HURRICANES' DESTRUCTION AND COST; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 154
(House of Representatives - September 26, 2017)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Pages H7523-H7530]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                    HURRICANES' DESTRUCTION AND COST

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Weber) is recognized for 
60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, in all my years, I have seen a lot 
of storms, a lot of hurricanes, a lot of floods, a lot of tropical 
depressions, a lot of rains in Texas. We have a whole variety of 
weather in Texas and a lot of just about every calamity weather-wise 
you can think of. I have seen nothing come close to Hurricane Harvey. 
In 24 hours, we went from Tropical Storm Harvey to Category 4 Hurricane 
Harvey.
  As with most hurricanes, there was no rhyme or reason for the 
destruction and the ensuing devastation. Harvey's bands of rains sat on 
southeast Texas with a vengeance and for days on end, and the situation 
turned quickly from bad to worse.
  Mr. Speaker, we got 51 to 53 inches of rain in 3 to 4 days. That part 
of Texas' annual rainfall is about 53 inches a year. We got a whole 
year's worth of rainfall in under a week's time. Our great first 
responders, our volunteers, risked their lives time and time again to 
save others.
  When the Nation saw that we needed help, the boats and the people 
just kept coming. We got the Cajun Navy from Louisiana; 100 guys with 
their own boats came to help us. They did things we didn't think were 
possible, so I coined a new phrase, ``Cajuneering.'' They came in and 
really helped us. We saw neighbors and strangers alike step up to help 
each other. That is the Texas way.
  When the Nation saw that we needed help, people came pouring in. More

[[Page H7524]]

than that, it is not just the Texas way, it is the American way. No 
matter our creed, our color, our religion or background, we are all 
united and we work together. Harvey may have brought the downpour, but 
Texans and Americans brought the outpour.
  Texas 14 is arguably ground zero for flooding and devastation. My 
district, from Brazoria County to Jefferson County, the enormity and 
the severity of Harvey, sadly, is on full display.
  Entire neighborhoods were underwater. How do you recover from that? 
Your family and your house is underwater, your cars are underwater, 
your furniture, and, sadly, even some of your most prized and precious 
heirlooms, family photos and pictures and albums, how do you overcome 
that?
  Well, I will tell you, by working together. Everyone back home in our 
great State knows someone who needs help, and everyone back home is 
doing their part to help that person in need.
  In all the devastation and destruction, the hope and determination 
shared among Texans was absolutely remarkable. Harvey may have deluged 
our State with rain and with water, but he certainly did not dampen our 
spirit.
  One month ago today, Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and 
Port O'Connor, the eye of the hurricane. A few days later, Harvey swung 
back into the Gulf and made landfall just west of Cameron, Louisiana. 
We literally had a 3-day weather event. Harvey came on shore there by 
Rockport-Corpus Christi. We got the bands of rain coming up in the 
hurricane as he came ashore. He then went up north and stayed around 
for a day or two dumping rain on all of our rivers and streams upstream 
from us and our watersheds. Then he came back down to southeast Texas, 
down on the coast, and he worked right over, as I said, in Louisiana. 
Then after Harvey came Hurricane Irma; after Irma came Jose; and after 
Jose came Maria. It has been a historic time.
  As of Sunday, September 24--let this sink in--817,758 people are 
registered for disaster assistance. FEMA has distributed $502.6 million 
in housing assistance and $160.2 million in other assistance. In the 
one month since Harvey, the first of a series of hurricanes, FEMA has 
completed 239,612 inspections. Almost 22,000 people are living in 
hotels because they have no home to return to. That number doesn't even 
include those who are staying with family and friends.
  The Small Business Administration has approved $509.4 million. 
Homeowners have received, to date, $467.3 million in loans. Businesses 
have received $42 million in loans. Earlier this month, we passed out 
of this Chamber, with overwhelming bipartisan support, a $15 billion 
relief bill. Two or three more of those bills, at a minimum, are 
expected.
  Folks, the monetary damages are adding up to over $150 billion, with 
a ``B.''

