A recent article in Texas Monthly is suggesting Houston-area politicians conspired with media outlets to underplay forecasts of Hurricane Harvey.
The article implies the conspiracy was to persuade residents to shelter in place, rather than deal with logistics for potentially millions of cars on the road attempting to evacuate the city and area.
Theories started with a Facebook post prior to the storm’s landfall, which claimed authorities “are worried the freeways would get clogged and people killed on freeways if they knew the extent of what’s about to happen,” and, “FEMA and the National Guard are ready for a repeat of Katrina.”
The post also predicted city leaders estimated 10,000 homes would be submerged and that 100,000 homes would take on water.
It continues by claiming authorities and local media outlets spoke out to downplay the dire predictions.
Local meteorologists were predicting up to 30 inches of rain for the Houston area; just over half of the estimated 50 inches, which eventually fell in the area.
Both Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett went on local television stations to dismiss the conspiracy theorists on social media, urging residents to shelter in place.
The conspiracy theory further alleged politicians and the media staged a cover-up of the most serious forecasts to prevent panic and widespread evacuations.
During the hype, a spokesman for Houston’s elected Judge Ed Emmett emailed a statement to media outlets, refuting claims from the social media post, which postulated the judge and other leaders held secret meetings to hide the forecasts from the public.
He described the conspiracy theory as “ridiculousness,” maintaining “no such meetings ever occurred.”
A spokesman for Mayor Turner also delivered a statement, affirming city leaders’ decisions for “20, 30, 40, or 50 inches” of rain.
“Houston learned some horrible lessons when we decided to evacuate from Rita in 2005,” the statement further provided, “and it wasn’t the right decision.”
Houstonians dealt with swirls of misinformation before, during and still several weeks after as the city recovers, including this conspiracy claim post.
However, with a publication as reputable as Texas Monthly investigating the situation, many are wondering if there is more legitimacy for these claims than officials argue.
If you need or would like to help in Houston, read more here.