October 08, 2020 Feature

Weathering the Storms and Anticipating Post-Pandemic Changes

If we wait for things to calm down or return to “normal” to be happy, we’ll be waiting forever.

By James A. Reeder Jr.

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Those of us along the Gulf Coast have hunkered down for natural disasters before. Tornadoes are not unusual in Texas, and hurricane season lasts more than three months. We endured nearly three balmy weeks without power after Hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008. (Full disclosure: In what my family thought was suspicious, I spent 10 days of that period in the air-conditioned comfort of the Hotel DuPont—trying a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court.)

The flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 affected more than 13 million people and destroyed or damaged more than 135,000 homes. We sat stuck at home for six days glued to the television, watching the radar, waiting for a sign that things would be returning to normal. Some businesses in Houston, including grocery stores and restaurants, were closed for weeks. Harvey ended up costing $125 billion in physical damage; the unseen residual damage was incalculable.

Similarly, in New Orleans, the physical cleanup and the disruption to normal activity for many post-Katrina has lasted months and years. Whether those experiences or our typical Texas-can-handle-anything attitude is to blame, the state of Texas seemed slow coming out of the gate in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even those of us who recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus were somehow lulled by our own experience with cataclysm into thinking this won’t last. It turns out that although our experience with natural disasters was a poor gauge of the predicted duration of this latest crisis, it has been a tremendous foundation for maintaining our mental health, taking care of each other, and taking care of our clients while keeping the crisis in perspective and our spirits buoyed as we once again work from home.

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