A few days with Hurricane Harvey
Many people have seen ‘Storm Stories’ and followed disastrous storms on the Weather Channel, where people are interviewed and re-cap the experiences that they have had during destructive and calamitous weather episodes. Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25th, 2017, was one of 30 hurricanes that I have faced during my lifetime. As a native southern Texan, you grow up awaiting them every few summers. For those of you who do not live in hurricane-prone areas… have you ever wondered what it was like to encounter one? If you have, I hope my story will help you get a feel for what being in the middle of a Category 4 hurricane feels like.
It all started out as any typical Tuesday does around here... morning chores, coffee and a chit chat on the phone with my bestie, Joanna. During the course of our casual conversation she asks if I had heard about the tropical depression that was brewing in the Gulf. I had not heard a word about it (as I am to the point where I watch very little news).
These days it is so hard to believe the news or the Weather Channel with the way they seem to spin and sensationalize every story... so I didn’t give it much thought, besides I had much more important things on my mind - as it was my baby’s 23rd birthday.
By Wednesday my husband said "We should probably run by the store to pick up a few items, as it looks as if this storm in the Gulf may hit us." While I had all intentions of running errands on Wednesday, the day just got away from me and I never made it out the door.
By the time Thursday morning rolled around, it was looking quite clear that we would be hit by Harvey, so the dreary, tedious and exhausting preparations began. Now, this is not my first rodeo with a hurricane, I have been through a fair share of them during my lifetime. While the empty shelves at the market were to be expected, I still found it disconcerting and intense - the thought and sight of no food on the shelves is ever so alarming.
After three stops at three different markets, I was able to find ice, water, Gatorade, bread, milk, fruit, canned foods, and snacks to sustain us for a week's time without electricity.
The last hurricane we experienced in August of 2008, hurricane Ike (almost the exact time of year to the date), was a very severe storm. But the flooding during that particular hurricane was not the issue, it was the high winds. We were without electricity for two weeks and did we learn some lessons. Here's the first lesson: purchase a generator - early. Like so many stores do, the store I found the generator in was guilty of price gouging. In cost me $700.00. I don’t know about you, but that is a lot of money to spend on an item that you may or may not use every ten years or so. I know, I know - we shouldn't have waited until the last minute. That said, we decided to pass and just hope for the best.
While I was out running errands, my husband and son were packing up the backyard and moving everything on our back porch to the garage storage area - including all of our plants, hammock, pool, and patio furniture.
By the time I had returned home the ‘feel’ of the hurricane had started to set in. The extreme calm and quiet before the storm, mixed with the oppressive heat that bears down upon your chest, making it hard to breathe - this is part of an "awareness" that's hard to describe that looms and dominates the atmosphere. The lack of sound is deafening - the sound of nature is perfectly quiet. There are no birds chirping, no squirrels nosing about, no screech of a cicada, no croak of a bull frog, no breeze blowing. Just the sound of silence that envelopes the air.
Our family spent the rest of the day preparing the house. By the time evening fell we were exhausted. We cooked a nice, simple dinner, gathered around the television and watched the Weather Channel to try and wrap our heads around what was in store for us. A glass or two of wine may have been involved.
On a side note: this is the first time in our 28 years of marriage that my husband has been home to help me prepare and weather the storm (as a Sgt. on the Houston Police Department, he was always required to work long days during natural disasters or any emergency situation... in past torrential storms he was gone for three or four days at a time, helping to evacuate citizens and reign in looters).
By early Friday morning the low clouds were thick, and had started to bring in driving rain squalls with gusty winds, we had just a few items left on the porch to stow away. Joanna and I made one last run to the market, just because we had nervous energy. While we were out and about, I told her about my mad search for a generator the day before. She said ‘We just bought a new one, you can borrow one of ours’. What a generous offer. We are so blessed to have such wonderful best friends. That afternoon while Trent and Brian set up the generator, Jo and I went in search of gas... it took several stops but we finally found a station with gas.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday night at 10 p.m., August 25th, as the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. Ahead of its landfall, many communities were ordered to evacuate, as fears arose that the hurricane could leave some coastal areas uninhabitable. The storm, which intensified over the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Texas and its surrounding states, brought with it heavy rainfall, damaging winds, and a powerful storm surge. It significantly impacted communities along the Texas coastline, including Houston, as well as other areas along the Gulf with wind and flood damage. This has been called a 1-in-1000 year flood.
As Harvey worked its way up the Gulf Coast… around 2 a.m. we were beginning to feel the full effects of being on the ‘dirty’ side of the hurricane in Cypress. (Cypress is about 30 miles NW of Houston). The house creaked and groaned with each gust of wind. The air howled and shrieked, like a woman screaming, as it rattled down the chimney. Touching the glass with a tentative hand you could feel the strong vibration from the wind and rain as fell all around us. Watching the water ebb and flow as it filled up our street, creeks and surrounding levees was most grim. We were up most of the night, Monday and Tuesday, keeping an eye on the water level. The water came within 4 feet of our house. We were spared.
Cypress was spared the ‘eye’ of the hurricane… although having experienced the ‘eye’ in prior hurricanes I thought I would share. Just as the storm reaches its peak, the winds begin to slacken, and the sky starts to brighten. The rain ends abruptly and the clouds break and blue sky is seen. However the barometer continues falling and the storm surge reaches the furthest inland. Wild waves crash into anything in the grasp of the surge. Soon the winds fall to near calm, but the air is uncomfortably warm and humid. Looking up you can see huge walls of cloud on every side, brilliant white in the sunlight. At this point, the barometer stops falling and in a moment begins to rise, soon as fast as it fell. The winds begin to pick up slightly and the clouds on the far side of the eyewall loom overhead. The sky darkens and the winds and rain return just a heavy as they were before the eye.
While we were provided with safety, many were not… devastating images flooded the news and internet of people evacuating, it just broke our hearts. Pictures of people taking all that they can carry with them in trash bags of their personal belongings... fleeing for their safety.
Search and rescue teams sifted through wreckage across Texas Saturday after Hurricane Harvey flattened homes, tore roofs off buildings and left more than 300,000 homes and businesses without power. 30,000 people were placed in shelters temporarily to stabilize the situation and provide for their care. 45 people have been found dead. It is amazing how one tiny little rain drop after another can flood several large cities and surrounding areas.
While Harvey caused unprecedented damage, Texas was never lacking for support and help from President Trump. He sent the Army, Navy, Airforce and Marines to help us all. Never before have we experienced such assistance and service! President Trump has visited our state several times over the course of this disaster and donated 1 million dollars of his personal money to Harvey Relief.
Within 24 hours of the hurricane the rains and clouds broke, and by 36 hours after landfall, weather conditions largely cleared. If not for the damage, debris, and flooding left behind, you would never guess that a massive storm had passed through only days before. The overcast has broken and the large mass of white cirrus clouds disappeared over the horizon. The sky is clear and the sun seems brilliant.
Storms don’t last forever - and while these tragedies are not easy, they are possible to get through. We rise by lifting and helping others. Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.
Some days you just have to create your own sunshine. I hope you will join me in helping to lift and create sunshine in those that were less fortunate than we were… all proceeds that I receive from the sale of the kit, Texas Strong Bundle, will go the Harvey Rescue Victims. I ask that if you are an Ambassador that you will please consider donating all, or a portion of, the proceeds that you receive from this kit to JJ Watts Helping Houston after Harvey. Thank you in advance for your altruism.
A special thanks to Lisa Franke for this GENEROUS idea and for those that supported the cause: Dawn Edens, Tara Smart Claborn, Mona Tabatt Rau, Roxanne Buchholz and Jan McCallum.