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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Opinion

UH did not listen to Imelda


Houston needs to take bad weather more seriously. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston needs to take bad weather more seriously.

Tropical Storm Imelda hit Houston and the surrounding area last week, flooding homes and highways in a matter of hours and causing Governor Greg Abbott to declare a state of disaster amid the storm.

The University sent out an alert Thursday, Sept. 19 at 10:12 a.m. stating that UH and UH at Katy and Sugarland would be continuing operations for the day. This was where the University and surrounding public school districts went wrong. 

Conroe ISD tweeted out early Thursday morning that its schools would be closed. Houston ISD did not cancel classes Thursday. In a matter of hours, the storm did damage that no one had predicted.

The call to cancel operations is hard to make because canceling school means that, for many people, their children will be left at home while they have work. Then, if the storm turns out to be nothing, they face scrutiny for canceling. But with the nature of the storms that have happened globally in the past few years, everyone needs to take weather like this more seriously. 

Although UH told students in the 10:12 a.m. alert that they would not be penalized for not showing up, many students had already arrived on campus or were in the midst of a commute. Mayor Sylvester Turner sent out a tweet at 8:11 a.m. recommending everyone stay put until the storm passed. With UH having such a huge commuter population, everything should have been canceled early Thursday morning. 

“We were stuck on Scott Street for two hours, and we left right when UH sent out the alert that they were shutting down. By the time they let everyone out, it was too late because the roads were already flooded,” said computer information systems junior Jackson Owens, who commutes to campus.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County — a University-sponsored public transport agency that students are encouraged to use — also shut down Thursday morning around 9 a.m., forcing commuters who rely on public transport to stay on campus. 

The next time a hurricane or storm is threatening Houston, schools need to remember it is better to be safe than sorry. Hurricane Harvey was referred to as a 500year flood event, meaning there is a one in 500 chance that a storm like that could happen in any given year.

Yet, it seems that storms like that are becoming more frequent every hurricane season. The topic of climate change being to blame for storms is up for debate right now. Scientists can’t say for sure whether any of this year’s storms were an effect of climate change, but the warming of Earth will make disturbances during hurricane season more frequent and intense. 

Being inconvenienced for a day because of weather cancellations is far better than having students and parents be stranded for hours, be it on the road, in a school or on a college campus.

Parents of students in public schools should also be more cautious in sending their kids to school when the weather is bad, even if their district has not yet canceled classes. Hopefully Tropical Storm Imelda was a wake-up call for schools and universities in Houston, showing that hazardous weather conditions can form and change paths unpredictably. 

Opinion writer Rachel Reynolds is a liberal studies junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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