Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

I'd been home for about a month, sweating in the seemingly endless Houston summer, when we started hearing predictions for a big hurricane coming up from the Gulf. We stocked up on water, canned soup, and whiskey, just like blizzard preparation in New England. The predictions for Houston wavered with the track of the storm but got steadily worse as Harvey approached. The day before it was supposed to hit, we brought what we could of our furniture to the second floor, propped the rest up on bricks, and unplugged our appliances.

Those who had cars brought them to various garages around town. Rogue and I put our bikes on the porch, flanking the front door like gargoyles showing off their asses. We secured a tarp over the section of balcony on the third floor that was known to leak in heavy rain. Then we held our collective breath.

This hand signal says Teresa does not approve of what's happening.

Friday afternoon was so quiet we wondered if it was all a joke. In the wee hours of Saturday morning I woke to howling wind and driving rain, pounding my window and flooding off the balcony. I went back to sleep, knowing we had made all the defensive maneuvers that we could and the only thing left to do was wait.

By the time dawn arrived, the air was still and dry. Saturday was as quiet as Friday and I started to think the whole thing had been a bit overblown. But the predictions for flooding were still coming, so we behaved ourselves and stayed home.

Saturday night we were into a game of Munchkin when the rain came in again, accompanied this time by constant lightning and deafening thunder. Several of us went out onto the front porch to watch the show. The water was over 18" high in the street, and Andrew playfully tried to shove me into it. I grabbed him and dragged him with me, and we went running down the road, kicking water at each other and howling. I'd never experienced such drenching rain before - it sheeted down like a bucket had been upturned over Houston. There weren't individual drops, but instead a wall of water cascading westward so hard that if I faced east I couldn't even breathe.

Ash and I went on a walk around the neighborhood, helping people who were stuck in their cars. Just around the corner from the house, we found a police cruiser drowning on the sidewalk. The officers who had been in it were standing in the open garage door of the house behind, watching it helplessly.

When we eventually returned to the house, we found water seeping in under the walls and doors. We picked up the few things that were left on the floor, and then I showered off the muck and invited everyone up to my room on the third floor. I own very little furniture, so there was room for everyone, even the dogs. Ash and Mike took the kayaks out into town, and when they returned, we were all well into the wine and the whiskey. We whiled away the rest of the night with card games, occasionally creeping down the stairs to admire the several inches of water sloshing around the first floor.


Mike promises that he used his blinker.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday - deceptively quiet and dry during the day, with floods pouring in as soon as the sun went down. The water got up to about 8" in the living room this time. On Monday we took a walk to route 59, which was under more than twelve feet of water and smelled like gasoline.

Route 59 from the frontage road

Routes 10 & 59

The only time I've seen no traffic in Houston

By the middle of the week, things were back to remarkably normal in Midtown and Downtown. Most of the businesses were open, the cars had been towed from the street (and from our neighbors' garages, which are below street level), and the sun was shining. The only clue that anything had happened was the layers of silt and grime on the sidewalks and the water stains on the walls.

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