Hurricane Harvey From Inside Houston

 

Houston Flood 2017 Pic

 

What a week! In my last post I spoke about preparing for storms before they come in.  You can view here.  I had no idea what Hurricane Harvey was about to unleash on the city and state where I have lived all my life. In the past week my emotions have run the gamut from being surprised, fearful, anxious, proud, sad, tearful, thankful and even somewhat guilty.

Harvey Arrives

The storm went from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane in 44 hours. Harvey went ashore on Friday night, August 25, 2017 in Rockport Texas. Rockport is approximately 200 miles from Houston, and suffered a lot of wind damage; along with many communities also its path. The Houston area did get rain Friday night but it did not seem that bad. Saturday the 26th, was a little rainy during the day, but mostly just overcast all day.

We were told we going to receive large amounts of rain, however Saturday it appeared that the weather forecasters may have missed the mark and I believe a lot of us let our guard down. I heard many people went out on Saturday night to parties in order to watch a pay per view fight; including my daughter and grand-daughter. My husband and I went out to dinner with family members and even talked about how the rain was not that bad.

When we got home from dinner I started watching the news and realized it was coming and we were in for a long night.   I called and tried to get my daughter and grand-daughter home but it was already too late. The skies opened up and the rains began. It became apparent rather quickly it was safer for them to stay where they were.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE

I have never flooded in the past.  It is unusual for our street to even flood to the curb. This time was different, the water come within five feet of the house.   It was a real oddity for us. In the middle of the night, we had a small break in the rain and several of the neighbors came out. We were amazed at the water level. It looked like our neighborhood was a lake and there was standing water as far as you could see. Then the rain started again, and continued. I resigned to myself that we were probably going to get water in the house. We didn’t get any sleep that night, but we were lucky in that the water seemed to drain enough each break that we did not get water in the house.

We contacted family members to ensure they were okay and watched non-stop coverage on local news for the next three days. Although we lost cable and internet, we never lost power other than a flicker or two. I watched the news coverage on my iPad with cellular service. I am so thankful I had that ability.

 

THAT’S A LOT OF WATER

My area ended up with a total of over 50 inches over those two days. Even after the water drained from my street there was no way in or out of the neighborhood. The front of theHouston Flood Pic neighborhood, very deep water and many houses flooded out. We were boxed in by the water and could not travel for more than a 1/8 of a mile in any direction. There were boats being used to evacuate people from their flooded out homes and there was also Coast Guard helicopters air lifting people to safety.

My daughter was unable to make it home until Monday evening. Even then, we had to drive through some standing high water to get to her. She was in my car and it sits lower so we went to get them once we were able to get through. Once she returned home, I was better, actually much better. Knowing I could not get to them and they were also in a house with a large ditch behind them was very frightening.  I knew they had shelter and were dry but I needed to be able to get to them.  I needed them home.  Not knowing what to expect I needed them home, so we could all face what we needed to together.

SHOULD WE HAVE EVACUATED

I know I heard a lot of news reports and questions asked of the leadership in this area about why they did not call for an evacuation. During Rita, we sat in the car for hours upon hours trying to leave along with the other 5 million or so people in this City and surrounding areas. I am a pretty cautious person, and with that experience under my belt I do not believe I would have evacuated.  Personally, I do not believe it can be done in the short window of time available when a storm is so close. There were evacuations before the storm for areas that would experience the storm surge. If everyone was on the road, the people in the low lying areas who have no choice but to evacuate would not have been able to. During Rita, over a 100 people died on the road. All stations were out of gas and people were stranded everywhere.

SHELTER VISIT

On Thursday, I visited the main shelter set up at the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) for work. I was given an impromptu tour of the facility by one of the volunteers. I was amazed at the organization. It appeared they were trying to think of everything.   There was a play area for the children. The volunteers kept them busy and they appeared to be having a fun time. There was an area set up for evacuees to inquire and file for FEMA. There was even a cell phone charging area.

 

However, when I walked into the area where all the cots were, reality set in. This is a horrible way to have to live for any amount of time. There were wall to wall cots. No privacy. There were people trying to sleep while others were walking about. People without anywhere to go, their lives turned upside down and inside out. There was a medical area to get medication and a large wall of what looked like crates of some type. I was told the sick beds were on the other side of the crate wall. How horrible, you lose everything you own and then to top it off you are sick in a strange place. By the time my coworker came to get me I was fighting tears.

MASSIVE DAMAGE

One thing I can say about this flood, it did not just hit a small area. The rain fell so widespread that every side, every neighborhood in the City of Houston was affected, along with many smaller towns and cities along the Gulf Coast. The damage sustained is massive and widespread. These descriptions do not quite cover what it really is. I cannot say how many times in the past week I have said or thought to myself, ‘this is bad, really bad”.