                              {time}  1700

  There are five business recovery centers in Texas. There are 41 
disaster recovery centers. Over 30-something Texas counties were named 
in the disaster declaration.
  Folks, these are just numbers. They are mind-boggling. You can see 
the pictures here beside me. Those numbers don't really tell the whole 
story. Let me tell you: behind those numbers are people; behind those 
numbers are families; behind those numbers are homes, livelihoods, and 
businesses. The lives of our great Texans are behind those numbers. Our 
people are hurting, but they will not let a hurricane keep them down.
  Wrapped up in all of the devastation is a bunch of heroes and first 
responders. I have already talked about the Cajun Navy. I can talk 
about the States that sent firefighters and first responders from all 
over this great country of ours. So behind the devastation is a bunch 
of American heroes. Behind that devastation is a bunch of love, people 
doing things for others that just makes your heart feel good. Behind 
that devastation is a bunch of hope that we really are one Nation under 
God, with liberty and justice and help and mercy for all. Behind that 
devastation is a bunch of Americans.
  Hurricane Harvey reminded us of our deepest, truest American values. 
United we can accomplish just about anything.
  Mr. Speaker, I am going to open up the floor for some of my 
colleagues. As I said earlier, our great 14th Congressional District 
is, arguably, ground zero for flooding and devastation, but I have a 
lot more colleagues here on the floor with us that all have a story to 
tell.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul), the 
distinguished chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. 
Chairman McCaul has worked closely with FEMA and many of our first 
responders. His district saw quite a bit of water as well, and I 
appreciate his direct involvement and his willingness to be there.
  Mr. McCAUL. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congressman Weber for holding this 
Special Order and his leadership on this issue. My condolences to the 
people in his district. I know Beaumont, particularly, was hit the 
hardest. We were hit hard all around, but I know Beaumont was hit very 
hard. That is why we need to pass the supplemental in October, to help 
the great people in the great State of Texas.
  I am chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. One of my 
responsibilities is overseeing the response efforts of FEMA--Federal, 
State, and local--to see is this working or not. I have seen what 
happened in Katrina and Rita and other disasters. I can tell you that 
this was the most impressive response effort Federal, State, and local.
  I commend the President for signing an advanced disaster declaration 
at the request of my Governor, Governor Abbott, who enabled us to 
mobilize in advance and preposition assets to have, I think, one of the 
best responses I have seen in one of the most tragic storms that Texas 
has ever weathered.
  By way of history, personally, my grandfather survived the 1900 
Galveston hurricane. They rescued him from a treetop. He was 8 years 
old. Sadly, 10,000 people were killed in that tragic event.
  In this case, we saved almost 20,000 lives, thanks to the good work 
of the people in this picture that I had the great privilege to see 
right after the storm hit. It was one of the most compassionate 
humanitarian responses I think I have ever witnessed.
  This particular photo, I think, really captured what Houston looked 
like at the time--the first floor under water. It almost looks like the 
Iwo Jima of Harvey. You have DPS--Department of Public Safety--the 
American flag, a marine, Coast Guard, and National Guard. These people 
came together.
  But do you know who else came together?
  You talked about the Cajun Navy, who came together from Louisiana to 
help Texans. A lot of Texans saved Texans in this storm. But to see 
that process was really a shining light in a very dark time.
  There are so many untold stories of heroic bravery that took place. I 
call it Operation Dunkirk. Many of us know or read about that battle, 
or many of us have seen the movie, of all of the private boats that 
came out to save the British in that battle.
  We saw hundreds of private boats coming out, working in unison with 
Federal, State, and local responders, saving lives. Again, there were 
20,000 lives saved in the process.
  Katy High School--Katy is in my district--became the forward 
operating base for the Texas Guard, the Active Duty servicemembers, and 
all of the first responders. This is where they launched their efforts 
to the Beaumont area after they took care of all of the crises and the 
flooding in the Houston area. I saw these guys going out in boats and 
helicopters and saving lives. This is the best side of mankind in one 
of the darkest chapters that our State has really seen. I had an 
opportunity to bring Speaker Ryan and Chairman Shuster of the 
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee down to look at this. A 
remarkable story in, again, a really awful time, but we saw the 
resiliency of Texans helping other Texans.
  But I also want to credit the entire Nation for responding in a very 
compassionate way. I went to the shelters and the churches and I saw 
all of the food coming in, and people calling me from other States 
asking: What can I do to help?
  The firefighters I saw coming from Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Ohio 
were all converging on the State. Indeed, the eyes of the Nation were 
on the State of Texas during this devastating hurricane that continued 
to rain for days.

[[Page H7525]]

  Lastly, I do want to talk about what we can do moving forward. This 
is a 1940 map flood control plan that was built by the Civilian 
Conservation Corps under President Roosevelt, back in the forties. And 
you see here the Addicks Reservoir and Barker Reservoir that were built 
in the 1940s. This is the Buffalo Bayou, and this is downtown Houston.

