We recently had to evacuate from our home for 7 days due to Hurricane Harvey that hit the Gulf Coast. Fortunately, the levee that surrounds our subdivision held against the 4 foot of water it had around it, and the river crested lower than initially predicted.
We don’t live in Houston. Since most of our news comes out of Houston, they were the most televised place. Many surrounding areas got hit super hard as well.
Hurricane Harvey Was Not Picky
With that being said, I spent a lot of years watching “those people” get hit by a storm. When some died, I commented, “Why would they dare to go back? It’s just stuff.” We came back 4 times after we had the kids at my parents.
I’ve watched the tragic stories of people losing everything. A lot of times I’ve noticed that the people who got hit the hardest by flooding were the neighborhoods that cost the least to live in. Harvey left no race, class, age, suburban, urban, rural, tall, short, fat, skinny untouched. The who’s who and the has nots and all the in-between got hit.
Everyone in the Gulf Coast and surrounding knows someone who was deeply affected by Harvey. We had 45+ inches of rain. Just say that to yourself. 50 inches! It fell in 6 days. That’s 27 trillion gallons of water that fell on Texas and Louisiana. We usually don’t get that in a year!
You Never Think It Will Be You
Needless to say, we did not have a plan. We had only been in our house a little over 5 months when it happened. The same thing happened last year in this area, but they called it the 100-year flood. Not knowing what that means, we thought it meant that it only happens every 100 years. No, it means there’s a 1/100 chance it’s going to happen. We only plan to stay in this house 2-4 years, so we didn’t think we had anything to worry about.
I did tell myself in the process of buying the home and seeing the drone pictures from last year that if heavy rain came, I was taking the kids and leaving. I hoped Chris would come, but I was not risking anything.
Well, it happened. The very next year we got the 1000 year flood! That doesn’t mean a flood that happens every 1000 years, in fact, experts say the last time this happened was probably 40,000 years ago. I’m thinking- Noah! It means there’s a 1/1000 chance this much rain would come in a year.
Before the hurricane hit land, we started getting wind and rain sometimes lasting all day, some days in cycles because we were charted on the “dirty side”. Basically, you don’t want to see your county below the hurricane path. You get it a lot worse than those above to the best of my understanding. When I say rain, I’m talking pouring down, so it made evacuating not so easy.
Saturday morning I started throwing some things in suitcases. I wasn’t just all that panicked that morning, but after spending that evening until the next morning in a closet with the two boys due to tornado warnings buzzing on our phone very often, I got panicked. Besides that, our community was now under mandatory evacuation.
Staying in the closet due to non-stop tornado warnings
You look around and you don’t know where to begin with your material possessions. One moment you’re thinking it’s just stuff, and then the more you look around the next moment you’re trying to save it all.
I knew a lady whose house burned in the night. She always talked about losing the photos, the things she inherited, some things that were given to her as gifts, and the kid’s keepsakes. This came to mind, so I put all of these types of things in tubs and moved them upstairs.
Make 2 Lists Now
Make 2 lists. The first list would be if I could only take 5 things or 10 things due to time what would I take. The second list would be if you have a couple of days to get out.
List the things that mean the most to you, the things that you want to pass to your children, things that you know you would cry over for more than a day or two. We put the keepsakes, the computer and a few other things upstairs.
Put the list in a place that you can get to quickly. I’m thinking taped to the backside of a kitchen cabinet door quick.
Leave When Your Gut Says Go
Sunday the rain and wind came back. We packed the car up with food and luggage and headed to my parents. We managed to make it to my parents on a longer altered route than our usual 20-minute route.
The second thing I want to advise is the minute your gut tells you to go, do it! Conditions and traffic only get worse no matter what you are evacuating from.
After no sleep and a lot of discussion of what was in our house throughout the night, Chris came back the next morning and got a few things like the kids’ pictures, baby books, my computer which contains thousands of the kids’ pictures and a few other things. I felt better that day now that we had these possessions saved for sure.
We Kept Coming Back
That Monday night I was reading my community Facebook page and someone posted that if the levee broke we’d have water on the second floor. Basically, our subdivision would fill up like a fish bowl. I told Chris what it said, and I panicked. I woke my mom, asked her to go sleep with the kids, and at 1:30 am we left in the rain, had to take an even longer route due to flooded roads, and we were the only one on the road except for maybe 4 cars the whole trip. It’s good to know that many people follow advice and stay off the road.
We backed the van into the garage, and we quickly went through the house and picked out everything that we thought meant too much, and we put it in the van. We took the rest of the pictures, the keepsake boxes, the kids’ clothes, our favorite clothes and shoes only, our dogs’ ashes, things of this sort.
You do not ever want to have to look at all of your belongings and make the yes or no decision on the spur of the moment. We then preceded to make about 50 trips up the stairs with everything else. During this time, due to the projections and things being said on the news, I was trying to prepare myself for the chance of getting water in the second story.
We headed back to my parents at 4 something a.m. When we crossed that rapid flowing, clay-tinted river with the moon shining down on it, it looked and felt like the devil was present. It was so scary to me. A really weird feeling came over me. I told Chris it would be the last time I crossed the river until after it crested. I didn’t even trust the bridges.
