My nephew estimates that each Houstonian knows at least five people whose homes or businesses flooded during the downpours of Hurricane Harvey. I found that I easily thought of that many and realized that there are doubtless many others from whom I have not yet heard. Just to give you an idea of how widespread the destruction of that storm actually was herewith is a short description of the situations of which I am aware.
Early on my friend Priscilla was fleeing her Pearland home. She is the same age as my two daughters and used to spend hours at my house when she was a little girl. Through the miracle of Facebook we found each other once again and I’ve enjoyed reading about her exploits with her family. She hasn’t been in her current dwelling for too long. She moved there after decades in another location. She has been quite proud of her place and often posts images of her gardens and the improvements she has made. She was the first person that I know to announce that she and her family were going to have to evacuate because water began pouring inside her house. She took refuge in a hotel and waited out the conclusion of the storm in surroundings that she hoped would stay secure. She was able to return home fairly quickly and has managed to clean out the offending sheetrock and flooring and to begin the drying process. I’m hoping that her home will be put back together sooner rather than later because she definitely needs some rest.
A few hours after Priscilla announced that she was taking on water, my very dear friends Jenny and Eric were forced to leave their Katy abode. I’ve known them both through our mutual connections with two different schools. Over the years we’ve become exceedingly close and I think of them as members of my family. I was so sad to hear of their predicament because even the process of navigating through the water to leave the impending danger was precarious, and I worried for their safety like a mother hen. Thanks to good friends they made it to a safe haven where they kept us updated throughout the ordeal. Jenny and Eric are rather adventurous souls who actually met each other while they were independently vacationing in Japan, so it didn’t surprise me that they were willing to wade through water to check on the status of their home as soon as possible. Once the water had receded they were able to begin the mucking out phase of recovery. An army of friends came to their rescue and within a fairly short time the process was completed. A few days ago a contractor had already put up walls and it appears that they are well on the road to reclaiming their house. When they returned to work at Katy Taylor High School this week their fellow faculty members greeted them with cookies, gift certificates and cleaning supplies. Hopefully they now have a better understanding of how much we all love them.
I next learned that my cousin Andy who lives in Spring had also taken on water. We’ve spent so many wonderful times in his house. He and his wife Terri are two of the most loving and generous people I have ever known. Their son and daughter are grown and gone but they are such good kids that they immediately called out a posse of friends to help with the cleanup project. By this past Sunday the first phase of the work was complete and the fans and humidifiers were buzzing away to dry up the moisture. I still felt a great deal of sorrow for them because they have lived in that dwelling for decades, and their loving touch was evident in every inch of decor. They worked so hard to make their home a welcoming refuge for everyone that I am certain that it will become a gathering place again.
On the third day of rain my cousin Paul began asking for prayers because the water from Cypress Creek was encroaching on his Spring home of forty years. Not long after I had read his plea his daughter Jan called me to find out how to safely turn off the power to the house because water was licking at the electrical outlets. She and her family had huddled in the safety of the upstairs, but they were beginning to realize that they needed to leave while they still had a chance and while their cars were relatively unscathed. They hurriedly threw a few changes of clothing into suitcases, gathered their two dogs and made to the highway which they followed first to Madisonville and then Dallas. When they returned home last Saturday their worst fears were realized. Their house was filled with the remains of foul smelling flood water. They were stunned and shocked by what they found. Once again through the kindness of a virtual troop of kind souls their home was also cleared of the debris and the ruined walls and flooring. They now await the drying process and pray that they will soon be living in the comfort and familiarity of their home once again. The generosity that they have always shown to others is being paid back by family and friends in the hopes that their wait will not be too long.
My niece’s sister had almost made it through the torrential rains without incident when the water rather suddenly began flooding into her Pearland home. The irony of her story is that the storm ended only a few hours afterward. She was so close to being safe and dry that it was particularly sad. She hasn’t been married for very long and she and her husband were very proud of their place. Now the entire neighborhood bears signs of destruction as far as the eye can see. Her family and friends came quickly to her aid however, and even though it is difficult to see right now her house is on its way to healing. She even has a nice RV in which she can sleep and relax while the process of putting her home back together begins.
These are only brief stories of five people whom I know whose houses and belongings were swallowed up by the storm, but there are more. A friend in Beaumont had just enough water to require major repairs. A high school buddy from Spring had jokingly commented that we needed rain when the storms first began. Unfortunately there was a bit more than he had anticipated and he too ended up with damage to a home that had been just fine for decades. Another high school friend essentially lost the office for his business in Pearland. He’s already in the rebuilding process but it was quite a disappointment to come home from a glorious vacation to find his place of work in a shambles and the homes of many of his neighbors in a similar condition. Luckily his house was spared so he didn’t have to deal with a double whammy. Yet another friend who worked with my husband for years had destruction in her house in South Houston. She viewed a heartbreaking video of flooded homes in Friendswood that we posted on Facebook and noted that her neighborhood looked just as bad.
I suspect that there are many other people that I know who did not fare well in the wake of Harvey. I just have not yet heard of their plight. Our city is pocked with damage in all directions and all areas. No place completely escaped the tragedy which is why all of us in Houston are still in a kind of grieving process even as the sun shines so beautifully today. We mourn for one another and for our city. Our stories did not end with the death of the storm. They have only begun. We will be busy caring for one another for a very long time and new memories of the storm of 2017 will bury tuck themselves away in our hearts.