  But they had another plan at the time, and it was on Cypress Creek. 
That is in my district. In Katy is where these guys were. This is where 
it all started. This is the third flood in 2 years in this area, all 
starting at Cypress Creek. This is all developed now. It is not rice 
fields anymore. It was a watershed event into these reservoirs that 
then had a controlled release at 1 in the morning into these 
neighborhoods below, flooding the Buffalo Bayou, and then flooding 
Houston.
  Mr. Speaker, as we look at the supplemental and other projects, this 
is the prevention that I think we can be doing in Congress that makes a 
lot of sense to provide infrastructure at key points to stop this 
flooding from ever happening again.
  I know, as Texans, we are all going to come together as a delegation. 
I know this entire Congress would come together to not only save lives, 
as we did, and help with FEMA assistance to get people back up on their 
feet, but then do smart projects like this one to stop this kind of 
flooding from ever happening again. That is smart prevention that, at 
the end of the day, is going to save money and save human lives in the 
process.
  In closing, I just want to say that I have never been prouder to call 
myself a Texan. I have seen a lot. It is my seventh term. Judge Poe and 
I came in together, and we have seen a lot in the seven terms we have 
been in Congress. I have never seen our State rally like this at a time 
of need, and the Nation rallying behind the State of Texas. I want to 
thank all of those who made it possible in our great State, and also in 
our great country, the United States of America.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman McCaul for his 
remarks. I certainly appreciate him and his involvement.
  My next friend, Beto O'Rourke, from across the aisle, has seen plenty 
of Texas action here. Earlier this year, he had a bipartisan trip with 
Will Hurd. On Facebook, we got to watch that and participate in that. I 
thank him for doing that. That was a great event. And even though his 
district may not have seen any water as a result of Harvey--in fact, we 
would have loved to send him some to El Paso, quite frankly--he is a 
Texan, he gets it, and he has been there working with us every step of 
the way.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. O'Rourke), my 
good friend.
  Mr. O'ROURKE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Congressman Weber for 
bringing us today. I also want to extend my condolences for the loss of 
life and the devastation that was visited on the communities that he 
represents. I know that he is doing his best to unite those communities 
in every way possible to ensure that they get back on their feet, they 
rebuild, and are bigger and better than ever. Party difference doesn't 
mean anything at this moment. It is all of us as Texans. I join 
Chairman McCaul in agreeing that we cannot have a better moment as a 
State. I am grateful to him for bringing us all together today.
  As he said, I have really had an opportunity to spend some time 
traveling Texas, and especially southeast Texas, starting around the 
time that Harvey hit. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that in Austin, 
Texas, on the 25th of August, I was there as the first evacuees were 
leaving southeast Texas, coming from Victoria and Corpus Christi and 
other places that were under mandatory evacuation orders. They were 
arriving at Red Cross shelters that were staffed both by the 
professionals and the volunteers.
  I was told by the head of Red Cross in Austin that they had never 
seen a greater turnout of volunteers on the first day of a disaster. In 
fact, I met a young man named Luis Zamora, who at the time was a rising 
junior at Tarleton State University and a member of the National Guard, 
and who was so disappointed that his colleagues in the Guard were 
called up, but he was not. He drove himself down to the Red Cross 
headquarters so that he could sign up, volunteer, and help staff one of 
these shelters, welcome those who were fleeing this storm, and help try 
to make their lives a little bit better.
  It reminded me of visiting some of the shelters in San Antonio, where 
I had a chance to see their great Mayor Ron Nirenberg in action 
personally welcoming people coming from other parts of the State. To 
every one of them, his message was: We are so glad you are here. Stay 
as long as you need to. We are going to make things better for you. You 
focus on you. We will do our best to take care of you.
  That really was the message we heard everywhere that we went.
  When we found ourselves in Victoria helping to transport some medical 
supplies for two of those hospitals, we met an extraordinary young 
woman named Lisa Price, who had been up for the last 72 hours, as many 
of the people working in those hospitals were, trying to coordinate 
care for those in need, coordinate the evacuation of those who were no 
longer able to be cared for in hospitals that only had backup generator 
power and did not have reliable water and could not keep those 
medicines and vaccines chilled.
  There were volunteer ambulance corps from all over the State of Texas 
who had driven down to Victoria to help transport these patients out. 
Lisa and others were helping to coordinate that. Her husband, Jason, a 
Department of Public Safety Trooper was out on those roads that had no 
streetlights, that had no working traffic signals, trying to ensure the 
safety of his fellow Texans. Two extraordinary heroes who exemplify the 
way that Texas met this challenge.
  I certainly spent some time in Houston, where we heard tale of all of 
the first responders, certainly folks who were working under the great 
fire chief there, Chief Pena. But also first responders who came from 
across the State. El Paso sent folks from the El Paso Police Department 
and the El Paso Fire Department. They made over 100 rescues not just in 
the Houston area, but also in the greater Beaumont area, including 
rescuing a 1-month-old child from chest-high waters. Again, we saw that 
both from first responders and everyday citizens who risked their own 
lives to save the lives of fellow Texans.

  We were in a parking lot in Victoria, where we were picking up 
supplies to take to Rockport. We knew, however, that Rockport was under 
a mandatory curfew, enforced by DPS. So I approached two DPS cruisers 
that were in the parking lot at Walmart, where we were going in to buy 
ice and water and diapers and other supplies that they might need in 
Rockport. I wanted to ask these two DPS officers if they could help us 
to get into Rockport under the curfew. As they were rolling down their 
window and I began to introduce myself, they said: I know exactly who 
you are. You are Beto O'Rourke. We are from El Paso. We were one of the 
first volunteers from the Department of Public Safety in El Paso to 
come out to Victoria, and we have been working this community, 
communities like Cuero, Port Lavaca, Rockport, and other places.

                              {time}  1715

  They wanted to be where the action was. They wanted to be out there 
saving lives. And it made me so extraordinarily proud of El Paso and 
Texas once again. It is like the 90 soldiers from Fort Bliss from one 
of the aviation brigades who were in southeast Texas as well trying to 
facilitate the rescue of their fellow Texans, being where the need was 
at its moment of greatest importance, again, making us so proud.
  Congressman Weber, I will conclude by telling you that, as we came in 
to Rockport and were able to successfully get in under curfew to make 
our delivery, we were blown away and inspired by the volunteer fire 
department, 20 people strong, 8 of whom had lost their homes and 
literally everything in their homes but had not lost a minute's service 
to their fellow community out of that Rockport fire station.
  They were living in the fire station because they had nowhere else to 
live. They were responding to triple or quadruple the service calls. 
The rains had now ended. The fires had begun. There was some question 
about the viability

