Hurricane Harvey is the storm of the century, devastating the lives and destroying the property of hundreds of thousands of Texans who suddenly face uncertain futures.
And it is not over — not even close. It will be months if not years before many residents of south Texas will be able to resume normal lives.
In the meantime, many lives hang in the balance. Thousands still await rescue, trapped by floodwaters that are swallowing two-story homes and turning highways into canals and residential and business areas into large, dangerous and filthy lakes.
So far, the burden of saving so many lives has fallen primarily upon local public safety agencies, their courageous employees and the thousands of volunteers who have risked their lives to rescue people they don’t even know. They are the heroes of Houston.
The federal response, however, has not matched the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more rain on Houston – 50 inches – than any other place has received from a single storm in the history of the continental United States. Surrounding areas have been deluged as well.
While it was good and appropriate that President Trump flew to Texas on Tuesday and voiced his support for federal aid to the dazed victims of Harvey, he could have done more. While we have and will continue to send our military to help victims seemingly anywhere on the planet, it has yet to be enlisted to assist with rescue efforts while families wait on the roofs of homes and pray for a rescue. It is difficult to understand why the federal government is not using more of its considerable resources to help Americans in such desperate and obvious need.
But fortunately others, including South Dakotans, are stepping up to help those who have lost virtually everything to Hurricane Harvey and the flooding that continues to render the residents of Houston, a city of 2 million, and thousands of others nearly helpless.
On Friday, Red Cross volunteers Dave and Joyce Jefferies of Box Elder were among the first South Dakotans sent to Texas for what will certainly be an intense, demanding and likely rewarding experience. On Saturday, Ken Michaelson of Rapid City joined the first wave of 22 volunteers from this Red Cross region, which includes North Dakota and western Minnesota.
But volunteers will be needed for many months to assist the victims of Harvey. In order to address that and give local residents the opportunity to help, the Red Cross will hold a volunteer training session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at its office at 1221 N. Maple St. Lunch will be provided.
Richard Smith, executive director of the local office, said volunteers will be trained to help provide shelter and food to storm victims. Volunteers can expect to spend two to three weeks helping hurricane victims before returning home. All their travel and other expenses will be covered and insurance is provided by the Red Cross.
Smith said Wednesday that the Red Cross could be helping hurricane victims for as long as two years, yet another indicator of the epic nature of the storm that continues to batter southeast Texas in what was once considered unimaginable ways.
For those who can't volunteer, the Red Cross is accepting donations for Harvey relief efforts. To donate, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-733-2767 or text 90999 and type in Harvey for a $10 donation.
At this time, companies, celebrities and the wealthy either are making donations or leading fundraising efforts of their own, which are welcome as the need for funds is critical. But that should not discourage others from doing what they can — even if they can only afford a small donation of just $5.
Americans and America have a history of rising to the occasion, whether it is fighting for freedom or responding with generosity to natural disasters or other calamities.
Now comes another challenge and like all those heroes helping the Texas flood victims, the rest of the nation needs to do whatever it can to help those who have literally lost everything in a nightmare no one should have to endure alone.