Former president George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush addressed Houston-area residents Monday, as tropical storm Harvey continued to batter the city with record rainfall and “catastrophic” flooding.
“Barbara and I are in Maine, but our hearts are in Houston,” the Bushes said in a statement. “We are praying for all of our fellow Houstonians and Texans affected by Harvey, and truly inspired by the flotilla of volunteers – Points of Light all – who are answering the call to help their neighbors. We salute them, the first responders, and the local elected officials for their grit and determination in the face of this extraordinary storm. This we know: Houston, and Texas, will come together and rebuild.”
The former president serves as honorary chairman of Points of Light, a nonprofit that encourages change through volunteer service. The Bushes split their time between Houston and Kennebunkport, Maine, but have long called Texas home. Though the 41st president was born in Massachusetts, he moved to Houston in 1959, and nurtured his political career in the state. They returned to Houston after leaving the White House.
As of Sunday night, the Bushes’ home in Houston had “not been compromised” by flooding, Jim McGrath, the Bushes’ spokesman, told The Washington Post.
The Bushes’ imprint is evident throughout the city and Harris County. In 1997, Houston Intercontinental Airport, the larger of the city’s two main airports, was renamed George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Both airports remained shut Monday, with surrounding roads closed because of flooding.
The Cullen-Barker Park, in the Barker Reservoir on the west side of Houston, was renamed the George Bush Park in 1997. The nearby Millie Bush Dog Park is named after the Bushes’ pet black-and-white English Springer Spaniel, who was a constant presence at the White House during Bush’s presidency. Those parks are expected to be closed for an extended period of time after record rainfall “increased dramatically” the water levels in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs over the weekend, prompting officials to begin releasing water from two corresponding dams.
A downtown Houston monument and exhibit dedicated to Bush – including an eight-foot bronze sculpture and four bas-reliefs that depict the former president’s life – is likely to be at least partially submerged, given its location just off the rain-swollen banks of the Buffalo Bayou.
A branch of the Harris County Public Library system in Spring, Texas, on the north side of the greater Houston metropolitan area, is named after Barbara Bush. The library tweeted Sunday that it would be closed Monday – and would waive late fees – because its street had flooded.
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is not in Houston but in College Station, Texas, about 100 miles northwest. A note on the library’s website Monday said it would be closed because of inclement weather.