[[Page H7526]]

of those structures, and they wanted to be there to save lives.
  That fire chief, Steve Sims, and the men and women who serve under 
him are the absolute best of us as Texans. I am so glad that you and 
every one of our colleagues from Texas, Republican or Democrat, House 
Member or Senator, are focused on making Chief Sims, the members of 
that fire department, and every Texan affected by Harvey whole again. 
We have got to use their inspiration and their example to do the 
important work that is here before us.
  So I thank you once again for bringing us together, allowing me to 
join you and work with you and our colleagues to make sure that Texans 
fully recover from Hurricane Harvey bigger and better than ever. Thank 
you.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Thank you, Congressman O'Rourke. And, by the way, 
happy birthday.
  Mr. O'ROURKE. Thank you. I cannot think of a better way to spend it 
than to be here with you.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. At this time, I recognize my good friend, the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Babin).
  Mr. BABIN. Thank you very much for yielding. I would like to thank my 
colleague, Randy Weber, my neighbor. I represent the 36th District in 
Texas and he represents the 14th, and he also represents my hometown of 
Beaumont, Texas, for this Special Order. I really appreciate that.
  It was about a month ago that Hurricane Harvey began wreaking havoc 
on southeast Texas, dumping record amounts of rainfall across our 
region, upending the lives of thousands of families, businesses, and 
communities. Across our congressional district, the 36th District of 
Texas, we saw anywhere between 20 and 50 inches of rain, setting a new 
record for the United States. In fact, unofficially, ranchers in 
Liberty County, which I also represent, measured over 60 inches of 
rain.
  Our entire district, from Houston to the Louisiana border, turned 
into, essentially, one gigantic lake, as thousands of homes that had 
never flooded before succumbed to Harvey's floodwaters. The impact was 
devastating and widespread.
  No one was spared. People from all walks of life and socioeconomic 
situations, with the majority never having been displaced before, were 
baffled and desperate in their situations.
  Each of the nine counties that I have the privilege of representing 
have been declared Federal disaster areas. The devastation is simply 
overwhelming, and the vast lake now is a vast debris field. But in the 
midst of this devastation, there were, and still continue to be, 
incredible stories of goodness. Let me share just a few examples.
  In Orange, Texas, a young couple canceled their wedding to help their 
friends and neighbors clean up and begin the process of rebuilding. 
These newlyweds have now welcomed nearly a dozen family members into 
their nonflooded home.
  A volunteer fire department in Buna, Texas, became a big staging 
area, like many, many schools and volunteer fire departments all across 
this area.
  In Cleveland, a constable organized a flotilla of boats to deliver 
shelter and supplies.
  Dozens and dozens of churches immediately marshaled their 
congregations and good Christian people for food, supplies, and 
shelters to be delivered.
  In Deer Park, church members sprang into action immediately and began 
cooking and sharing meals with evacuees from Houston.
  In Silsbee, a church opened a community shelter after the county's 
only other shelter was cut off by floodwaters.
  In Rose City, a really good friend and neighbor rescued nearly 
everyone in his entire neighborhood on his airboat, even as his own 
home was flooded. His name was Dennis Landry.
  Since the flood, neighbors have organized mucking crews, where they 
help neighbors remove furniture, appliances, Sheetrock, carpets from 
one another's flooded homes.
  This has happened all across the Texas Gulf Coast, and the stories go 
on and on: neighbors helping neighbors, communities helping 
communities, strangers helping strangers. Churches, first responders, 
private citizens, businesses, people from out of State all around our 
district are helping one another. But that is what we do in east Texas. 
When times get tough, we pull together and we get to work.
  No one waits around to be told what to do. We are people of action, 
and we act when we see a need. And, quite frankly, this is what makes 
east Texas so special. Our communities are strong. And through our 
faith in God, we take care of one another in times of need regardless 
of our own means. It is our shared value for our fellow man that makes 
the difference.
  In that same east Texas spirit, our office has been doing everything 
possible that we can do to help. From the very start, we have been 
working overtime to help people get back on their feet. We are blessed 
with a professional and dedicated staff that is second to none. And 
despite some of our own staff being flooded themselves, we have worked 
tirelessly to help our east Texas neighbors and friends get the 
information and resources they need to recover and build.

  We are extremely grateful for their service, and I would like to 
personally recognize some of our staff: Lanie Brown, Lauren Jones, 
Rachel Iglesias, Sarah Blacksher, Beverly Ferguson, Will Carter, 
Jeannie Kranz, Joyce Morgan, Kelly Waterman, Beth Barber, Sarah Reese, 
Steve Janushkowsky, Lauren Ziegler.
  These individuals have spent the past month doing everything they can 
to help the people of District 36. These are often the unsung heroes 
who go the extra mile each and every day, and lately, on weekends and 
evenings, to serve the needs of our constituents. It has not gone 
unnoticed and is part of the incredible good that has come out of a 
tragic hurricane. We are extremely proud and very grateful to them and 
their families and everyone who has pitched in.
  I would also like to recognize our friends from Louisiana, and 
specifically my colleague, Congressman Garret Graves, and his staff, 
Paul Sawyer and David Cavell.
  Everywhere we went, we saw folks from Louisiana coming over and 
helping in the recovery, and we would tell them: Thank you so much. And 
we said: This is payback because of Katrina.
  Countless churches and individuals and neighbors from our neighboring 
State of Louisiana came out to help. Thank God for the Cajun Airlift, 
the Cajun Navy, the Cajun Special Forces, and the Cajun Gravy.
  And lastly, I would like to thank our first responders. The death 
toll would have been much higher if it had not been for these brave men 
and women. And for our game wardens, our police departments, our DPS 
officers, sheriff's deputies, all the way to our U.S. Coast Guard and 
Texas and other States' National Guardsmen, we thank you for everything 
that you did, and we remember those who gave their lives in the line of 
service.
  As we push forward, we have a long road ahead. People are still very 
much in need of assistance and resources as they work to put their 
lives back together. In fact, the fact that over 800 folks showed up 
for our Disaster Recovery Town Hall Meetings over the past several days 
demonstrates that there are still many in need.
  Last Thursday night in Lumberton, Texas, we had over 200 people come 
out. In Orange, Texas, we saw that 77 percent of all homes in that 
county were impacted. We had over 500 people come out to meet with 
FEMA, State officials, and my staff on a Friday night, and that is big, 
because that is football night in Texas.
  It is our goal to help folks cut through the bureaucracy and the red 
tape to get the answers and help that they need. We have been spreading 
staff out across our nine counties, setting up mobile offices to 
provide constituents with one-on-one assistance in applying for help 
and ensuring they have access to a computer or to complete the 
application. And this is not unusual. My colleagues and all of the 
other counties, up to 38 counties, I believe, were involved in this 
thing and have been doing the exact same thing.
  This will be a long road to our recovery, but together, we will 
recover, and we will rebuild and come back stronger than ever.
  Congressman Weber, I want to thank you, and God bless.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. I thank you, Dr. Babin. The enormity of this 
storm and the debt of gratitude that we owe our first responders cannot 
be overstated.

