Senator Dan Patrick (R) is the lieutenant governor of Texas. Patrick has been a successful small-businessman, a conservative talk radio host, a television anchor, a Christian author and a Christian movie producer. A Houston resident, he was stuck in his neighborhood for a couple of days after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas last August.
STATE LEGISLATURES: Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard, particularly Houston. How does it compare to other storms?
PATRICK: More than a third of our population were impacted, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes. They're living with family, friends, in apartments that they found or a hotel somewhere. FEMA is bringing in some trailers in the rural areas where they don't have extra hotels or extra apartments. And we have a million cars--if you can get your arms around that number--a million cars under water that have been totaled.
What advice do you have for state legislatures facing severe disasters like this?
First, you have to have a savings account. In Texas, we have what's called the "rainy day" fund--the proper name is the Economic Stabilization Fund--that was designed for when there's an economic downturn, so the state can pay its bills if revenues don't come in as expected. Another reason we keep that fund is for disasters. We'll probably take more money out of the rainy day fund now than ever before because we've never had a storm of this size.
We have $10 billion in that fund. That's more money in savings than most of the states have combined. We use that money only when we can't pay our bills.
The second thing states can do is prepare and train your staff. If it weren't for the director of a state-of-the-art emergency center in Austin, we would not have been prepared in the way we were. We've drilled and drilled and drilled.
And at the local level it's the same thing. Our county judges, our local sheriffs, they had a plan, they were prepared, they had been trained, they were ready.
That's what I recommend. You have to have money. You have to have training. Then you can execute the plan. And our people really executed it well.
How are recovery efforts going?
There are three phases to this kind of disaster: rescue, recovery and rebuilding. In the rescue phase, the miracle is less than 100 people died because of the great work of our first responders and the volunteers. For a storm that impacted such a great area with millions of people, it was unbelievable.
The recovery was the second...