Hurricane Harvey has led Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to consider how well his city is equipped to respond to an inundation of rain similar to the drenching over the past few days that has left segments of Texas underwater.
Walsh, who spoke with the mayor of hard-hit Houston on Sunday night, told reporters Monday that discussions will continue about Boston’s flood preparedness.
“We just had a brief conversation today, but it will be a conversation we’ll have this week about: Are we prepared for it? Do we have enough supplies? Where’s the safe area in the city to go? Where’s a high enough area in the city to go? How do we evacuate people?” Walsh said after attending a ribbon-cutting on a residential building in Brighton.
Walsh said the people of Boston are eager to help, and suggested the city would “be making a large collection of different things to send down there.” The mayor’s office asked city residents to contribute items Tuesday through Thursday - new clothing and blankets, toiletries, diapers, baby formula, and non-perishable items - during a “Help for Houston” drive. Six collections sites are being set up.
Gov. Charlie Baker said he spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Abbott wants help from those trained in rescue, especially marine rescue.
“We’ve been in pretty regular contact with Governor Abbott’s office. What they’ve really been looking for, for the most part are what I would call people who are skilled with search and rescue, especially in a flooded situation,” Baker said after the Brighton ribbon-cutting. He said, “So for the most part what they’ve been asking for from states like ours and others is people - and in some cases equipment - but definitely people who know what they’re doing in that type of environment and those are the kinds of people we’ve been directing their way.”
As of Monday afternoon there had not been any formal requests for the state of Massachusetts to provide assistance in Texas, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Images on the news and social media have shown submerged highways, elderly people waist-deep in water indoors at a Dickinson, Texas, assisted-living center, and Samaritans steering their own boats through floodwaters to rescue neighbors.
“This is as big a natural disaster as I think I’ve ever seen,” Baker said.
“I mean those pictures of people in nursing homes, that’s something that we could never let happen here in Boston,” Walsh said.
Walsh declined to opine on Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s decision not to evacuate the city. Walsh said he did not know how fast Boston could be evacuated.
President Donald Trump said he would visit Texas on Tuesday, and said peoples’ lives had been “totally upended” by the storm. At a news conference Monday the president predicted “rapid action” from Congress to address the problems. He said, “You’ll have what you want I think very, very quickly.”
Congressman Michael Capuano pointed out many Texas lawmakers opposed disaster relief legislation after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New York area in 2012. U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, of Texas, were among 36 Republicans who opposed the Sandy relief bill arguing it included wasteful spending, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The Somerville Democrat said those decisions wouldn’t affect his support for a Texas relief bill but he hopes the Texas lawmakers who opposed the Sandy relief bill feel shame.