[[Page H7527]]

  My good friend, Judge Ted Poe, saw plenty of it up in his district, 
but he took it in stride, as he always does with any challenge because 
he is a Texan and he is a fighter. And, Judge, that is just the way it 
is.
  I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe).
  Mr. POE of Texas. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I appreciate 
it, Congressman Weber, for allowing us to talk a little bit about 
Hurricane Harvey and what folks did down in the Texas area.
  While it was still raining hard, I get a phone call, and I looked at 
the area code on my cell phone and I said: I think that is 
Massachusetts.
  And sure enough, it was Representative Kennedy from Boston, 
Massachusetts, calling me saying he would do whatever he could to get 
Bostonian's first responders down to Texas to help out. And that is 
what happened, as has already been mentioned by all of my colleagues 
tonight: both sides of Members of Congress working on this issue to 
help in Harvey. Beto O'Rourke is from El Paso. You are from Beaumont.
  People may not realize that there is a sign in Beaumont. I used to 
represent Beaumont, as you know. As you are driving in from Louisiana, 
there is a sign that says: El Paso, Texas, 876 miles away.
  That is how far it is from Beaumont to El Paso, and yet Beto O'Rourke 
made his way all the way to the Houston-Galveston area to help out as 
well. The whole State helped with what was taking place.
  The magnitude of the devastation--not just the weather, but the 
devastation--if you take the State of New Jersey and turn it on its 
side and set it down on the Gulf Coast, that is how much devastation 
there was in the State of Texas. That was the area that was hit where 
disaster occurred. They got rain as far as Dallas and San Antonio, and, 
of course, we know that it went all the way up to Kentucky a thousand 
miles away. Still, they were getting rain days later.
  I want to talk about one of the people involved in the rescue. Dr. 
Babin talked about a lot of folks who helped out. Here is another guy 
who helped out. You have probably never heard of him: Steven Perez, 
Houston police officer, 34-year veteran of the Houston Police 
Department, married, two kids. The rains are coming down. It is in the 
middle of the night. It is his time to go on shift at the Houston 
Police Department. His wife is saying: Don't go; it is too bad. And he 
said: I am going to work. It is my duty.
  And he did. He left home. He couldn't get to the downtown Houston 
Police Department, so he is headed in a different direction, my 
understanding is, up to Kingwood, where I represent--that is about 25 
miles away from downtown Houston--where he was going to do what he 
could to help folks out there. He took a bad turn, got under an 
underpass, and his patrol car was submerged and he drowned. He was out 
doing what he wanted to do: to protect and serve.

  He is a symbol of all the first responders, of all the badges that 
they wear from all over the country who came down there to do their 
duty, to help people in need. We regret his loss. We are with his 
family and our prayers are with his family, his wife and his two kids, 
for their future.
  At his funeral, of course, in Houston that I had the opportunity to 
attend, there were a lot of police officers from all over the country 
showing their respects to another first responder.
  With this hurricane that came through the Houston area, I have kind 
of an unusual district, so I got hit several places. People got 
flooded.
  Michael McCall showed, earlier, a map of the Houston area, that there 
are two reservoirs that are supposed to protect the city from flooding. 
Water filled up those reservoirs, and people whom I represent are on 
the downstream of that reservoir. They got flooded when water came over 
it.