Chris took this when he went back the next morning.
One Last Trip
On the way back to my parents, Chris decided he was going back in the morning for our kid’s stuffed animal and puppet collection. We spend a lot of time playing with these, and our boys love them. If they got wet, we’d have to throw them all out. I slept easier than the night before, though we were constantly waking to check the water level of the river. It was expected to crest at 59 feet. Our levees are made to withstand 59 feet. Every day they moved the day the river was supposed to crest back a day. It was agonizing. We had a lot of time to beg God, and I did! (I’m aware we’re told not to beg.)
Our neighborhood (the subdivision with the trees and roads in upper middle) from the Channel 2 helicopter view.
When Someone Offers Help- Take It
The next day as soon as we woke, Chris headed back to the house. My dad and his helper met Chris here, and they moved everything else that they could upstairs. My cousin came and put some of the stuff in a trailer and took it to higher ground. We were appreciative of any help we could get. That’s my third bit of advice. If someone asks if they can do something to help, take them up on it. Now it was just a wait and see game.
Long story short and thankfully, the river crested around 57.5 feet. My neighborhood drained well and stayed very dry, but everything surrounding it was extremely flooded. I am forever grateful that I did not have to clean that red river water out of my home. This was not the story for so many. The drama and agony would continue in the days to follow as the rivers flowed downstream and more areas flooded. Dams and reservoirs released water that flooded 1000s of homes in Houston along the bayous that drain them.
Think About Others
Make plans for your pets. It is the law that hotels cannot reject your dogs or cats if you had to leave an area due to a natural disaster. If you are single, make plans with someone near you to evacuate with. If you have an elderly living beside you, make plans to take them with you and inform them that you will be taking them. Seeing so many elderlies who stayed or were left behind was heart-wrenching. Think about how you/they would take care of medications, dialysis, etc. Just have a household plan for you and your loved ones, and inform all those involved. You can’t be too safe.
Buy flood insurance. We and many in our area did not have flood insurance because if you are not in a flood plain it’s not required in order to make your home loan. We found out that flood insurance is a government thing. It’s not something you have to price with different companies.
Everyone gets the same price for the same price home no matter the company. It’s not that expensive. The average middle class will pay around $450 a year. It takes a month to go into effect, so if you call to buy it like we did when the river starts rising, it will be good a month from that day. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
I would suggest if you live within 5 to 6 miles of any major waterways, get flood insurance. There were places where the river near my home had a girth of 11 miles wide. The bayous in Houston spanned out over a mile on one side. People who lived in homes for over 50 years and never had water, got water. If you never have to use it, Amen!
Picking Up the Pieces From Hurricane Harvey
Just last week I took a detour through a neighborhood up the road from me. It is shocking to see so many homes that still have sheetrock and insolation on the curb. Every few homes had a POD out front storing items while the house was renovated. Some weren’t so fortunate. They had their belongings outside with tarps over them. It was a reminder that this is far from over for many!
One thing I can say and one thing everyone is saying is that they saw and are seeing God more than ever in all of this. People are pulling together and churches are rising up and working together more than anyone in generations in this area have ever seen. All of the people with boats that came out to the rescue, it could have never happened without them! People came from miles. Thank ya’ll.
Our region will rebuild, and it will be even better than we hoped it would be. Previously, I had become e a little blah about being a Texan. The economy went down with the oil and gas crisis. The small town where I grew up is projected to be the fastest growing area in Texas within the next 5 years. I prefer rural. The summers are sooo darn hot. I could go on and on! But after Harvey, my Proud to Be a Texan-ness is oh so renewed and stronger than ever. It’s something you can’t explain. You just have to experience it. Kind of like being an Aggie.
Call to Action
If you live in an area where natural disasters occur (anywhere) if you’ve always watched the news and felt so bad for “those people” who “it” happens to, I encourage you to start making your lists. I encourage you to know every way there is to get to every major everywhere from your house. You never know what direction to head and which roads will be closed in the heat of the moment.
If you have smaller children, leave when your gut says, “Go!” Don’t wait for the mayor or governor to make that call for you. Don’t wait for someone to be waiting in front of your home with a boat while you’re trying to make the decision what to grab. I regretted not leaving that Saturday. My kids saw me too panicked.
If It Happens Again Thoughts
I say if it ever happens again, I will pack up the things I love best, move what I can upstairs but probably not as much as I did last time. (Some of it is still up there. Ugh.) We will go on vacation in an area that’s not going to be affected.
There is no reason for the kids to experience us agonizing for a week. There is no reason for us to have so much anxiety for a week. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. You have the days off that don’t count as vacation days. You may as well spend them somewhere great with those that you love.
When you return home, no matter the condition, what we along the Gulf Coast have learned is – in the end, all that matters is that you have each other!
*Pictures in this blog are not to my expectation, but they are the only photos I rightfully own to depict the story.
Read How Not to Handle a Natural Disaster Here: https://www.thisnthatparenting.com/2017/12/07/wrong-ways-to-handle-tragic-events/
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Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours! Remember to have fun, laugh and give God the glory! I love you! SS