Hurricane Harvey: My Story

Hurricane Harvey: My Story

Hurricane Harvey

Image by Natalie Gene Creative

Hurricane Harvey has been unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. I went grocery shopping days before, bought sand for the doorways of our home and kind of scoffed at my husband and his worrying. The first day, the Friday, I was flippant about it, there wasn’t as much rain as they were anticipating and I thought maybe we would get passed up.

Then I tried going to bed, that’s when sh*t started to get real. It came upon us quickly and we were suddenly under tornado warnings {not watches, but immediate danger}. My phone kept buzzing and the amount of sleep I got that night was minimal. Robert stayed up all night watching the news, the radar on his laptop. When I gave up on sleep at 6am, Robert retired quickly and I took over watch of our home. I might have had a three hour nap once the rain ebbed off.

Then I started my morning ritual of opening Facebook and seeing terrible destruction in Houston. Saturday was just a taste of what was to come–damage from tornados and people in pain. There was no flooding yet. Robert and I went out and got a few more groceries and with the lull of rain, we were feeling comfortable again. Then the night came. Nights and hurricanes are terrible. At night the upper atmosphere cools, which creates instability, thus increasing the updrafts in thunderstorms throughout the hurricane system. Which is exactly what we experienced Saturday night. The tornado warnings that night were much more intense and I definitely turned to alcohol to help my nerves, because they were officially shot. If you watched any of my Instagram stories you would have seen all that lightening and thunder going off consistently. We were lucky, it only lasted an hour over us but other people to the east of us, they had it for three hours. The National Weather Service confirmed 16 tornadoes in Houston, including seven Saturday. Also, the National Weather Service issued 64 tornado warnings by Saturday night. Adding insult to injury? Saturday night is when the flooding really started.

Image by David Tannery

Robert, as per our new schedule, stayed up late that night and I got up early. This also started the staring at Facebook and crying. I woke up to stories of homes destroyed in one night because Harvey simply hovered over Houston and unrelentingly rained on us. I went for a walk that morning and saw our streets were flooding and I knew there was no path out for us now, our cars were too low-lying. But even if we could make it out, where would we go? Everywhere was flooding. So we hunkered down. Distracted ourselves with Game of Thrones and listened to it rain.

My newsfeed on Facebook was impossible to keep up on. But both of us were glued. I am so thankful those people in my life were posting regular updates, like I was, on how they were, their homes, everything. Worried messages were sent to those who hadn’t checked in. Conversations about being anxious but also numb were had, there was no in-between. You were either absolutely anxious or you were in shock and completely numb and felt outside yourself. This could have been a great time to get work done but I couldn’t focus. Besides, all those pretty wedding pictures and portraits? Those felt frivolous in the face of this hurricane and people’s lives being in danger. I also completely lost my appetite. I would wake up hungry and make a breakfast of just eggs and iced coffee and couldn’t finish it. Lunch? Not hungry. Dinner? Forced myself to eat. And after eating I felt gross-full.

Houston hurricane

Image by Katherine Blanchard

Sunday was also the day when so many heroes emerged, like famous people from JJ Watt, Ellen Degeneres to Kevin Hart. But also local people stepped up–nurses and doctors who were not leaving hospitals because they had no replacements.  First responders who were working so many hours pulling stranded people from rooftops and homes that they crashed on concrete floors. Ordinary people, who once were maybe special ops, or regular joes with a flat bottom boat, just getting out there and rescuing families. These people simply jumped in, went out and saved lives. Tons and tons of lives. And I know a lot of them personally. As someone who couldn’t be out there to do it {and let’s be honest I don’t have the skills to do what they are doing either}, I was so grateful to see this happening. This pulling together, this community, this is like a bright light in all of this darkness.

Hurricane help

Image from NY Times

Hurricane help

Images from local hero David Tannery

Monday it continued to rain, and I felt like I was losing my mind. I saw the water rising in on the street around my house and I tried to think in my head how much longer we could last with it raining this hard before we were flooded. I felt we had one more day and then things would become dire. We don’t have a second story, so I felt the second level in our garage might work. But I didn’t want to entertain the thought. So, like the day before, we distracted ourselves with Game of Thrones. And then the rain slowed down {never stopped}, and we saw the street drain. My anxiety lessened.

Then I started to see some people were able to get out and organize for those there were displaced from their homes. Something that continued into today, and I know will continue for a long while. The truly amazing thing I have seen, is that people have donated so much that people have been turned away! The lines of volunteers at the George R. Brown Convention Center have been the length of the building, with people waiting patiently in the rain to get in and help. Following friends who could make it out was inspiring and heart warming.

Hurricane Harvey

Image from It’s Not Hou It’s Me

I also need to talk about survivors guilt. It has been hard to watch people lose their homes and know I am in a home that is miraculously on high enough ground that didn’t see damage. I had power the entire hurricane and TV to help distract, when I could turn off the news. And I sat there feeling guilty that I was blessed to have all these things. And then I felt trapped because all the roads out of my home were {and still are} blocked by high water, so even if I wanted to help, I can’t. But I did what I could–I reposted about places needing donations everywhere, plus donating myself. And I am glad I did because now that I see donation centers are filling up, they are requesting money.

Hurricane Harvey

From the Houston Chronical

Today, the sun shines. It’s the most beautiful thing I have seen. I don’t even get upset as the wasps fly outside my door. My husband and I are about to see if we can get anywhere, hoping for some groceries and then to help others. It all depends on how much the water has dropped. In the end, it was predicted we would get roughly 30 inches of rain, but we got 39, and an area 15 minutes from us? 49 inches of rain.

But Houston is still hurting and I encourage you to donate:

There is of course the American Red Cross Houston Texas and if you want to donate to an organization that 100% goes to aide go to UMCOR{http://www.umcor.org/}. There’s also:

Samaritan’s Pursehttps://www.samaritanspurse.org/disaster/hurricane-harvey/
Save the Children US
North American Mission Board (NAMB)
Heart to Heart International

You can also donate to Houston Food Bank or the Texas Diaper Bank and for animals there is the Houston SPCA.