Thursday, August 24
We first paid attention to Harvey on Tuesday this week, as more and more models had it hitting Houston with tons of rain.
On Thursday, we bought cases of bottled water and started to pray. With each news report, the hurricane was getting stronger so I drove down to Galveston to button down the beach house. The Gulf was choppy and the beach was so windy. The island was deserted because Houstonians were already back at home, flooding the grocery stores.
We refreshed our phones often to see what weather blogs and Facebook was saying about the storm. At the least, we would get some rain. At the most, they predicted over 20 inches for Houston.
Just as the kids got out of school, they announced we would have Friday off. What none of us realized, of course, was that this was the beginning of sixteen days of no school and more than 50 inches of rain.
Friday, August 25
To be honest, we didn’t expect the hurricane to do much. We tried to convince our neighbors at the beach house (who live there full-time) to evacuate to our house. Harvey hit Rockport, and we wondered if that would be it.
The kids played outside in the soft rain and Facebook collectively rolled its eyes at the silly hype of the meteorologists. Mike drained the pool so it wouldn’t overflow if we did get the predicted downpours. (And, in the end, he would go on to do this dozens of times.)
Saturday, August 26
Early in the morning today, the tornado warnings started. My phone wasn’t getting all of them, which turned out to be a huge relief because there were dozens of tornadoes around our county. Every hour or so, Mike’s phone would blow up, beeping and buzzing.
We didn’t take them that seriously; although some friends spent all of Saturday in the closet. As the rain came down harder, we had a couple tornadoes pop up near us so we did pile into the closet a few times– confused dogs, fighting kids, and all. It was as fun as it sounds.
Outside, the rain had not stopped. The weather channel was predicting Harvey would stall over Houston. School was cancelled for another week. The storm has passed over Galveston and our beach house neighbors reported it was fine.
Sunday, August 27
This was the big day, the one that changed everything. When Houstonians are haunted by Harvey, it’s this Sunday we’re remembering.
Our family woke up to cancelled church… and so much rain. Mike hadn’t slept the night before because of all the tornado warnings. No break in the constant downpour of gray sheets of rain. Our Facebook feeds became scary. Friends were trapped in their homes and waiting on their roofs for rescue. So. Much. Rain.
Our family watched Crosspoint and our own church online and the kids had six million questions. (What does this mean for us? Can we evacuate to someplace fun? Why are our Amazon Prime orders not coming? When will we go back to school?)
Mike and I had no answers. The tension and adrenaline in our house were rising too. We were constantly on our phones, responding to calls and texts about what was happening and what we would do. The weather channel’s sensational forecast was calling Houston such over-the-top disaster names, we were both annoyed but also very scared.
Outside the sky was black. And it just kept raining.
Monday, August 28
Today we stood in our lake of a street with our neighbors and tried to predict what would happen. The water was still high on the sidewalk and it wasn’t receding at all. We knew from watching the news that this was because the drainage deposits were so full.
Over the night, Mike had waded through the chest-high water on our street to help our neighbor move furniture and escape his house. We moved everything we could upstairs. We prayed. We texted neighbors we hardly knew and made plans of what to do if we only had minutes to escape our house.
The kids were cranky and needy, which was understandable. But it was also tedious. The devastation in Houston was all over the news and so many friends and family from all over the country were checking on us. We had lots of offers to come and stay if we decided to evacuate, but Mike was confident we would be fine because our elevation was higher than the water table.
Tuesday, August 29
Catie’s 13th Birthday and she was equally a let-down and exciting. No school! No friends to see! Nothing to do! Bored to death! What a weird and wonderful day.
With no mail service, most of her gifts hadn’t arrived, so we tried to make the day special by asking friends and family to text birthday greetings. She loved those, but it was a weird day because we couldn’t leave–and we didn’t have a cake or mix.
And we still didn’t know if we were evacuating.We parked Mike’s car on higher ground, just in case the scheduled dam releases flooded our house. We set-up our kayak and tried to teach the dogs how to jump on, just in case we had to get out fast. Our neighborhood had high water and our concern was if we stayed in our house, we would be stuck there for days.
Wednesday, August 30
After nights of barely sleeping (especially for Mike, who read blogs and government posts constantly to find out if our flooding would get worse), we woke up to mandatory evacuation orders from the county. This had us scrambling again. We panicked. Of all the days of our Harvey saga, this one was the hardest for me. I kept telling Mike, “Just tell me what to do.” He kept responding, “Plan A. We stay.”
