Now that the dust has settled and the waters have receded, I wanted to take some time to document my experiences during Hurricane Harvey. We were among the lucky ones who were spared from the flooding; our house only sustained some minor roof damage.
This event has forever changed Houston. I don’t think anyone realized going into that Friday evening what would transpire over the course of the weeks to come. This was my first hurricane to go through, so I did some research and prepare appropriately. We had already prepped a “hurricane kit” the year before last (flash lights, batteries, bottled water, canned goods, etc.) so we only needed a few things. We stocked up on Pop-Tarts and more water, Tuna snack packs and pretzels. I was really impressed with our local H.E.B., becuase although they ran out of water that Wednesday, they had a new shipment delivered by Thursday and even had some of their water bottles on sale. We couldn’t get any bread, but luckily we got our hands on flour and eggs so we were able to make our own. (This helped with sustenance as well as the boredom that comes from being stuck in the house.)
The rain came in hard during the next 3 nights. The days weren’t quite as bad, and luckily it seemed we were in between bands the majority of the time. I’ve never been so glued to the Weather Channel. It was hard to know exactly what was going on at times, because even the media would struggle with getting access to certain places. And they needed to try to stay safe too. We already started to see stories coming in from the neighborhoods that had tornadoes touch down. The closest one to us was by the new Buccee’s off of I-10. Two businesses across the freeway were completely devastated.
Sunday was the worst day. The rain just did not stop. We were lucky and only had a few flickers of power loss, but overall we were able to live life somewhat normally. Going into the evening we started to get concerned about flooding. We’d seen our street flood before, so we knew it was a possibility, we just didn’t know how high up the water would come. Blasts started going out on social media, people trying to get out of their homes but didn’t have vehicles that could go through the high water. Travis has an F-150, so he made contact with a few people to see if he could help. By time he was able to get over to the areas flooding by the Barker Reservoir, the fire department had to turn him around. It wasn’t safe enough to cross.
Even though the rain was beginning to lighten, the immediate concern for Houston was all about flooding. We live just north of Barker Reservoir. Both Barker and Addicks were rapidly approaching capacity, and the Army Corps of Engineers were watching the dams closely to try to decide if they needed to begin releasing water into Buffalo Bayou in order to try to save as many homes as possible. Ultimately that evening they decided it was necessary to slowly begin the release, in order to prevent a failure of the dams. So many houses were already flooded, and this release was going to flood some more. The way I understood it, they were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. A failure of those dams would have been catestrophic, so they really had no choice but to flood the few to save the many.
The next morning Travis set out to try and reach the people he couldn’t get to the previous night. He ended up hooking up with some neighbors who had a boat, and they spent all day pulling people out of apartments and homes. Never in my life would I have though I’d see boats running down Mason Road. While he was out rescuing people in floodwaters, I headed to Cinco Ranch High School to donate what I could and volunteer to help. I was there the majority of the day, and I couldn’t believe how many people we had coming in. These were my neighbors, families in my own community who had lost everything. They were in the middle of their worst nightmare, and there was nothing they could do about it. I met a young man who had been watching the flooding on TV, and drove his lifted truck here from New Braunfels to try and help who he could. Unfortunately his engine flooded, and so he had no other choice but to come to the shelter with the other evacuees. His selflessness stood out in my mind, especially given his young age.
The stories began to come out. We were all neighbors helping neighbors. The community came together like never before. There was no talk of politics or bias, everyone was only concerned with the health and safety of their fellow man. The images that we were watching in real time will stick with us forever. The following day I headed back to the high school and Travis was out on the boat again to try to get more people. That day we had a little more support from the National Guard. There was a woman who had recently had surgery, she had to be airlifted out on a stretcher right in front of Beck Junior High. They got out as many people as they could before it got dark.
Once everyone was safely out of their homes, attention shifted to rebuilding. We helped who we could with cutting out drywall and insulation. My heart breaks to see all of the destruction. Piles of drywall, insulation and furniture line the streets in the neighborhoods that were affected. In Canyon Gate, you could see where the fire department had spray painted the windows to indicate that the home’s occupants had been evacuated.
This whole ordeal has just said so much about the people who live in Texas. Donations and volunteers poured in from all over (some even out of state!) Shelters were so full of donations and volunteers they were actually having to turn people away! Restaurants were donating their time and food to feed first responders and evacuess. Mattress Mack opened up Gallery Furniture as a shelter. Businesses were providing whatever they could to try to help. And I think J.J. Watt’s fundraiser is over $30 million now… For the areas who were affected by the hurricane, it was a very dark time, but the way that the community came together has shined a light on all of it. There is still a long road ahead to recovery, but I know we can all get through it together. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Texan.