Monday, September 4, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

We live just outside the main city of Houston. Which means...Hurricane Harvey has affected us greatly. Right here at the beginning, I want to tell you that our house didn't flood, for which we are extremely lucky and grateful. 

We've been glued to the Weather Channel all week, ever since Hurricane Harvey rocketed from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane in a single day last week. Luckily, I had been grocery shopping on Wednesday and stocked up on milk and everything, so we were set when the hurricane moved in on Friday.

Friday night we had wind and rain, but Saturday was actually pretty calm. Then, Saturday night, the heavens opened up and basically poured water like a bucket over Houston the whole night. We woke up on Sunday to our street looking like this:

Naturally, the girls wanted to play in the water. We waited until the afternoon when there was a break in the rain, and went outside. (I want to add for the hygienically-minded: the water was pretty clean at this point, since it had just fallen. And as soon as we came home, we all took baths/showers.)

Tons of our neighbors were outside too, taking pictures of everything and chatting with each other. It was nice to be able to socialize with them after being stuck inside of the house during all of the rain.

Getting to our friends' house!

The street (on the left) vs. the retention pond (on the right):

Later, when I was taking a nap, Jason took the girls out for a swim:

The night before, as the hurricane was moving slowly, slowly across our area, we had a terrible thunderstorm. (It's where a lot of the rain we woke up to came from!) Susie woke up and wanted to watch the lightning with Daddy. 

This picture was taken at the same time (in the middle of the night). *All* of the light in this picture is from a lightning flash:

We got a ton of tornado warnings that night, too (and for the next couple days). We pulled the girls' mattresses into our closet (and Susie's pack n' play) and had them all sleep in there. We didn't get any tornadoes close to us, but there was one close to our church building that damaged fifty houses.

Jason didn't go to work on Monday morning. There was no way for him to get to work - our neighborhood was flooded, the freeways were flooded, and the area around the hospital was an absolute sea. But of course, Texas Children's had known that this was going to happen and had initiated their emergency protocol on Friday before the storm hit. A "ride it out team" of workers got to the hospital on Friday and stayed there through the entire duration of the storm - most of them didn't leave until Wednesday. Jason was on the "relief" team, which meant that he was supposed to stay home until they called him in to replace the "ride it out" team.

The flooding in our area (in the streets and houses) peaked Monday night. Some of the people in our ward (church congregation) had water come within inches of their door - but didn't come in. And then, Tuesday morning, the water started to slowly recede. Even though it was still raining, somehow the water levels in our streets started to go down.

When we were putting the girls down to bed on Tuesday, I looked out their window and saw the sun shining for the first time in five or six days. It felt like a miracle. It felt like seeing the rainbow after Noah's flood. And apparently I wasn't the only one to feel that way - one of the guys from Space City Weather (the best website for Houston weather) said that it "felt almost spiritual to see the sun" on Tuesday evening. And President Hall, mission president of the Texas Houston South Mission, posted:

"A beautiful tender mercy today as the storm moves on... At 5:30 the sun beamed brightly through the clouds after five days of rain and gloom. In that moment it was as if heaven itself was shining down on us. It was odd to think that just a week earlier the nation was captivated by a total solar eclipse and the darkening of the day. I have never been more grateful to see the sun as I was today and it lifted our souls. So it is true with the Son God. He will brighten our souls on any darkened day as we look to Him in faith."

On Wednesday morning, we woke up to dry streets in our neighborhood. Jason hopped in his car and went in search of an open grocery store. He found one after an hour of being stuck in loops of flooded streets, and he brought us home two more gallons of milk. (That was the limit on how many each person could buy. We were down to just one at home, which, with our family's milk consumption, would only last us through the rest of the day). He texted his work and told them that he could come in, but they told him to wait. (They eventually told him to come in on Friday.)

Now that the water has receded in most areas, clean up work has begun. For houses that flooded, that means ripping out carpet, drywall, and throwing away pretty much anything that the water soaked. Some few things can be saved with care (hardwood stuff), but most of it has to be thrown away.

Our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has been organizing tons of relief efforts and we were able to go out and work on Saturday and Sunday (and Jason is currently out working as I type of this blog post on Monday) "mucking out" houses. The work involves everything I described above - trying to save what is salvageable, and taking out all the rest and dumping it along the front curb to be hauled away. You want to be able to dry out the house as soon as possible, and to do that everything (even the walls) have to go.

Going to the neighborhoods where every single house flooded is eye-opening and heartbreaking. Here's a picture someone from our group took of the street we were working on:

And a picture of the inside of one of the houses:

There is so, so much more work to be done. Thousands upon thousands of houses. We're leaving to go out of town tomorrow, but when we get back we're going to be helping with the relief efforts as much as we can.

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