But our adrenaline had us feeling so wired and so tired. Also, I could feel depression creeping into all of us from so many days of uncertainty, constant media, and too much sad news from our friends who had been flooded.
So, it was both funny, scary, and surreal when the National Guard trucks rounded the corner of our street. They were pulling families from the next cul da sac out of their homes. We waved, they slowed down, and then we realized our mistake. We had to yell that we were fine. This was another lesson we learned from Harvey: don’t wave to National Guard tanks or give a thumbs-up to rescue helicopters.
Thursday, August 31
Boats and trucks! With our city underwater, the two most important tools became boats and trucks. We were still pretty much flooded in at our neighborhood so we were relying on the kayak to get us out safely if the water suddenly rose.
SO many people had stories about having to grab anything they could in just a few minutes before they were pulled out of their homes. We had a couple frantic nights of trying to think through what we would take if we had to evacuate. We tried to locate birth certificates, baby pictures, and computer hard drives–and then vowed to do better at keeping track of all that when Harvey was finally over.
But outside, the water was starting to recede. Just a bit, but this felt like our olive branch. For the first time, I started to believe we would be fine in our house.
Friday, September 1
Today we finally got out of our house.
This was the strangest time in Houston because it seemed like a ghost town. Most roads were closed because of flooding or crazy traffic. My social media feeds were people asking for help to pull flooded friends out of their homes or if it was possible to drive across town.
The meme below (“By the way, no one in Houston knows what day it is…”) totally explained how it felt during this time. No school, or work–just long, strange days of watching internet coverage, sitting in traffic, telling storm stories, and trying to piece together how we would all make it out of this mess.
Also the below elevation map was another important part of this time. Our elevation was 106 feet. Thanks to Mike’s civil engineering degree, we understood that the watershed of Katy would rise to about 104. Everything lower than that would flood. But it was this map that we studied to understand all that and trust we would probably stay dry.
Saturday, September 2
So, our house was still a mess and the chaos felt both appropriate and unbearable. I guess it was survivors’ guilt, but it felt right to have our kitchen table turned upside down on our counter. The kids seemed to be constantly hungry, so it was also convenient our pantry was strewn about the living room.
This was the first day we were able to get to the grocery store. Whole Foods only letting a few people in at a time. Inside, it was eerie and empty. The shoppers who were there were telling storm stories about middle-of-the-night rescues. They sounded like they had happened to another city.
Had we really been through all of this? Where do we go from here?
Sunday, September 3
Demolition began for those who had flooded homes. We pitched in to help friends from church. The demolition was hard work, so Mike was the one who helped the most. As the part of the crisis, we were now trying to figure out how we could do anything to help.
We felt so guilty we hadn’t flooded that we really wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who had. But our own kids were still pretty young so we couldn’t bring them into the crazy situations at most of the houses. Instead we babysat, helped people move, and baked lots and lots of cookies. We also had a lemonade stand and gave all the money to families we know who had flooded.
Monday, September 4
We had a total of sixteen days off of school for Hurricane Harvey. In each of their own ways, the kids were kind of done with so much time at home. They boys mostly did odd jobs around the house to earn money to buy BeyBlades off Amazon. The girls redesigned a whole section of the playroom to serve as the Calico Critter Corner. While this all killed many hours, it was also futile because they kept ordering things on Amazon that wouldn’t come for several weeks.
And we were all a bit stir crazy. And felt guilty and anxious that our home hadn’t flooded.
Here’s what we learned today: Be careful what you wish for, kids. A surprise couple weeks off of school isn’t always as fun as it sounds.
Tuesday, September 5
During the next week, the clean-up efforts were in full force, as our community faced what Harvey’s destruction meant for us. Our friend, Hannah, and her dog, Bailey, moved in with us in the next week. Mike mucked out houses and the kids and I baked hundreds of treats for displaced families. The mosquitoes and traffic became the next wave of disaster.
Our family learned so many lessons from Harvey. The most important was the truth that friends and family really will show up to help each other. As I’m typing this, I have tears in my eyes about this lesson. Because isn’t that what we all really need to know? God is caring for each and every one of us through the hands and feet of His people. We were able to take care of those who need it because of the resources He’s given us.
And that’s what our family learned from Harvey: they system works. Love works.