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A View From Houston During Hurricane Harvey Flooding

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Though I’ve lived in Houston all my life, I’ve never experienced the type of flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. What made things worse was how unexpected the event was. On Monday, I was only worried about the cloud cover preventing me from seeing the partial eclipse in Houston, but by Friday, I was worried for the well-being of my family.

A Quiet Start to the Week

2017 Solar Eclipse

Photo: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Aside from writing, I also teach exam prep. The summer months get especially busy, and this year was exceptional. The week Harvey hit would be the final week of the summer before Houston Independent School District, the largest in our area, returned to classes. As such, I was driving all over town conducting last-minute classes and tutoring sessions since the first SAT exam of the school year would be on Saturday. As a forward thinker, I always keep close tabs on the weather, and Monday brought only a slight chance of rain for the weekend. I was hoping for something a little heavier to cool us off from the near 100-degree heat we’d been having up until then.

A Major Change on Wednesday

Wednesday morning started like any other. The tropical storm we’d thought would go straight into Mexico without affecting Texas was slowing down, strengthening, and moving north. That morning, forecasters predicted that the Texas coast would be hit by a tropical storm or minor hurricane Harvey, but meteorologists encouraged people to stock up for some possible flooding rains. Few paid attention to the news until Wednesday afternoon. My husband found bottled water sold out at the grocery store by 6 p.m., and the student I tutored that afternoon was surprised to hear about the storm. She worried that the SAT would be canceled on Saturday.

Thursday

The storm was predicted to strike land Friday night or Saturday, and by Thursday, people in Houston began to take preparations seriously. To avoid the crowds, I went to a 24-hour grocery store at 5:30 a.m., but the store was closed. An hour later, the manager opened the doors, and a dozen people queued in the self-checkout lanes trying to buy water the store had restocked. I got enough groceries to last us for the next three to four days, as that was what experts recommended people get, but my plans changed by the next morning as the forecast for Hurricane Harvey worsened.

Friday

Hurricane Harvey

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, it was hard to believe that a storm was about to hit. Weather forecasters were now predicting that the flooding rains could last through the following Wednesday. I returned to the store that morning at 6:30 a.m. Water had been restocked at 6 a.m., but by the time I got there, it was sold out. Thankfully, we were okay on water, but not on other sundry items. That night was a sleepless one. The rain started, and tornado warning alerts on my phone sounded throughout the night. I barely slept, and Saturday morning, things got worse.

Saturday and Sunday

Hurricane Harvey hit land not as a category 1 hurricane but as a behemoth category 4. All day, the tornado warnings increased as the storm pushed bands of heavy rain and severe weather into the Houston area. That night, the rainfall accumulated to the point that the street in front of my house turned into a rushing river. It had picked up a 40-gallon recycling bin and carried it down the street and past my house in just a few seconds. As afraid as I was of the water in the street rising even higher, the water finally started to go down Sunday morning. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, and I was running on little sleep, and coffee. Thankfully we had power the entire time.

A Warning of Our Own

Sunday night, my phone signaled another alert. A tornado warning for our area. Instead of second guessing things, my husband and I moved into the middle hallway of our home, which was the only interior room we had. The cats came in, thinking it was some odd game that their people were sitting on the floor in the hall at 9:45 at night. But it wasn’t a game. I sat waiting for the warning to expire, and sitting on edge anticipating the freight-train sound I’d last heard when I survived a tornado as a toddler. Thankfully, the sound never came, and we were able to go back to our lives.

After Effects

Though the storm is still in the area, the rain has slacked off a bit. Fear still hangs over the city as bayous continue to rise and rain persists to fall. Overall, my family came out lucky, but many others did not. Some had to collect everything they could carry and evacuate to their roofs to be rescued by Coast Guard helicopters. Others jumped into boats their neighbors had brought. The city has come together, and it will rebuild, but we’ll need help. Mayor Turner has created the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund as a way to help get people back on their feet. The American Red Cross is also accepting donations to its Hurricane Harvey fund and is already in the area helping evacuated Houstonians. If you’re not in the area to help out in person, give online to help out Houstonians as we piece back together our homes and lives.