencing devastating floods, and it is the working class and the oppressed nations who face the worst of it. A decade after Hurricane Ike, Galveston has yet to rebuild the public housing destroyed in that storm. In Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Houston, there are working-class oppressed nation neighborhoods around chemical and petroleum refineries. When it floods, dangerous chemicals and heavy metals wash into the water and seep into the soil, people’s skin, and their homes.

Thousands of people were stuck at work, school, or on the roads in Houston when the waters began to rise on Thursday, and hundreds of cars were abandoned.

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Car submerged in flooded Winnie, Texas on Thursday.

So many people were trapped on the roads because most businesses and schools were open Thursday morning before the floodwaters began to rise. Capitalism will not allow the smallest delay in the earning of profit, even at the expense of lives and safety. Videos and photos emerged of children struggling to stay safe and dry in flooded schools, particularly in the notoriously impoverished Houston Independent School District.

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Flooding at a Houston school on Thursday.

Rural areas were hit the worst by rain and the most vulnerable to flooding. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and well over a thousand people had to be rescued. Many had only just finished repairing homes damaged during Harvey, and it is unknown how much livestock was lost. After Harvey, many people in the area around Beaumont gave up and left, opting to start new lives elsewhere than rebuild homes that had flooded before; it is unclear how many more will join them. So far the death toll is only 4, but with many people missing it is likely to rise.

The bourgeois press may wring its hands over the unpredictability of the storm, or even point the finger at climate change for the increasing floods, but they are  unwilling and unable to frame these disasters as results of the capitalist system. Extreme weather may cause physical damage, but it is the stratified class society that leaves the workers to gamble with their lives and livelihood. Capitalism is to blame for the total lack of readiness to deal with the increase in flooding. For those who couldn’t go into work Thursday and Friday, they are not guaranteed any sort of pay for time lost and can be fired for not going into work, regardless of the danger to their lives.

The bourgeoisie is increasingly scrambling to redirect the masses who are outraged about climate change, particularly young people, away from seeing imperialism as the problem and toward reformist measures such as the Green New Deal. Imperialism is cannot deal with climate change, because it does not care one bit for the well being of the masses. Until it is overthrown, devastation will continue to follow the paths of these storms.