In fact, Houston is one of the best examples of Man vs. Nature in the world. Houstonians have been persistent since the first settlers who decided to stick out the heat, humidity, and poisonous reptiles, even after the Republic of Texas came to its senses and relocated the capital to Austin, although at the time the place was known as Waterloo. I like to imagine an alternative history where the state kept that name rather than renaming the capital for Stephen F. Austin. Anyway, those Houstonians who stayed were determined to build something. In 1841, they declared the dock that had been built at that confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous the “Port of Houston,” despite being roughly fifty miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Houston wasn’t much of a port until Buffalo Bayou was widened and deepened all the way to Galveston Bay after the 1900 hurricane pretty much leveled Galveston. Now it’s one of the biggest ports on the planet. Galveston still has better beaches,though.
Houston’s growth was also enabled by the development of air conditioning. Although that elementary school I occasionally had to wade to get out of didn’t have air conditioning, increasingly every other venue did. All the movies houses, including those I discuss in an earlier post, used to advertise “air conditioned comfort.” Kids in class didn’t need comfort, I guess. Hey, there was a big fan in every room to keep the hot air circulating, so who am I to complain? And eventually even the schools succumbed to Houston’s drive to make the place habitable.
Interesting thing about air conditioning, by the way. As anyone familiar with basic physics can attest, you don’t really “cool” air; you just move heat from one place to another, like from inside your cinema or domed stadium to just outside the building walls. This means that for every space being cooled, some other place is getting warmer. Add ever growing expanses of concrete reflecting more and more heat and you can see why Houstonians spend most of their time in those air-conditioned indoors.
Despite this impressive edifice, there was actually one rain-out during the Astrodome’s tenure. In June 1976, massive flooding made it impossible for fans to get to the game. Did I mention that Houston floods a lot?
From what I read, people who study climate believe storms packing more water and dropping it with greater intensity will increase in the rainy parts of the planet. This is not good news for Houston (nor for my current residence in northern Virginia, I might add). An easy answer, one you find folks throwing out there a lot on the Internet, is that cities like Houston are untenable in the long run and the country should stop investing in keeping them dry. Humans don’t really think like that, though. If your home is in Houston, you just keep trying to cope with what life and nature throw at you. Barring another Harvey, the thinking goes, all will be okay.
God willing and the creek don’t rise . . .