Trump’s tweets ignore a very real threat facing Texas

Texas could see nearly two feet of rain this weekend, but you wouldn't know it from looking at Trump's Twitter feed.

In this file photo taken Sept. 12, 2008, a boarded up home sits along the beach as Hurricane Ike approaches Galveston, Texas. As the 2009 hurricane season arrives Monday, June 1, 2009, many homeowners are finding insurance is either more expensive, or harder to get. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
In this file photo taken Sept. 12, 2008, a boarded up home sits along the beach as Hurricane Ike approaches Galveston, Texas. As the 2009 hurricane season arrives Monday, June 1, 2009, many homeowners are finding insurance is either more expensive, or harder to get. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

The first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency could be making its way to Texas, with Tropical Storm Harvey threatening to bring winds up to 73 miles per hour and drop as much as 40 inches of rain in some parts of the Gulf. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has already declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties and ordered extra emergency preparedness throughout the rest of the state.

Looking at President Trump’s Twitter feed, however, you’d think that the only disasters facing the country were the media’s unfair treatment of the president, comments from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

As of 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, Trump had posted seven tweets from his personal @realDonaldTrump account. (Trump sent additional tweets, but deleted them due to spelling errors). Not a single tweet mentioned the potentially devastating storm or warned Gulf residents to prepare for the incoming wind, rain, and possible flooding.

State and local officials, however, appear to be taking the storm threat seriously and have been issuing warnings to Gulf residents on social media. Abbott tweeted last night that the storm may “cause heavy flooding & damage,” while Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has been using both Twitter and Facebook to inform residents about emergency measures the city is preparing to undertake in response to the storm.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has also been tweeting about the storm, urging residents to “get a game plan” and offering a list of pertinent weather and government accounts to follow.

A storm like Harvey could portend a number of environmental disasters, from intense storm surge all along Texas’ Gulf Coast to extreme flooding further inland. As Eric Holthaus notes over at Grist, Texas has already seen an incredibly wet start to August, meaning that the state’s already-saturated soil is not ready to absorb the massive amount of precipitation forecasted for the weekend.

“We think the primary impacts will be from widespread and potentially catastrophic flooding, with total rainfall amounts over the next week exceeding a foot in a large area from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana coast and then up to 100 miles inland from there,” Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company in Andover, Massachusetts, told Bloomberg News. “Many locations in those areas may exceed two feet. Clearly Houston is at risk for historic rainfall amounts over the next week.”

Any flooding would come just a week after Trump rolled back Obama-era federal flood standards, which were put in place to ensure that buildings and infrastructure built with federal dollars were constructed to withstand greater flood risk. Trump faced criticism across the political spectrum for his decision, with groups arguing that reversing the protections places both lives — and taxpayer dollars — at risk.

The Texas Gulf Coast is also home to one-third of the United States’ oil refining capacity, meaning that strong winds and high storm surges could — in a worst-case scenario — decimate a huge portion of the country’s refining and drilling operations. Beyond forcing power plants or drilling operations off-line for hours, or weeks, a hurricane could lift or break storage tanks located along the coast, causing oil and gas spills.

If Harvey continues to gain strength and makes landfall as a hurricane, it would be the first hurricane to hit Texas since 2008. The National Hurricane Center warned on Thursday that Harvey would likely be a major hurricane when it makes landfall, causing potentially life-threatening flash flooding.

Trump has not always been so quiet about hurricanes and storms on Twitter — in 2012, he criticized President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy in a series of tweets, and in October of 2016, as a candidate, he urged residents in the path of Hurricane Matthew to “look out for neighbors, and listen to your local officials.”