Houston is home to many current and retired employees of NASA, especially ones who work at the Johnson Space Center and its famous Mission Control Center. These employees and alumni were right on the front line of Hurricane Harvey, which had many of NASA’s personnel concerned about possible flood damage to facilities and hardware like the James Webb Space Telescope. Due to concerns about possible fatalities, the Johnson Space Center closed to all but essential personnel so that employees could evacuate.
Unfortunately, some professionals who made their careers in the space program stayed behind and may have needed rescue. Legendary flight director Gene Kranz was among those rescued from flooding caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Because he lives in a two-story house in Dickinson, Texas, he had insisted that rescuers focus on checking on neighbors who lived in one-story houses first. He had thought he could ride out the flooding, but realized he was in trouble when the waters kept rising.
One of his children joined the many volunteers with boats who made runs to rescue victims who were trapped in their homes by flooding.
“My youngest daughter, Jean, showed up in a boat at the front door and said she wasn’t leaving until we did,” Kranz told local reporters.
Kranz was seen at the Dickinson police department wearing a GTHO Harvey T-shirt on Sunday. He was complimentary of the efforts of the first responders and volunteers who are helping victims of Harvey and the ways that communities can come together in a crisis in which “failure is not an option”.
“This was truly an experience of people helping people,” Kranz said. “There’s people that watch things happen, people who wonder what happened. But then there’s people that make things happen and that, I think, is the story of Dickinson.”
As Gene Kranz learned the hard way, people should not assume that they are safe because they are on relatively high ground or in a slightly taller building. He’s as human as the rest of us and probably didn’t expect Harvey to dump a record 51 inches of rain on the Houston area.
Space satellites tracked Hurricane Harvey and now they are tracking Hurricane Irma as it slowly heads toward Florida. NASA personnel such as Public Affairs Officer Sarah McNulty, who is stationed in Florida, warned residents in the possible path of Irma to get out if at all possible and book a hotel in advance.
“Do not mess around with a Cat 4 hurricane, guys. … [T]he only way to guarantee escaping the worst of the weather is to evacuate somewhere in interior South Georgia / Alabama, or west if you live in the Panhandle of Florida,” McNulty said in a Facebook post.
The advantage of having weather satellites is that people can get enough warning to evacuate if they are in the path of a major hurricane like Harvey and Irma. (Yeah, welcome to the Space Age, everybody.) So evacuate, take what you need, don’t forget your pets, and get out of the path of the hurricane if a weather satellite spots a major hurricane that could be headed your way.