Hi friends! I’m back after a brief blogging hiatus! Things are starting to calm down, but before I get back to “normal,” there is a topic I have to get off my chest. Hurricane Harvey. Or Tropical Storm Harvey. Or The Harvey Flood.
There are so many different names for this disaster, but the end results were the same, and the devestation is still there. Today, I wanted to sit down and tell my story, as someone who experienced it first hand. It’s different than what I usually write, and it will be choppy in places, but I have to put it out there.
You might be wondering why I waited to write this. The storm is long since over, and I’m late to the game. Unfortunately, for my little corner of Texas, this disaster wasn’t over the day the storm ended.
Disasters like Harvey last longer than the storm.
Only today do I feel like things are half way normal. And really, they’re not. I still have friends doing demolition work on homes they worked their whole lives for. Roads are still flooded. My husband and kids are still home.
But, we have power. We have cable, internet, water, and phones. We have a new routine, at least for awhile.
Not everyone was as lucky as we were, so I’m telling the story for them. Because they have bigger things to worry about right now.
I live in Southeast Texas, and this is my story.
We weren’t hit by a Category 4 hurricane, like the citizens of Rockport, but we did still suffer the wrath of the most unpredictable storm in history (at least to my knowledge).
It all started on August 21st.
The remnants of Hurricane Harvey had just re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. It was weak, but we watch anything that enters, because the waters are so warm here. I saw a quick news clip that mentioned the remnants of a hurricane in the Gulf right before I went grocery shopping.
We didn’t think it was going to do much. I mean, it was barely a tropical depression at that point, but something told me to grab extra bottled water while I was shopping. Honestly, it was for no other reason than the fact that we only drink bottled water, and I didn’t want to risk stores being wiped out. I wasn’t thinking much about this storm, yet.
Wednesday, August 23rd.
Over the next couple of days, Harvey strengthened and became a tropical storm again. I was getting anxious. My husband was away for work, and they were starting to predict a category 1 hurricane making landfall on the Texas coast. While that type of storm doesn’t normally worry me, I was alone with two young girls and just had a really bad feeling. I can’t even explain it. Everyone told me to calm down. It was just rain. No big deal. But, I had a pit in my stomach and watched this storm closely. It just didn’t feel right.
I met a friend for a playdate and snapped this picture for Facebook and mentioned the storm. I had multiple people tell me “it’ll just be a little rain.” Still, I couldn’t shake the bad feeling I had.
Thursday, August 24th.
By now, the models were starting to show that not only was Harvey going to make landfall as a hurricane on the Texas coast, but that it was going to possibly re-enter the Gulf and come back for a more direct hit on the Texas-Louisiana border. My home. It was strengthening faster than anyone could have imagined, and had a very erratic track. In my whole life, I have never seen a storm make landfall, turn around, and come back and make landfall again. I knew then that my gut instinct was right, and that I was right to fear this storm from day one.
That day, my husband was given permission to come home early. He had to finish out Friday at work, but Saturday morning, he was given leave to come home and help us prepare. We were expecting our direct hit on Sunday or Monday, so the timing was perfect, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing he’d be home with us.
Friday, August 25th.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi (Rockport) as a Category 4 hurricane, with the track showing that it would re-enter the Gulf of Mexico and come back for a more direct hit on my town in a few days. We started getting bands of wind and rain, but after the warnings we’d heard on the news all week, this was nothing. A lot of locals let their guards down, but I knew this wasn’t over.
Being on the East side of a storm as it makes landfall is bad. That’s called the “dirty” side of a storm, and carries a lot of damage on it’s own. Still, we were pretty far away, so the weather was more mild than we’d expected that night. It wasn’t over, though.
Saturday, August 26th.
My husband was driving home! Yay! He had a long drive ahead of him, but it felt so good to know that he would be home before we all went to bed that night. I was so nervous, though. Part of his trip brought him close to Houston, which was getting a lot more wind and rain than we were. As he got closer, I got antsier. He called at every rest-stop to let me know he was okay, but otherwise, I didn’t call. I didn’t want him to be distracted on the road, with all the other distracted drivers.
When he called me only 30 minutes after we’d gotten off the phone from his last stop, I knew something was wrong. I was right. He’d gotten in a major accident, and his truck was completely totaled. Another driver T-boned him while attempting an illegal U-Turn, and while he was okay, his truck wasn’t. He was stranded, an hour from home, in the pouring rain, covered in glass from the truck.
Image he sent me of his truck after we got off the phone.
I couldn’t believe it. I’m still so grateful that we know so many great people. My cousin’s husband left in the middle of the storm and went to help him, so I wouldn’t have to get out with both kids in such bad weather and precarious conditions. I’ll be forever grateful to him for that day.
Sunday, August 27th.