                              {time}  1730

  But I also represent people upstream, and they got flooded because 
the reservoir overflowed up in the northwestern direction. People also 
got flooded in the middle of the night after they thought the storm was 
over with because Conroe--and, Mr. Speaker, I know you don't know where 
that is, but it is just northwest of Houston. They have a lake up in 
Conroe. They started letting water out of Lake Conroe because it was 
too full. Water came rushing down the San Jacinto River into Humble, 
Texas, and Kingwood, Cypress Creek. All that overflowed, and people got 
flooded in all of that area as well--thousands of people. Their homes 
are devastated. In fact, two of those people who have lost their home, 
they are still staying with us, friends of ours. We do take care of 
each other.
  One thing that I want to mention is we need to get a regional plan to 
prevent these disasters in the future. It would be a whole lot cheaper, 
in fact, to prevent these floods than try to continue to pay for the 
damage of these floods. No question about it, we have to do recovery 
now for those people who have lost everything they have, do what we can 
here in Congress, and we are going to do that in a bipartisan way. But 
we need to have a plan for the future as well.
  I have introduced legislation for the Corps of Engineers to come up 
with, in 90 days of our legislation being signed by the President, to 
evaluate all the conditions in the flood plain area that was flooded 
and come up with a long-term plan, whether it is building one more 
reservoir, two more reservoirs, making the ones that we have bigger, 
desilting the channel to Buffalo Bayou, San Jacinto River, whatever it 
is. We need to come as a united area from Mr. Weber's district all the 
way up to Mr. McCaul's district and everybody in between on what we are 
going to do to solve the long-term flooding problem.
  Because, you see, September comes around every September. Mr. McCaul 
talked about the flood of 1900. That happened in September, almost to 
the same day. Here this flood happened at the end of August, near the 
beginning of September.
  I hope we can do that. I think that we can, and I do want to 
reiterate what has been said about people who just helped each other. 
They didn't know each other. It wasn't just neighbors helping 
neighbors. It was people who didn't know each other. Some of them who 
were flooded out themselves were doing everything they could to help 
other people.
  There were a lot of bass boats. They weren't all from Louisiana. 
There were a lot from Louisiana, but I think it is every young boy's 
dream in Texas to own two things: a pickup truck and a bass boat. You 
saw all of those pickup trucks and bass boats on the road and in the 
water--because a lot of them are pretty high--rescuing people. People 
they did not know, Mr. Speaker. They were just looking to help other 
individuals. It is remarkable.
  I have been through a lot of hurricanes. I grew up in the Houston 
area. I remember Hurricane Carla in 1961, before most of you all were 
even around. We have had a lot of hurricanes since then. Nothing like 
Harvey. It was the granddaddy of all of them. It hammered the Houston 
area, but we are using this as an opportunity to fix things because 
this Hurricane is not going to defeat the spirit of Texans. It is not. 
We will resolve to overcome whatever the difficulties are now and to 
fix things in the future so that we can have a response when the rains 
of September come.
  The rains have stopped, the flood waters have gone down, the rainbow 
is out, the kids are playing in the parks again, but we are still at 
work solving the problem of what took place and moving on because, as I 
said, Harvey will not defeat the Texas spirit. And that is just the way 
it is.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank Judge Poe. He is exactly 
correct. Harvey cannot dampen our spirit or those of our neighbors and 
all of our first responders, those who came and helped.
  Texas saw the first of four hurricanes this month. Think about that. 
Puerto Rico has seen the last two hurricanes. Maria did a number on the 
island. They are in need of so many things, but one thing is certain 
that they are not in need of: they have a leader here in Washington, 
D.C. She has got their back, and I am proud to yield to my good friend, 
Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon.
  Miss GONZALEZ-COLON of Puerto Rico. Thank you, Mr. Weber, for 
allowing me to speak in these Special Orders, and actually speaking 
about hurricanes.
  Mr. Speaker and Members, last week, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 
and

[[Page H7528]]

it is by far the worst hurricane to do so in the last century. It came 
at a time when Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and most of the 
Caribbean were beginning to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma 
just 10 days earlier.
  Keep in mind, also, that even before the winds and waves of Irma and 
Maria began to lash at the shores, Puerto Rico was already in a dire 
economic shape. We are still engaged in lifesaving operations, 
searching for and helping people who are in the greatest danger.
  Maria snapped the island's communication towers, and gathering 
information from many communities has been nearly impossible at this 
time, especially in the rural center of the island, where the winds 
were ferocious and landslides have occurred.
  This hurricane has been a disaster of unprecedented proportions. The 
images that you have been seeing on TV are dramatic but don't even 
begin to tell the magnitude of this catastrophe and the human suffering 
that you can only truly experience by being on the ground. In every 
way, Maria is on the same level of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, 
but with one major difference: Puerto Rico is an island, which makes it 
almost impossible to get aid and disaster relief resources in, as they 
can only come by sea or air. The people are basically stuck there with 
no place to go.
  Currently, Puerto Rico's electric grid is completely down. Roads and 
bridges have been washed away, leaving many communities without 
communication. A crucial dam has burst, forcing the evacuation of 
thousands of people. Hospitals are crippled and operating on power 
generators, but the logistics of transporting the diesel needed to run 
them is extremely difficult. Thousands of homes, buildings, and 
businesses have been destroyed. Water and food are in short supply. 
People are waiting in line for up to 6 hours just to purchase $20 worth 
of gasoline. Commercial flights to and from the island are almost 
nonexistent, with thousands of people on airline wait-lists just to 
leave. Most banks cannot operate, and people don't have easy access to 
cash, which they need desperately because credit cards are not being 
used on the island because we don't have power.

