Saturday, November 25, 2017

Houston data center and telco operators vow to help community hit by ‘epic’ hurricane Harvey

Helping relief efforts, giving mobile data and coverage to those affected, and offering emergency financial assistance to staff top priorities.

Data centre and telecommunications operators in the Houston area have vowed to support the local community as the deadly Harvey hurricane, turned tropical storm, makes a landfall in neighbouring Louisiana.

The US National Hurricane Center said record-breaking Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm and it is expected to gradually weaken to a tropical depression this Wednesday night.

More than 13,000 people have been rescued from the Houston area, where Harvey made its landfall as a Category 4 hurricane leaving behind damages estimated at a cost of $30bn to $160bn.

The hurricane brought with it the heaviest tropical downpour the US has ever seen, flooding an area 15 times the size of Manhattan, the Houston Chronicle has reported.

33 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to rise once the floodwaters start to recede.

Local authorities have also said they have placed 19,000 people into temporary accommodation, also a figure expected to increase by the thousands as the rain continues and floodwaters continue to rise in some of the Houston region areas.

Authorities have said they are answering more than 1,000 emergency calls per hour, with up to 30,000 expected to be in need of an emergency shelter.

Adding to this, the local Barker and Addicks dams are at full capacity and have started to overspill this Tuesday.

Officials said at a press conference some areas risk to remain underwater for weeks or months, with the Addicks dam expected to continue to overspill for at least three more weeks putting thousands of households at risk.

Visiting the disaster zone, President Donald Trump said: “Probably there’s never been anything so expensive in our country’s history.

“There’s never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as — as what we’ve witnessed with Harvey.”

Speaking to a crowd in Corpus Christi, where the hurricane first landed, Trump said: “This is historic. It’s epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”

The handling of the situation is being done with thousands of men and women who are rescuing and helping those in need across Texas and parts of Louisiana, which is still recovering from 2005’s hurricane Katrina that left nearly 2,000 dead.


IT companies vow to help

Data centre and cloud operators based in the Houston area have not reported significant damage to their infrastructure with services continuing to run at sites operated by companies including IBM, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Data Foundry, CyrusOne and Digital Realty.

All companies have also reported that their staff are safe and accounted for, despite some sites being inaccessible due to floodwaters.

Digital Realty has now come out to announce that it will be making a contribution to the hurricane relief efforts, and will match contributions from Digital Realty employees through the company’s Matching Gifts Program.

The operator’s Houston data centre facility is located approximately 17 miles north of downtown Houston, outside the FEMA-designated 500-year flood plain.

CEO A. William Stein said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Texas throughout this tragic event.

“We are relieved to report that our employees and their families in Houston are safe, and continuing to do whatever it takes to maintain uninterrupted service for the customers who rely on our Houston facility for mission-critical applications.”

Gary Wojtaszek, President & CEO of CyrusOne, has also said the company is looking into what it can do to help people in Southeast Texas.

He said: “The unprecedented destruction of Harvey is a disaster for the Houston area. While our current priority is maintaining availability throughout the storm, CyrusOne is exploring how the company can most immediately support relief efforts and we plan to make a substantial commitment to helping people in Southeast Texas get back on their feet in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”

Also vowing to help is telecommunications operator Verizon which has pledged to donate $10m to fund Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

The carrier has partnered with local and state government officials to identify non-profit agencies to support work on-the-ground on both immediate and long-term needs.

The agencies chosen were: The Greater Houston Community Foundation-Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund for Houston, The One Star Foundation and the Salvation Army Southern Territory.

Verizon Chairman & CEO Lowell McAdam, said: “It is heartbreaking to witness a disaster of this magnitude; our hearts and full support go out to the communities being impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including our own customers and employees.

“Verizon is committed to working alongside disaster relief partners to help return a sense of normalcy to residents and restore the areas impacted by the storm. Houston and South Texas are vital to the fabric of America and we want to be on the front lines of the rebuilding efforts.”

The company has also relieved post-paid customers of data, talk and text charges and has given prepaid customers an extra 3 GB to be used for data, talk and text from August 26 through September 15.

In addition, Verizon has initiated works to deploy mobile equipment including Cells on Wheels (COWs), and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS) to supplement service in areas of South Texas that need extra network capacity.

Similarly to Digital Realty, Verizon is also helping employees which might have been affected by the hurricane -nearly 10,000 employees work in the states of Texas and Louisiana – by offering emergency financial assistance to staff though both its employee assistance program and its VtoV program where employees can donate funds to help fellow employees affected by a natural or personal disaster.


Top picture: Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston to aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 27, 2017. Texas Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West, US Department of Defense