LONDON LETTER: Disaster reveals true spirit of the future

TWO hurricanes smashed through the North Atlantic this month, and once again, gale-force hot air on global warming is being spewed out about how cross Gaia is.

This is nothing new. When Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, doomsday mongers said we must brace ourselves for more and more hurricanes of unimaginable force, thanks to all those capitalist carbon emissions.

The Caribbean would soon be flotsam, along with much of Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Our weather is changing, no doubt about it, but it has been doing so since Tyrannosaurus Rex was in nappies.

However, Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana in 2005, and there has not been a Category 3 hurricane since this month.

So if the doomsday version of a regular occurrence in an area where hurricanes have been blasting since T-Rex sucked his thumb is every 12 years, I think the Caribbean will survive. (Okay, Hurricanes Humberto, Gustav and

Isaac came after Katrina, but they were all Category 1 or 2 and caused localised damage).

But I’m no scientist, so don’t take it from me. Instead, take it from actress Jennifer Lawrence, an ardent ‘global warmist’ who says the hurricanes are actually punishment for voting for Donald Trump.

Okay… so it seems the science is at last settled. Trump is the cause. But yet, as far as I know, Trump is safe, dry and warm in the White House while several Caribbean islands are little more than sand and shredded coconuts.

Does that mean that Gaia hates cricket-loving fishermen and luvvie bazillionaire Richard Branson, whose island Necker was also flattened, more than Trump?

However, one thing the mighty winds have done is show the spirit of ordinary America, the places the media ignore.

The places where people don’t wait for government handouts or Jennifer Lawrence platitudes. They help themselves.

TV footage of people of all races rescuing each other has in one fell swoop made a mockery of the bureaucratic political point scoring that stalks all disasters.

Market ingenuity

Which brings me to a magnificent story of free market ingenuity. It concerns a supermarket called HEB, whose Houston stores and staff were directly in the crosshairs of the raging storm.

HEB runs a chain in Texas and Mexico, and as Harvey came screaming up the Gulf of Mexico, their Houston CEO Scott McClelland gave a directive to his people; they would only close if they were underwater.

Then he swung into action an operation that should be a blueprint of crisis management.

All shelves were cleared of perishables and frozen goods as he sent truckloads of canned food to stores. He bought every loaf of bread and carton of milk he could.

He snapped up every mop and bucket possible from his suppliers, and cancelled bulk orders of, say, fancy crisps and told them to bring Fritos instead.

When the hurricane hit, 60 of HEB’s 83 Houston stores remained open despite 200km/h winds and raging floodwaters.

Some only had five staff members, with one guy operating the door to control people and four manning tills.

McClelland then put buses on the road, picking up personnel from unaffected areas to help out where Houston staff couldn’t get to work.

They packed shelves and hit tills on 18 hour shifts, then crashed out on sofas at the back.

The key thing for McClelland was to get clean water to stricken areas, so he dispatched his trucks with tanks.

He knew that if there was no drinking water, there would be riots.

HEB also runs mobile kitchens throughout Texas. McClelland organised them as a fleet where they gave rescue workers and hordes of sodden and starving evacuees hot food. HEB was there before the Red Cross, or any other charity.

McClelland is also the face of HEB as he appears on its TV commercials. As the flood waters abated and he walked down the streets of Houston, people came up and hugged him. Some wept.

HEB probably lost money during those awful few days. But they now have a loyalty base that other businesses can only dream of.

McClelland is 27-years-old. Tell me that is not the spirit of the future.

  AUTHOR
Graham Spence

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