  Maria flattened 80 percent of the island's agriculture, and Puerto 
Rico's tourism industry has been crushed. For most of the island's 
residents, the hurricane can best be described as apocalyptic. Congress 
must approve an aid package that is proportional with the level of 
devastation. We need tangible relief that addresses the island's 
immediate needs. Without help, there will be a massive exodus to the 
U.S. mainland, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis will only get worse.
  The residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens. They are not 
different from every person sitting in this Chamber. But unlike 
everyone else, Congress has 100 percent control over the land where we 
live. This is a job for the Federal Government, particularly this 
Congress, to authorize and appropriate the money needed to rebuild the 
island. This is a dire time for the island, and, therefore, our Nation. 
The U.S. has an abiding national interest in the recovery and 
prosperity of Puerto Rico and its 3.4 million U.S. citizens who are 
facing very tough economic times, even before this latest blow.
  I have heard from many of you, many of my colleagues, even the Vice 
President today, and I am deeply grateful for all the prayers and 
support.
  I also want to thank the Trump administration for their unwavering 
collaboration with the Puerto Rico National Guard. More than 10,000 
people were deployed helping the island to restore the power grid. It 
will take more than 6 months to get power on the island again.
  I hope this House can keep us in your prayers, but also to approve 
the package that is going to be needed in October, and I know we will 
respond. That was the claim that President Trump made today, and the 
Vice President. I was just in a meeting with them. I want to thank the 
Speaker of the House for his leadership allowing the waiver to the cost 
sharing of FEMA on the island.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Gonzalez-Colon 
for her remarks.
  My good friend from the Southwest, Blake Farenthold, is going to come 
and address us. Blake represents the area where Harvey actually made 
landfall and brought Category 4 winds and storm surges. As Congressman 
Farenthold knows, I understand the devastation that that brings. My 
heart goes out to them, and, Blake, please come share with us.
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Speaker, I am here to talk a couple minutes about 
the best and the worst that I saw during Hurricane Harvey in the 27th 
District of Texas that I represent.
  The worst was dished out by nature and high winds. The best was the 
spirit of the Texans who rose to the challenge. It was neighbor helping 
neighbor, friend helping friend, and stranger helping stranger.
  I live in Corpus Christi. It is a relatively large community of 
almost 400,000 in the metropolitan area. We were spared the brunt of 
Harvey. It missed us by about 20 miles. But just across the bay, 
communities like Port Aransas, Aransas Pass, Ingleside, Rockport, 
Refugio, Tivoli, and many more took horrible winds. Ninety-some-odd 
percent of the homes in the resort town of Port Aransas are 
uninhabitable right now. The brand new school in Refugio they just 
turned the keys over had the roof blown off and was severely water 
damaged, and it will be weeks before they are fully operational again 
in that school.
  Rockport, with their beautiful oak trees, had limbs and branches 
strewn all over the streets, and houses' second stories are gone. They 
looked great from the front, but then you would look in the back, and 
there would be no back.
  In Port Aransas, boats having risen and moved inland, an oil drilling 
platform loose in the ship channel, completely changing the skyline of 
the city.
  But rather than sitting around and moping and crying, Texans came 
together, helped each other clear the debris, and are slowly but surely 
getting on with their lives.
  The recovery period is going to be tough, though. There is just so 
much debris. They are picking it up and stacking it at transfer 
stations, but it will be months before the process is finished. It is 
tough driving down the streets of the places you love seeing debris 
stacked, smelling the rotting mold. But you know it is going to come 
back.
  We are struggling right now to find homes for people, places for them 
to stay. People have been staying with friends and relatives. FEMA has 
been helping out with hotels. I have to say, I am really impressed with 
the way local, State, and Federal folks are working hard to give people 
a hand up. We have had leaders from President Trump down to Members of 
Congress and all throughout the country come to see what is going on, 
and all have pledged their help. And it is going to be a Herculean 
effort to come back, but come back we will.
  I suspect in a year, certainly in 2 years, towns like Rockport and 
Port Aransas, where many folks vacation, are going to have their doors 
open again and inviting people to come visit. In fact, the goal is to 
be ready by spring break of this year, and I suspect it is going to be 
worth visiting.
  You need to help the businesses out, need to help the people out by 
not forgetting us, by keeping us in your prayers, and by supporting us 
here in Congress as we give the people the help they need to rebuild 
their lives. I want to thank my colleagues from Texas, my colleagues 
from the rest of the country, for the support. It is a shame that this 
has been such a tough season, but we are seeing not just the resilience 
of Texas but of all the American people with what is going on in 
Florida. And we are going to get reports, I think, of people helping 
people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas so 
damaged by the storms we faced this year.

                              {time}  1745

  But I am proud to be an American. I am proud we are all helping out, 
and I look forward to continuing the recovery effort in all of the 
areas of this country that have been so devastated by natural disasters 
this year.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congressman Farenthold for 
his comments. The 27th District of Texas is blessed to have him.
  A little background: On Friday, August 25, some of the outer bands of 
Harvey were beginning to brush the Gulf

[[Page H7529]]

