Oh, Hey Hurricane Harvey

Bill and I had a big weekend planned this weekend exploring areas of our state we had never seen. We were going to spend Friday going to see the George W Bush Presidential Library and then spend the evening with friends in Bryan, TX. Saturday morning we were heading to Waco to see the mammoth dig and go to the now famous Magnolia Market at the Silos of Chip and Joanna Gains of the popular show Fixer Upper. (I’m not going to lie, I had day dreamed about running into them and telling them our story and them being like, “YES let’s fix up your house.” Because shiplap is cool and I think Joanna and I would be good friends.) We’d researched other things to see in the area, a few bars and coffee shops we wanted to check out, a really cool water park. It was going to be our very first weekend away, just the two of us, ever in almost 9 years of marriage.

Issa had been packed to go to Gamma’s house since Tuesday, to say she was excited would be an understatement.

On Wednesday I heard about hurricane Harvey, that it was headed our way, and that it might be bad. We still planned to go on our trip, remembering tropical storm Bill and a few others that were predicted to be not so great and ended up being duds.

On Thursday I went to my mom’s to help her clean up her yard so water would flow easier and to help put away yard furniture and get things ready for her and Issa if there was going to be a storm.

On Friday predictions got worse and as Bill slept through the day, I’d made the decision in my head that we weren’t going on our trip. Issa and I went to the store and bought some essentials. We got our friend’s house ready who we’ve been house sitting for. Issa helped me pull all the pool floats into our living room. I called and canceled our hotel in Waco. We prepared for the worst, but also for nothing, because with a hurricane, you just don’t know.

After Issa was in bed on Friday, as the eye of Harvey was making landfall some 180 miles south of us, I sat on the couch with Bill and started to cry. “It’s not that I’m scared, I really don’t think we’ll flood, I just know that other people will flood and they will loose everything. I know how that feels, I still feel it, and my heart is broken that anyone else has to feel this.”

For most of Saturday we didn’t get much rain. We had friends and neighbors over both Saturday and Sunday night, the kids played, we all cooked dinner together, we made hurricane drinks. On Saturday night, just before midnight, I went to drain the pool again, as the water had crested. I felt a tiny prick in my heart to check the garage, to see if water was coming up under the garage door as it tended to do in our burned house. It was, but just a little. Then I noticed that water seemed to be draining towards the house, which isn’t really a thing, which is when I realized there was water coming from somewhere and draining OUT of the garage.

I laid on the floor with my flashlight and searched under boxes of things we have stored and a few pieces of furniture. I followed the trail until it ended, and then I realized that up towards the entrance of the garage, just above the boxes of things that had come from the cleaners, what was left of our home, the wall was crying. It was weeping water down the wall and under all the boxes of the remains of our lives. I took two deep breaths and got Bill.

As we moved boxes we realized most of the bottom ones were already soaked and had collapsed some. I took two more deep breaths. I called our neighbors who had just left an hour ago and told them what was happening. In the midst of explanation I lost it and started bawling on the phone. My friend Mary simply said, “We’ll be right there.” Because that’s what amazing friends do, they just come.

For the next hour the four of us moved all the boxes upstairs to an empty bedroom and went through the boxes that had gotten wet. The only thing that was ruined was the dust jacket on one of my cookbooks. That’s it. Thank God for that, and our amazing friends, and that we caught it early and that we have a rent house that has an extra bedroom for storage.

Over the next 24 hours waters rose. I’ve kept up to date on my friends mostly through social media or texts. Two dear friends spent a day on the roof of their house waiting for rescue. Another friend was put under mandatory evacuation today, but there’s no way out. Countless friends have had their houses flood to different magnitudes. My daughter’s school is flooded and they’re not expecting to start school until after Labor Day, maybe longer. We’ve ventured out some and it’s heartbreaking. It’s worse, so much worse than tax day floods last year.

But there is hope, because in every tragedy there is hope, in this one it has come in the form of Texans. I have watched civilians grab their bass boats, canoes and kayaks and go into the waters to pull people out of their flooding homes. I’ve seen local news anchors help save people from flooding vehicles. I’ve seen local news anchors break down in tears as they report on a senior citizen who was pulled from her flooded home. I’ve watched emergency responders work around the clock to help evacuate people. People who don’t have boats are checking on neighbors, taking people in, making grocery runs, and collecting items to donate to shelters.

This is Texas. We have boats and we have big trucks and we have hearts that are even bigger.

I have seen the exact same love we felt from neighbors and our community after our house fire expressed on a massive scale to the entire city of Houston and the surrounding areas from it’s own people. And it’s incredible.

If you are not here experiencing this you have zero room to criticize ANYTHING that is happening here. The men and women who serve this city are doing absolutely everything they can to help, I mean everything and they are doing an excellent job.

I expect most people who have never been here do not understand the magnitude of what has happened. Let me explain.

The city of Houston sits 80’ above sea level and goes down from there (Galveston Island is only 6’ above sea level). Within the city and the greater Houston area is a network of gullies, bayous, creeks, and reservoirs that are all designed to keep the city from flooding. On any normal rainy day they do their job. There are some exceptions, there are areas of roads that are prone to flooding and if you’re a Houstonian you know to avoid them in a bad storm.

This has not been a normal rainy day.

Our annual precipitation averages around 50” (some more or less depending on the resource, I read a few). In total we’ve had close to 39 inches in the last three days (this number varies depending on what area you’re in)! And it is still raining. Almost a whole year’s worth of rain in a few days. Just let that process in your brain a minute.

There is no way to prepare for that.

This is a catastrophic storm. This is not Katrina, this is not Ike, this is not Allison. This is Harvey and Harvey is a WHOLE different ball game. If you want to know the meteorology of it all I suggest you read some from Space City Weather, it’s honest and the least sensationalist weather reports I’ve read.

They did not evacuate us because we’re a population of over 6 million people. They asked us to stay place so the people in imminent danger, those along the coast, in the area of the storm surge and hurricane winds which Houston did not get, could get out. How do you evacuate 6.5 million people? You don’t. That’s 4 times the population of Manhattan, spread over an area larger than the state of Vermont (metropolitan area of Houston is 10,062 square miles).

Everything is bigger in Texas because Texas is HUGE, and like I said, we have hearts to match.
Let me tell you what you CAN expect in the next few days. You can expect to see neighbors helping neighbors. You will see strangers coming to the aid of other strangers. They won’t sit there and ask what religion they are, or age, or race, or political affiliation. You will see humans who see other humans in need and they will help, because that’s what we do here. There won’t be loads of looting and pillaging, we don’t do that here. (If you do see this, its probably one or two cases that non local media chooses to sensationalize.)

You will see people rebuilding. You will see them helping each other. You will see true southern hospitality and love.

There’s a reason Davy Crocket once said, “You can all go to Hell, I will go to Texas.” Even back then he knew it was a great place to be. And it will continue to be great, because the people here are great.

In the mean time, pray for us. Pray for our families, for our city, for our emergency responders. Pray for their families who are sitting this out without them, because they are busy helping others. Pray that the rains will stop. Pray for the waters to recede. Don’t repost anything negative, but please, please share the beauty of what is happening here. This is Texas, this is OUR America.

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