At least five deaths and dozens of injuries have been attributed to Hurricane Harvey, as it pummeled parts of the Houston region with and swirling winds. The storm has been downgraded to a tropical storm, from a Category 4 at its height, but catastrophic flooding is as rains continue, according to the National Weather Service.
Like in the case of previous disasters like Katrina and Sandy, the heaviest cost of Harvey’s destruction is likely going to be borne by the most vulnerable communities in its path. Here’s what disaster historian Jacob Remes tweeted out about Harvey:
6. We will hear claims about how disasters don't discriminate by race or class. This is a lie. Because disasters are social, they do.
Humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief has that show exactly where these communities are. The mapmakers have used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show the geographic distribution of households with elderly or disabled members (in orange), immigrant and limited English-speaking populations (in purple), and pockets of poverty (in green). The darker the color, the higher the concentration of these factors in each region:
Andrew Schroeder/Direct Relief
Click for a closer look.
While many South Texans per the recommendation of , poorer or disabled residents may not have had the resources or the capability to follow that advice. Many undocumented immigrants, as well, may have chosen to stay behind because Border Patrol during the storm. (The governor did , however, that shelters will be exempt from immigration enforcement.) were evacuated, while others in place.
Within cities, poor communities of color often live in segregated neighborhoods that , or near that can overflow during the storm. This is especially true for Houston—, where new development has long been spreading thinly across prairie lands that help absorb excess rainwater. And it’s long been understood that the city is to handle the effects of a storm as unprecedented as this one.
Houston is a sprawling, underestimated, bewilderingly huge city with a lot of really vulnerable populations & a scrappy, wonderful heart
Mayor Sylvester Turner did not ask the city’s residents to evacuate, and in a press conference, he .“You can’t put—in the city of Houston—2.4 million people on the road,” he said. But as rain continues to lash down, and the water levels rise, city services have been completely with phone calls and desperate asking for help. Some of the city’s homeless population under highways before the storm hit; many of these areas are now . Boats to rescue those in the city stranded by the flood.
It’s also worth noting the plight of communities in more remote parts of the state, where rescuers may not be able to reach quickly in the aftermath of the storm. Residents of “”—small, poverty-stricken neighborhoods near the U.S.-Mexico border—are directly in the path of the storm. Their homes are often built on flood zones and lack wastewater infrastructure. More than are U.S. citizens.
Texas is among the states that to climate change, and it’s well-acquainted with floods can cause. But it was ill-equipped to deal with a storm of this magnitude: The state has and effort towards flood-control planning. As Harvey continues to wreak havoc, it’s clear that the most vulnerable Texans are going to pay the price.
Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, CityLab, Fusion, Grist, The Guardian, High Country News, HuffPost, Medium, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Newsweek, Reveal, Slate, and Wired.