Coast. Texans do what we always do to prepare for a storm. We bought 
the essentials. We prepped the house. We tightened things up. We 
watched the news. We were as ready for the rain, we thought, as we 
would ever be.
  But what happened, in my 64 years on God's green Earth, is unlike 
anything I have ever seen before like this. And I am no stranger to the 
area. I have lived in a 20-mile radius almost my entire life. I hope I 
have got a lot more to go yet.
  We didn't see the sun for 4 days. Over 50 inches of rain, as reported 
by the weather forecasters on TV news, fell from the sky. Actually, it 
was about 60 inches in District 4--7, rather, in Jefferson County.
  Evacuation orders, mandatory and voluntary, were posted. City after 
city started posting the notices. Roads were flooded. Some of them had 
hip-deep water, some of them more.
  Now, I am a Texan, kind of like Judge Poe said. Two things apply to 
me, especially apply to me as a Texan: number one, I am stubborn, and, 
number two, I have one of those pickup trucks he talked about; 
although, I don't have a half-ton truck. I have got a Ford F-350 4-
wheel drive truck, and I can go through almost waist-deep water.
  Starting Saturday, my bride and I began traveling Texas 14, checking 
on people. We went first to Brazoria County and met with their EOC, 
emergency operations center. We went to the Hitchcock shelter. We met 
with volunteers in those shelters. We met with people from the La 
Marque Police Department, all over, our first responders.
  Our first responders worked endless hours and hours. I tell you what, 
it was heartwarming; and I tell you what, Mr. Speaker, you have never 
seen anything like that.
  From Bay Area Church to the families from League City and Dickinson 
that sought shelter, we were there with them. At Victory Lakes, we saw 
much of the same thing in the school there at Victory Lakes and League 
City.
  At Friendswood High School, I met with evacuees, responders, doctors 
who had come in from other States to be there to help. These are just a 
handful of the shelters that popped up. These shelters and the 
volunteers provided a dry place with warm food and warm, friendly 
smiles, understanding smiles, to hundreds of families in need. That is 
no exaggeration.
  Homes that never came close to flooding were taking on water. Roads 
turned into rivers. Evacuations and rescues were happening everywhere 
you looked around.
  Mr. Speaker, may I inquire how much time I have left?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Faso). The gentleman has 6\1/2\ minutes 
remaining.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Texas 
(Mr. Farenthold).
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Speaker, I did want to add that, though Texans 
are helping people and people are helping each other, volunteer 
organizations like Mr. Weber is talking about, the Federal Government, 
also, is helping with FEMA and SBA loans.
  Some people have gotten denial letters from FEMA. If you read them 
carefully, they are not always denial letters. You should follow up 
with FEMA. It may be you are just missing some paperwork.
  All Congressmen have folks in their office, caseworkers or red tape 
cutters, who can help if you are having problems getting the help you 
need from FEMA or the SBA. We can't get them to bend or break the 
rules, but if you are having trouble communicating or you feel like you 
are not being treated right, please call your Member of Congress' 
office because we are here to help in more ways than just sitting up 
here in Washington making laws.
  One of the best parts of the job is helping folks out on a one-on-one 
basis, and we are doing that throughout the district I represent, from 
Wharton, Bay City, Victoria, down to Corpus Christi, Rockport, and to 
all the other communities that I represent.
  So I just want to make sure folks knew that your congressional office 
is a resource.
  Mr. WEBER of Texas. I thank the gentleman for that.
  You know, we were moving throughout our district, as I was 
describing. Folks, the sound of a helicopter will never be the same for 
us. We saw Coast Guard helicopters. We saw Army, Marine helicopters. 
The Marines arrived in Friendswood.
  The sun made a brief appearance on Tuesday evening. I found myself on 
I-45 in Dickinson passing out water on the overpass there, where the 
water was about 4 feet deep in the intersection.
  Things kept turning from bad to worse. I was honored to meet with EOC 
leaders from Brazoria, Dickinson, Galveston, and Beaumont.
  On Tuesday, August 29, in Friendswood, Texas, the Marines arrived. 
Thank God for our great Marines.
  On Friday, August 31, Beaumont lost water. My bride and I drove 
almost 7 hours, having to take back road after back road to deliver 
three pallets of bottled water. My good friend Dwight Sullivan and his 
wife, Misty, accompanied us with another pallet of water.

  We got to Beaumont. I want to gave Mayor Becky Ames of Beaumont a 
shout-out. She never wavered. She was a stalwart.
  Will Crenshaw from Beaumont, Dragon Products, they got in gear and 
they put a workaround on the water system, laid temporary pipes, got 
them power, got pumps and got Beaumont some water.
  That is just the short version of the first week of Harvey.
  The sun finally started to shine again, but the water did not recede 
overnight. We took many flyovers to assess the damage. President Trump 
came in. Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Speaker Ryan, and leader Kevin 
McCarthy were among the many who visited.
  Help came from far and wide: New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota. I 
could go down the list of State after State after State, all Americans, 
all wanting to help. And, of course, Louisiana and the Cajun Navy we 
talked about.
  Between the Cajun Navy, our Texans, our fellow Americans, there were 
many countless heroes who haven't been named and many haven't even been 
thanked at all. So to all of them, I want to say thank you. Thank you 
from the bottom of my heart for the lives you have saved. I witnessed 
some of the evacuations. Thank you for your heroism. I just can't tell 
you enough, thank you on behalf of us.
  We saws doctors send supplies. We saw hospitals pay for things that 
normally they would charge for. We saw cattle and horses wading through 
water. We saw businesses open up their doors and help people. We saw a 
mother and daughter who took hundreds of evacuees into a Texas City 
hotel for a home-cooked meal of spaghetti, salad, fresh fruit, and 
dessert.
  You were heroes, Lakewood Church, who did open their doors and 
provided transportation for the congregants of Beth Yeshurun synagogue.
  You heroes were the citizens who saw the incredible effort of your 
local officials, and you raised money for them to begin recovering for 
their own homes and their belongings.
  The heroes were the young men, hoping to attend the Naval Academy one 
day, who jumped in that jon boat and went door to door to help.
  You were the people who were scared to death in the face of disaster, 
and yet you put on a brave face and you waded in, unabashed.
  You were the people who lost everything, and your first thought was: 
I need to get back to help my community.
  You heroes were the first responders who worked around the clock. 
Beaumont, alone, received 12,022 911 calls. Let that sink in. That's 
one city, 12,000 911 calls.
  Well, we are going to have more meetings. We are going to be meeting 
with city officials, State officials. We will be meeting with Houston 
Mayor Sylvester Turner, who, by the way, tomorrow is his birthday. We 
want to thank Mayor Sylvester Turner, County Judge Ed Emmett, County 
Judge Matt Sebesta, County Judge Mark Henry, all great heroes.
  God bless our heroes. God bless Texas, our great Nation, and all of 
those who went beyond and above.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

[[Page H7530]]

  

                          ____________________