Whew. If you’ve been watching the news, you know it’s been quite a ride here in Houston over the last several days as Hurricane Harvey spun up in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall on the Texas coast. It’s hard to believe that only five days ago, we thought we were in for a mere “rainy weekend.”
Forecasters had been tracking the potential for a tropical storm (or mayyyybe a Category 1 hurricane) for a few days, but it wasn’t until Thursday morning that the forecasts I was watching took a turn for the worse, indicating that there was now the potential for it to turn into a hurricane — even as much as Category 3. All of the prediction models showed it heading straight for Corpus Christi, so Jose and I took quick action and bought his mom a plane ticket for the last flight of the day from Corpus to Houston. Later that day, Jose’s brother and his wife (who is pregnant and due in October) decided to drive up as well. Most of the rest of Jose’s family headed west from Corpus to Laredo, and a few chose to stay behind to ride it out.
Yes, we knew we were in for lots of rain but in retrospect I still say having them come here was the right call. Laredo would have been better — his family is essentially stranded here due to all the flooding both here and in all the areas between here and CC, while those who went to Laredo are already back home in Corpus. But the point was to get them out of CC, and flooding is still preferable to being stuck in the middle of what turned out to be a Category 4 hurricane.
It was my flex day off work, and Emma’s school district preemptively cancelled classes. Jose stayed home too, and he and Alex spent several hours cleaning out the gutters on our house (well, those that were reachable) with a ladder. Alex and Krystle went out to the movies to salvage a bit of the “babymoon” they’d originally had planned in San Antonio for the weekend, and the rest of us spent the day hanging out and watching the Weather Channel. I went out to get lunch from Panera. It was rainy but everything else was normal.
That night, we were all glued to the TV and internet as Harvey — now a Category 4 major hurricane — made landfall in Port Aransas and Rockport. We were all very relieved that the storm went a few miles north of Corpus Christi because even a few miles can make a big difference, but heartbroken for Port A and Rockport. (We spent a week in Port A a few years ago and I imagine much of it is now severely damaged.) Jose’s family members that stayed behind in Corpus lost power and had some relatively minor damage to roofs and fences from the wind, but were otherwise ok.
In retrospect, the daytime hours were certainly the calm before the storm as far as Houston was concerned! We had some heavy rain in the morning, but the rest of the day was cloudy and mostly dry. After lunch, we walked over to check out Horsepen Bayou where it crosses a nearby road, then to Kroger to pick up some more snacks and treats. It was Alex’s birthday, so I baked a cake that afternoon. If he had to spend the day on hurricane evacuation, at least we were able to have cake that night!
My neighbor turned a large bucket into a makeshift rain gauge, and through the evening we’d had 7.5 inches of rain. I should note that 7.5 inches in itself is a LOT of rain for one day, but pales in comparison to what was to come. We knew there was a big storm band headed for us in the nighttime hours, and as darkness fell we sat around nervously watching the weather radar. We anticipated tornado warnings associated with the storms, so we put both girls to bed downstairs in our bedroom. Emma went right to sleep but Charlotte thinks the pack-and-play means it’s time to party. She was up until almost 11 p.m. in an almost ridiculously happy mood — even chanting “baa baa black sheep” and clapping her hands.
The edge of the storm band arrived at 10:00 and it was intense. The street in front of our house quickly started to flood but there wasn’t anything we could do other than sit and wait it out. I found myself walking in circles around the house, checking the water level in the front, checking drainage in the back, feeling around the windows for leaks, and scrolling through my phone watching the radar and reading storm updates online. (And amidst all this I finally got Charlotte to sleep in her room upstairs. Clearly her room was where she felt comfortable, so we finally put her up there, even though we later had to retrieve her during a couple tornado warnings.)
The water came about halfway up our front yard, but then held steady for the next few hours without continuing to rise. Whew!! We discovered that water was seeping into the dining room (aka my sewing room) under the floor boards — I stepped on it and it squished. We’re still not entirely sure how the water was (and still is) getting in, but I’ve got my suspicions. The wetness is under the front windows, and the leftmost window had a bit of water pooling in the bottom of the frame. Right outside that left window is where the gutter overflows two stories up, causing a waterfall down the front of the house and a large pool in the corner of the flowerbed between the foundation and the front porch. I think the water probably seeps through the weep holes in the brick and in retrospect, I think this has actually happened before — perhaps before we bought the house — because I had previously noticed that the floor boards in that area already looked a little different than the surrounding room.
So we’ll need to replace the floor at some point in the near future, and figure out how to prevent additional leaks down the road. We need to have the gutter cleaned (it’s too high for us to reach on our own) and repaired (because it tips toward the front) and I’m hoping that in itself will be enough to mitigate the waterfall-down-the-house issue. As for the floors, the foundation in that room is very uneven already, to the point that it was noticeable when walking from one side of the room to the other. I’m choosing to view this relatively minor leak as a good opportunity to fix that!
Around 2:30, the rain finally slacked off a bit. Per my neighbor’s rain gauge, we had 17 inches of rain in that ~4 hour period. Jose and I managed to get ourselves in bed, but only got about 30 minutes of sleep before the deluge started up again and we were hit with a some back-to-back tornado warnings. We carried the girls into my closet, and they actually slept through the first one. They both woke up a bit during the second, at which point Charlotte decided more partying was called for. It took a while to get her back to sleep, and after several attempts in the pack-and-play with us I finally gave up and took her back up to her room where she settled in quickly.
I was about to head back to bed when I noticed a dark spot on the carpet upstairs, and found water dripping (very slowly) through a can light in the ceiling. Sigh. I headed up into the attic but couldn’t immediately identify the water source, so I went back down, put a bowl under the drip and finally — finally! — collapsed into bed around 6 a.m. and was able to sleep for 2 hours while the rain finally slowed to a trickle.
By 8:00, Emma was waking up and I had text and voice messages on my phone from my very worried mom. I hadn’t heard the ring because at some point during the night I had put my phone on silent since we were getting emergency flood and tornado alerts basically non-stop. (I think the blare of the iPhone emergency alert tone is going to give me Harvey flashbacks for the rest of my life.)
I immediately went to look out the front windows and was stunned — and very, very relieved — to see that the street flooding had disappeared. The grand total per my neighbor’s bucket was 22 inches in ~10 hours, between Saturday at 10 pm and Sunday at 8 am. That is just an INSANE amount of rain.
(As I write this late Monday night, we’re up to 50 inches since Friday morning. FIFTY. INCHES. I’ll write more tomorrow, but for now we are still safe and dry and I’m cautiously optimistic that we will stay that way.)