The weather started picking up even more. The storm bands were dumping a lot more rain, and this system became a bit more of a reality for my little town. We were inundated with tornado warnings and flash flood warnings the entire night and into the day. My road and parts of my yard flooded, and we pretty much just waited and watched. In the early evening, we had a nice break from the weather and got out to go eat with my cousin and see how our town was fairing. There was a lot of water everywhere. The storm hadn’t even actually hit us yet, which felt so ominous to me. Luckily, with a few hours of no rain, a lot of the water had time to recede. The dry spells in the beginning of the storm were our saving grace. Otherwise, we certainly would have flooded.
Our street, as it started taking on water.
Monday, August 28th.
School was canceled for the week, and we were looking at another day stuck inside. The storm still wasn’t over, and it was starting to get to all of us. We’d been pummeled for 3 days, and we were starting to feel the effects. The storm was still coming in waves, though, so we tried to make the best of it when we had a few moments of peace. The kids played in the pool for awhile when we had a few moments of sun, which I know was so good for them. They were restless and scared, and sometimes it’s good to just forget what’s going on around you and have some fun.
Tuesday, August 29th.
As the storm inched closer, our breaks were fewer. The water situation was getting so scary, and no one was sleeping very well for fear of what they’d wake up to the next morning. At one point, we went outside and saw that there was less than half a foot before the water reached our house. That was incredibly scary. The bridge that leads into our town closed. We expected it, but it meant that we were essentially trapped until the storm was over.
That night, I didn’t sleep at all. I was too scared to wake up to water in my house. Trees were being thrown around, I heard big limbs coming down, and at one point, we had to go remove the cover off of our back patio. It was a scary night. The storm stopped moving that night. It just sat over us and dumped feet of rain over my little corner of Texas for hours. A tropical storm isn’t supposed to be scary, but this one was.
Wednesday, August 30th.
It was over. Well, sort of. When the winds had died down and the rain had slowed, I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. That morning, I was woken up by the sounds of rescue helicopters, ATVs, and sirens. Those sounds surrounded me, and forced me to face reality. We’d been incredibly lucky during the storm, but many of our neighbors and friends had not.
They spent the entire day performing rescues in the flooded waters. Boats were launching on roadways, helicopters were touching down in parking lots, and people were leaving their homes with nothing but what they could carry on their backs.
All we’d lost was part of a tree, that landed safely in our yard. I couldn’t believe it.
Thursday, August 31st.
The main road through town, taken by a fellow resident, Chandra.
Wednesday and Thursday were full of checking on friends, helping where we could, and assessing the damage in our local area. We donated what we could, helped those in need, and cried with our friends who lost everything.
At some point that day, it was announced that the dams further north of us had to open. We are surrounded by water, and were about to have even more headed our way. With all of the roads out flooded, we were pretty trapped.
Many friends that didn’t live in town kept insisting I get out. People called crying and scared for us, but there was nowhere to go. Officials claimed that it would not be catastrophic flooding, but it didn’t stop the rumors. Every prediction for the last week had been wrong. Why should we believe this one?
I felt trapped. Hopeless. I remember comparing what I felt to being in a Hunger Games arena. What were they going to throw at us next? Would we survive?
Still, I couldn’t do anything about it. I swallowed my panic and prepared for the massive flooding that I hoped wouldn’t happen. I cried as I gathered life jackets, important papers, and a ladder. Nighmares of having to climb on our roof were all consuming.
Photo from my husband, showing rising waters and storm flooding on the bayou.
The next few days were kind of a blur. I cooked for friends, baked for local volunteers, and got a chance to re-stock on necessities when we could make it to Walmart. It was a scary trip in my car. There was still a lot more water than I’d assumed, and parts of the road were washed away. Days later, and there was still so much water everywhere.
And it was rising again.
We continued to monitor the water closely, but I started to relax. It was rising slowly, and we couldn’t see it in my neighborhood at all. Many of my friends were still unable to return home, though, and many still had water in their homes.
But this wasn’t the life-threatening flooding that everyone feared. I could handle this.
With the immediate threat finally over, and the water startng to recede, my mind was finally able to return to my blog and business. Monday, I was able to announce that I was going back to business as usual on my blog. Things aren’t back to normal, but it’s nice to put my mind on something other than rising waters.
The view from my mom’s porch, AFTER the water started receding and the sun came out.
I still can’t believe we were so lucky.
The last few weeks were incredibly scary, and the fear it caused was all consuming. We only lost half of a tree, which is amazing to me.
For those of you that lost everything, I am so incredibly sorry. My heart hurts for you. I’ve been there, and I know it is so painful. It might be “just stuff,” but that stuff is memories, and it hurts.
I wish I could do more. Really, I do. I wish I had enough money to donate to help each family that got impacted. For now, I will do what I can, and I’ll hope that it can be enough.
For those of you wanting to help:
In big disasters like this, there is always this urge to help. If you want to help, but don’t know how, this is a great article on how you can do so. This disaster was so far-reaching, and affected so many people througout the Texas coast. While I’d love to recommend that you donate to our local charities, I know that’s not fair to those further away that also suffered. We all need help, and we all need to be in this together right now.