First of all, if you are looking for a way to help, here are a couple options near and dear to me:
Space Family Education Teachers in Need – This YouCaring fund was set up by a very good friend and coworker of mine. Money donated will go directly to several teachers at the NASA daycare who lost homes and vehicles. These wonderful teachers have cared for my girls for 5 years now, and are a very real part of my extended family.
CCISD Cares – Four days before this mess began, Emma started kindergarten in the Clear Creek Independent School District. Monetary donations via this site will go to the Clear Creek Education Foundation and directly benefit families in the school district affected by Harvey.
Houston Flood Relief Fund – If you’re looking for something bigger, Houston Texans player JJ Watt started a YouCaring site that has already brought in almost $16 million. (Yes, million.) I can’t personally vouch for JJ Watt because I don’t know any NFL players personally (ha!) but JJ Watt is a local icon. As far as professional athletes who are also seem to be just plain good people, JJ is the real deal.
Here’s Part 1 of my Harvey experience, if you missed it.
Sunday, August 27:
I’m not sure I’ve ever been as happy to see daylight as I was on Sunday morning after the hellish night we had. Around 10:30, I walked over to the bayou in a slight drizzle to check things out. I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to get there, but the streets in my neighborhood were all clear. When I got to the bayou, this is what I found:
Needless to say, I’d never seen it this high before — because it’s never BEEN this high before. (Reference the first photo in yesterday’s post as a comparison, and know that even that water level was significantly higher than normal.) Harris County has a great system of stream gauges that you can view online, and the closest one to this location is about a half mile downstream. That location crested at 16 feet, which is 3 feet above the top of the bank and 1.5 feet higher than it reached during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Allison had been Houston’s “record-breaking” flood…until now anyway.
Around midday, we got the news that Emma’s school district would be closed all week and with the Labor Day holiday coming up, that means no school until September 5. This totally made sense to me, and yet was somehow also caught me completely by surprise. I mean, closing an entire school district for a week means there is SERIOUS stuff going on — and there were dozens of other school districts that were making the same call. I also have to admit that I had a few moments of thinking “what the heck am I going to DO with my girls for the next 10 days when it is constantly raining and we’re housebound…” but I figured I had no choice but to remain zen. There were obviously much bigger things to worry about.
Both Jose and I had gotten a grand total of about 3 hours of sleep the night before (and that’s including the 2-hour stretch from 6-8 a.m.) so when Charlotte went down for a nap, I laid down too and slept for about an hour.
We had more storms throughout the morning, including another tornado warning around lunchtime, but that afternoon we had several mostly rain-free hours. Still, the weather went downhill again after dark. There was another intense period of rainfall — more than 3 inches in the 10:00 hour — and the water once again began to crawl up the yard. It stayed below the high water line from Saturday night before though, and when the rain rate lessened towards midnight, we could see that it was already beginning to drain. It sounds weird to say this, considering all the flooding that occurred, but watching our street fill and drain left me seriously impressed with how WELL Houston’s drainage system is designed. Our network of streams and bayous really can move a LOT of water in a short amount of time. But when the rain is coming down at insane rates of 3, 4, even 5 inches per hour…even a well designed system can’t keep up with that amount of water spread out across the entire city.
I finally went to bed around midnight, fully expecting to be woken up at some point by either more torrential rain or tornado warnings, but the night was miraculously quiet after that late evening burst. (I should point out that quiet doesn’t mean it wasn’t raining, but it does mean it was raining at a manageable rate.) We were able to sleep straight through to around 8:00.
Monday, August 28:
My neighbor’s rain gauge bucket had now measured 40 inches of rain in the 72 hours since Friday morning. The space center closed — we’d heard that at some point on Saturday or Sunday, although now I can’t remember — so there was no work for Jose or me, and we heard by afternoon that it would be closed on Tuesday too. Sometime around midday, I walked into my bathroom and heard giggling coming from my closet. After several bouts of sheltering in the closet during tornado warnings, apparently Emma thought it was now a fun game! I couldn’t help but laugh, and figured that Jose and I must be doing a good job if Emma thought it was fun instead of scary.
While Harvey was now a tropical storm, it was still meandering around Texas between here and Corpus Christi and continuing to dump rain on us. We had a slight break in the morning, but by early afternoon we were under a big blob of yellow on the radar and just had steady, steady rain, averaging right around 1 inch per hour. That wasn’t enough to cause our street to flood again, but it was enough to make me keep a worried eye on the stream gauge closest to us as the bayou once again began to creep up towards the top of its banks.
Jose and I both stayed up pretty late. I think we were both feeling a bit nervous that after the past few days, this last gasp of the storm would somehow push us over the edge and we’d end up flooded. In retrospect, I think that fear was unwarranted. We’re far enough from the bayou that it would have to be severely (basically unrealistically) flooded to reach us, and the rain rate was slow enough that street flooding wasn’t too much of a concern. But at the time, after the two previous nights and seeing all the coverage both on the news and on our social media feeds of the devastation all around us, it felt imminent. We finally fell asleep around 2 a.m. and at some point this night, my neighbor’s bucket reached 50 inches.
