My Harvey

The worst hurricane event that I have personally experienced was Hurricane Ike in 2008. What made it so bad was that we got the devastating hurricane winds in addition to the flooding. Actually, the flooding wasn't so bad, but the winds were terrifying. The night that it hit was the longest night of my life as I listened to the howling winds and the groans of the live oaks in my front yard as they bent with the wind to let it pass. I wondered if the live oaks would survive and if our roof would survive.

When the wet gray dawn came, the trees were still there; my roof was still more or less intact. Our electricity was out and would stay out for a few days, and one tree had lost one large limb, but the trees still stood tall and proud and so did we, not quite as tall or proud but still upright.

The worst flooding event I've personally experienced was in 1994 from a storm that didn't even have a name. It was caused by a confluence of different meteorological events that combined to dump nearly 30 inches of rain over a huge part of Southeast Texas during a five day period in October. We live about a mile from Spring Creek, which is on most days a lazy and somewhat picturesque waterway. But in mid-October 1994 Spring Creek left its banks and ravaged the landscape and communities around it.

After four days of incessant rain, Spring Creek looked more like the Mississippi River. Its waters spread nearly halfway up our mile-long dead-end street, flooding our unfortunate neighbors at the south end of the street which is closest to the creek. They had as much as four feet of water in their houses. Our house is closer to the north end of the street which is higher ground and we escaped any significant damage, but it was a scary time, not least of which because I was stranded with my two daughters. My husband was at work when all the streets became flooded and he wasn't able to get home that night.

But then the rain ended and the sun came out and we started drying out and cleaning up. Thirty-eight counties were declared disaster areas that time.  

Since Ike, we've been very lucky. Nine years without a hurricane, but then our luck ran out. Harvey came calling.

There's no point in my recounting the horror and devastation visited on the Texas coast by that storm. You can read all about it in your newspapers or online and watch the terrible images on your television. Once again, just like with Ike, it will take years to clean up and rebuild, but it will be done. In the case of Ike, after three years you would hardly know there had been a hurricane. It may take longer this time.

As for my personal experience with Harvey, it's been an inconvenience, hardly more than that. We are about thirty miles outside of the Houston city limits and at our house we received two feet of rain, less than half what the hardest hit areas got. We remained high and mostly dry, although we were stranded for a couple of days by flooded roads. Today the sun is out and the stores are open and traffic is heavy. Life returns to normal. May it do so for the victims of the flooding sooner rather than later.

One more thing: Some are criticizing the mayor and other local officials because they didn't urge widespread evacuations before the storm hit. For those clueless people, I have one word: Rita. When 6 million panicked people try to leave an area at the same time, you get a disaster like Hurricane Rita. Highways and freeways and backroads become parking lots where families are trapped in their cars, running out of gas and out of water with no toilet facilities as the dirty flood waters rise around them. 

The mantra that we hear so often during hurricane season is "Hide from the wind, run from the water." The wind may do terrible damage but the implacable waters will flat out kill you. But often running from the water means running to some place close at hand, not Austin or Dallas. That was, in most cases, the wisest option this time.

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If you have the urge to help those in need because of the storm, The Houston Chronicle has put together a list of groups and agencies that are assisting, along with links where you can contribute to them. I would urge you to contribute to some of these local entities, rather than the Red Cross. Your contribution is more likely to actually get to the Harvey victims. 

And on behalf of my neighbors in need, thank you.

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. Our house just happens to be on relatively high ground.

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  2. Great post, Dorothy, even more so because you are relatively close to this tragedy.

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    1. We feel very fortunate. As we look around us, we know it could have been so much worse.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences. The news is a necessary institution but the individual stories are what I crave. I guess that is why I read novels! I am glad you had a relatively easy time. So did my son and his family. It does look like the recovery for Houston will be harder this time but maybe that infrastructure update will get done. BTW, a guest on Pod Save America pointed out that for the first rescue stages of a disaster the Red Cross is not bad because they have the professional expertise to get the job done. I am not trying to enter the argument but that sounded like a probably true thing.

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    1. It's good to hear that your son and family made it through the storm without major problems. Most of our acquaintance did, also, although some of my daughter's friends who live in apartments had to evacuate and their apartments were flooded. One has apparently lost everything except what she was able to carry with her - mostly her dog and some clothes.

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