Hurricane Harvey Hits Close to Home – Part 1

In this next blog, Kim, a friend of Our Front Porch who lives near Houston, Texas shares her experience of Hurricane Harvey and how it impacted her day-to-day life, her family and her community.

A home in Spring, TX during Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: David J. Phillip, AP.

My husband and I are originally from the Midwest, relocating to a Houston suburb almost 4 yrs ago; so we’re completely naïve and unfamiliar with the ‘threat’ of a hurricane/tropical storm. In the days leading up to Harvey heading toward the Houston area, we went about our week ignoring the warnings and recommendations from the local news to ‘prepare’ for the incoming storm, i.e. stock up on water, bread, etc., fill up your bathtubs with water in case we lose water, buy a generator, or even evacuate.

My son’s elementary school cancelled school the Friday leading into the weekend when the storm hit Houston. We rolled our eyes and were like “What?! Because of some rain…., oh well!” Watching the news that Friday morning, reports of the grocery store frenzy was top story as people prepared for the impending storm. My husband and I looked at each other with shrugged shoulders, and before I knew it, I was driving to my local grocery at 6:45am. When I got there, I could not believe what I was seeing! It was like a Black Friday shopping experience – the aisles were picked over and bare…produce, milk, bread, bottled water – and the checkouts lined up with customers all the way to the back of the store. I stood for a second in disbelief and then wandered through the store unsure of what I should put in my basket. I grabbed bottled water because everyone else was and a few other items, then headed towards the back of store to get in line. The remainder of that day was just like any other overcast day with occasional rain.

The next morning, Saturday, I planned to head to the local YMCA to workout. The facility was still open despite a lot of local businesses closing and the area being under a tornado & flood warning. Only 4 miles away, I figured I could get there easily. But 2-3 miles into the drive, my gut feeling told me to turn around – the heavy rainfall had water already pooling on the roads, the winds were gusting sideways at the car, and the entire sky was dark gray. The YMCA location is in a flood zone prone to flooding quickly in the past, AND I was pretty much the only one out on the roads, so I headed home.

Our family spent the next 3 days at home. I was glued to the TV watching all the local news stations as reports of flooding and water rescues inundated the 24-hour coverage. I could not pull myself away and watched in disbelief that this was happening all around our city. If I wasn’t watching TV, I was peering out the windows keeping an eye on our yard and home for any potential areas of flooding. We live next to a wooded lot with a creek, so my husband kept an eye on the creek level rising over time. We maintained contact with our friends around the area to make sure everyone was safe and dry. Several of them live in either a flood-prone neighborhood, on a lake, or near a main road where families were told to evacuate. Thankfully all of our friends were safe, dry and had power.

We continued to watch the news to keep abreast of what was happening, plus school, church and business closures. One evening the live news coverage of high-water rescues was from our former neighborhood in Spring, TX. I knew exactly where they were filming from – our old street that backed up to a creek. The creek had overflown and caused major flooding on that side of the neighborhood. Our old home on that street was a single-story ranch, and I’m sure the flood waters reached near the top of the garage based on what I was seeing on the news. I could not help but think, that could have been us

Being homebound and immersed in local news, my heart was heavy and tears came out of sadness for others who were directly affected, guilt that my family was safe, and helplessness. Our church immediately became a local donation site for supplies – clothing, bedding, food, etc. Yet we could not get there to help or drop-off items because the main roads to travel there still had high water, and the local news kept warning people to stay off the roads. My friend’s local church is just 3 miles from us, and they started gathering each evening to collect and sort donations. As a family, we went shopping at the local stores that were open for business and bought carts full of hygiene items, diapers, socks, and bath towels. We took the supplies to my friend’s church and joined in their community effort as we packaged about 500 hygiene kits that night. That single evening provided such a rich experience for myself and my family – our sons (6 & 4yr) learning about helping others in need, an unfamiliar church welcoming us and coming together to serve the Houston community.

With my sons’ school district closed for the week and my husband working from home the remainder of the week, it gave us time to see where the relief efforts were taking place. Despite my personal lack of social media interest, I can understand how useful it is in dispersing mass information. I began looking for ways to help in our local community. Our town of Conroe had several neighborhoods, businesses, restaurants, YMCA, and more that experienced flooding. Our church partnered with one of the neighborhoods and set up teams of volunteers to go there for home demolition and meal provision.

To be continued in Part 2!