Tuesday, August 29:
By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was SO. DARN. OVER. the rain but there was hope on the horizon, since the forecast called for Harvey finally — FINALLY — moving far enough east that Houston would finally have dry skies. It rained on and off, never too awfully hard and sometimes just a drizzle. We found out at some point during the day that the space center had decided to stay closed all week, so no work for us until after Labor Day. Alex and Krystle drove back to Corpus Christi, but Jose’s mom stayed here with us.
Our neighbor (the same one that had the bucket gauge) invited us and some other friends over for a “hurricane potluck” so I spent an hour that afternoon making jambalaya and cookie brownies before walking over there around 4:00. The kids all ran around like crazy burning off some energy while the adults swapped near-miss flood stories and inhaled the entire pan of brownies. While sitting in their den, we saw our very first ray of sunlight in 5 long days!! Everyone saw it at the same time and literally whooped out loud.
Wednesday, August 30:
No! Rain! No! Rain! Our neighbors officially retired their bucket gauge, having measured 59 inches of rain in our part of Clear Lake. Jose and I went for a walk with Charlotte while Emma stayed home with Jose’s mom, and it felt AMAZING to be out in the sunshine. That afternoon we ventured out of our neighborhood for the first time since Thursday and dropped off some donations at the Gilruth Center and went to Kroger for some groceries. That night as Jose and I sat on the couch, we noticed that it seemed really, really quiet — and then realized that was because we weren’t hearing rain anymore.
Thursday, August 31:
Ah, another sunny morning! Jose got up and quickly set to work gathering some supplies and tools before heading over to help clean out a house belonging to one of the teachers at Charlotte’s daycare. They had about 3 feet of water in house and everything was a total loss. He said it was one of the saddest things he’s ever seen — they were literally just taking everything out of the house and throwing it on the curb, ripping out carpet, and cutting drywall halfway up the wall. By the time he left, he said everything from 4 feet down was studs and concrete.
I stayed with the girls all day and took Charlotte for a long walk in the morning while Emma stayed with Jose’s mom. We passed over the now infamous bayou near our house, which was finally looking more more like normal. As we walked, I talked to our insurance company since I’d gone ahead and filed a claim a few days earlier for the damage to our dining room floor. They’re going to send an adjustor, but in the end it’s unlikely that we’ll file a claim unless we find more significant damage. (The damage would fall under our windstorm policy and due to our gulf coast location, that policy has a pretty high deductible. I highly doubt our damage will cost more than our deductible — and in this case, I figure that’s actually a GOOD thing.)
That afternoon, the girls and I played outside for a while with our next door neighbors and after Jose got home and showered, we all went to Bullritos for dinner. It was nice to do something that felt normal, like going out to eat!
Friday, September 1:
Well, that brings us to today. We got up, ate breakfast, and went over to the neighborhood park where Emma’s elementary school had arranged a “brain break.” There were a ton of kids there and several teachers, including Emma’s kindergarten teacher — she was really excited to see her. As we walked back home for lunch, I got a robo-call saying the school district will be now closed all next week as well and reopen on the 11th. Several schools had varying levels of flood damage and they need the time to get them ready for reopening. Whew — 2 full weeks of school missed. Crazy.
Jose and I will be going back to work on Tuesday, and Charlotte’s daycare will open that day as well. I’m not sure what we will do with Emma yet since she’ll still be out, but I’m hoping she’ll be able to go back to the daycare with Charlotte as a drop-in. There will surely be other parents wanting to do that as well, but they already announced that kindergarteners with siblings still there would have highest priority so we should be ok. If not, I guess one of us will telework from home with Emma.
Jose’s mom is still here, and we are trying to figure out how to get her back to Corpus Christi relatively soon. We had booked her a flight on Sunday, but it’s already been cancelled — Southwest is still figuring out exactly what they can support from the airport here as it recovers. We’ve now booked a different flight on Sunday, but my guess is there’s a 50/50 chance of that being cancelled too. Jose can always drive her back, but that’d be an 8-hour driving commitment (4 hours each way) so it’s the least desirable option.
It’s hard to believe that a whole week has passed since this all began. As we’ve gotten out more over the last couple days, it’s been amazing to see what’s going on around us, both good and bad. There are so many people nearby who lost everything, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Yet in our immediate area — our neighborhood and the ones that border us — most people have escaped relatively unscathed. There are roof leaks and window leaks but when the alternative is inches or feet of water in the house, leaks seem downright laughable.
Trying to imagine what it will take for our city to recover makes my head spin. And it’s not really just Houston — Harvey left a swath of destruction from Corpus Christi all the way to the Louisiana border, hundreds of miles of coastline and dozens of miles inland. So many homes gone. So many people displaced. So many lives changed.
But there’s nothing like the can-do spirit of Texans to meet this challenge. Collection points are inundated with donations. Houses are demoed in hours because so many volunteers show up ready to work. Businesses are opening their doors to refugees. Restaurants are serving meals to anyone who needs it. There’s a feeling that we are all in this together, and that together we’ve been knocked down.
And together we will get back up.