The last report I heard there are:

  • 31 confirmed deaths and growing – attributed to this storm.
  • 30,000 people in shelters.
  • An estimated 150,000 homes with water damage.
  • Approximately 500,000 cars destroyed.

REALITY UP CLOSE

A family member of mine  was not that lucky. He and his family evacuated his house at about 4 am, Sunday morning Ruins of Harveywith approximately 4 foot already in his house. They walked out in the dark, in flood waters that were to their chest to seek higher ground.   I cannot adequately explain the hurt, sadness and frustration I see in their eyes.

Today, we went to help with some of the clean-up. When I pulled into the neighborhood I saw block after block, house after house with piles of people’s lives lined up on the streets. All their belongings are now strewn in the yard for the heavy trash people to pick up.   The interior walls and doors had to be ripped out.

We all have problems, now they have the same problems they had last week along with the damage from the flood.

They have a long, long road ahead of them. This is not over because the storm moved on or over because the water has drained. The rebuilding of the structures and their lives has only now begun. It made me wonder today how the elderly or disabled are going to clean up and start rebuilding. It was another tearful and sad moment for me this week.

PROUD OF MY CITY AND STATE

 

HoustonStrong

I have to say I am proud of my city and state but mostly I am proud of the people here. The way they behaved in this catastrophe showed the world we are a strong people. Emergency Management came out on live television and stated they needed help. I am glad they admitted it and admitted it early.

People who had boats put them in the water, many with their own damage. Others actually went into stores like Academy and purchased boats to help. They saved lives. People from other areas came in with their boats. They organized themselves, and you could hear it by listening to channels on the Zello app. They used social media to notify that someone was in need of help and the help appeared for them. I am sure there were other sources and apps used; I just do not know of all of them.

The Mayor of Houston earned my respect. He spoke and led with authority and yet showed compassion. The Governor put the people first. He opened State Parks up for evacuees for no charge. And also began working on the aftermath relief effort before the storm even hit.

I saw a post showing a line around the GRB. The text asked, “What do you think this line is for? Water? Food? FEMA?” The line was of all the people who were waiting to volunteer.

 

WE MADE IT

With all of the devastation around me, I am so thankful that I was blessed. My family is safe, I still have my home and it is dry. I have no damage worth speaking of. In some ways I feel guilty to have come out of this basically unscathed.

I do have to say that I am curious where all the relief organizations are.  I saw FEMA and Red Cross areas set up at the shelters.  But the majority of the people took shelter during the floods but returned to their waterlogged homes after the water drained.  They are beginning the healing process by trying to clean and throw away everything that is now considered contaminated because of the flood waters.  I spent the last two days at one of these homes, where the entire neighborhood was affected.

I have not seen any type of assistance being given to people who are attempting to regain some normalcy in their lives.  A few of the local church’s are passing out water and supplies that were dropped off to them but where is the American Red Cross?  Where is FEMA?  They need your help also.   I have seen ad after ad of different organizations requesting donations.  Where is this money going?  The flood is not over just because the water drained.    Now is when the real work begins.  Now is when people need help trying to return to life.  It is hard to do when you have no vehicle, no furniture, no walls because they had to be ripped out.  No dishes.  No clothes. Nothing other than a shell of a house and basically the clothes on your back.

I would ask that you would please take the time to keep the people affected by this storm in your thoughts and prayers.

There are many organizations collecting for relief for Hurricane Harvey. If you are able I hope that you will give. Please make sure it is a reputable organization such as NFL Texans player JJ Watts Foundation set up specifically for the victims of this catastrophe.

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9 Comments

  1. Max says:

    Pretty powerful post, Michelle. It puts a human face on a huge disaster.

  2. enannylink1 says:

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. You see so much in the media it is so much better hearing it from someone that actually lived and experienced it ♥

  3. Amanda says:

    Didn’t stay for Katrina and didn’t get damage other than a down fence. But nola got destroyed. For Isaac we stayed. Although not as big. We should have left because our old apartment got flooded. Not on the floors but in the walls. One reason we moved to house we have now.

  4. Michelle says:

    Here is another very good perspective on the storm from an author in the area. There is also a really good list of reputable places to donate. Hurricane Harvey https://rvtexasyall.com/hurricane-harvey via @RVTexasYall

  5. Elaine says:

    I’m so happy Sam n the baby made it home finally. I stayed here sat night thru wed night by myself. I packed a bag in case I had to go to the 2nd floor. I was lucky only my car got flooded. Water came through my front door which is in a hallway. My concern was my back door which faces the parking lot. There is a 2 inch step up at the door. I am so grateful for that 2 inch step because the water came right up to the top of it but nothing came inside. Sad for those whose homes and cars flooded. I was especially heartbroken over the family of 6 drowning. They were leaving the neighborhood I grew up in!!

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