While out perusing Goodwill, contemplating a pair of shoes, I receive two test messages, each from a friend in town. The first from my friend Kelly, asking if I’ve heard anything about League City evacuating. I tell her no, and she says she heard the storm rolling in is supposed to get bad. The second message I get is from Kate, a friend who also lives in my town, but is from New Orleans. This is not her first hurricane, as she has lived through Katrina. She says the storm is supposed to be getting really bad and turning into a category two or three (at this point that means nothing to me—I’m new to this hurricane stuff); and that she is considering evacuating. She is also pregnant and has a toddler. She says she doesn’t want be stuck at her house without power for days. I begin to worry if I should do the same, and decide now is not the time to be shopping. I buy the shoes and get home. Once home, I hear from Anna, a friend from back home, who happens to live in Dallas. She says the storm is getting serious and that we should come to Dallas to stay with her and her husband, Andy. She works for Kroger and says Dallas trucks were sent to Houston to ship water there, because Houston-area Kroger stores are running short, due to storm preparation. I quickly remember that the day before one of Mike’s college friends, Brittney, who also happens to live in Dallas with her family, had text me saying we were welcome to stay with her family if needed. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, and kind of dismissed it, and said “Thanks, we’ll let you know if things change, but I don’t think we are going anywhere at this point.” At this point, I’m really starting to worry that maybe this storm is something to consider. Growing up in the Midwest, it was nothing to get tornado warnings, and then nothing ever happen. Maybe I’m naive, but I’ve never been one to heed these sort of warnings. I call Mike in my state of panic and tell him what I’ve been hearing. He calmly tells me he thinks we’ll be fine and that a lot of co-workers, who are native to the area, say it’s nothing to worry about. He says we’ll talk more about it when he gets home. Coincidentally enough I had already had a suitcase somewhat packed, since we were supposed to leave for Kentucky in a week. I went back and forth between packing more or not.
Once he gets home we make the executive decision to ride out the storm, since we were not in the direct line of the hurricane; and just expected to get rain and high winds. After incessantly checking my neighborhood facebook group and seeing that most people weren’t doing much more to prepare, other than stocking up on groceries and filling their cars with gas, I decide they know this area better than I. After all we just moved here in January, it sounds like the worse that could happen is we’d be without power for a few days. That evening I go to Kroger to stock up on supplies. I am shocked to find the bread shelves completely emptied, besides a small table with some specialty loaves. I pick up a cinnamon raisin half loaf, some pretzel buns, some non-perishables and hop in the never-ending check out line. After that I sit in the longest line for gas I’ve ever seen. The gas was pumping at a snail’s pace. I can only assume they were running low and the pressure was low from that.
That night I begin having second thoughts that we should have evacuated. I see on social media that the highways are already looking gridlocked. After watching the latest updates on the news, Mike also starts to contemplate if we should leave. He said if we’re going to leave we should do it in the middle of the night. I really hated the thought of making the 5-hour drive to our friends in Dallas, all for this storm and have it turn out to be nothing, and not getting back to our home for days. Not to mention it may take even longer with the current situation of others evacuating. We go back and forth for like an hour, but ultimately decide we’ll stay, under the condition that we get a back-up generator and A/C unit, just in case we do lose power for days. Being 30 weeks pregnant, and having a 20-month-old, this eases my mind a little.
Friday, Aug. 25
Of course I didn’t get much sleep. I wake up at 6 am. Mike decides he is going to work. I tell him I will go out first thing and look for generators. Most places were selling out, according to my community facebook group. I hear Cabela’s is supposed to get a big shipment in. Since that is right up the road from us, I decide I’ll try there as soon as they open. Once Mike got down to Texas City where he works, he calls and tells me they have three generators left, but they are $1000; he wants to know what I think…if we should get it or not. He asked and they won’t accept returns, even if it’s not used. He says he’ll call me back. I begin to contemplate and decide we should get it. I text him and tell him that even if we don’t use it this time, we may need it in the future. After all we have moved to hurricane country. He calls me back and says he already bought it. I then go to Target as soon as they open and buy an A/C unit. To my surprise they have quite a few, and they are all on sale. I also pick up dog food, as we are running low. This is the first time I have been to Target and didn’t browse all the usual sections I gravitate toward; home decor, kids and womens clothing sections. I get home and start to feel a little better about this storm, now that I have done some preparations. Mike comes home early from work and gets water jugs filled and ready for the fridge and freezer. He says the frozen water bottles will help keep thing colder, if we do happen to lose power.
Friday night, we watch the news. The hurricane is supposed to touch down around 11 pm somewhere near Corpus Christi. I think I fell asleep before then. It had already started raining and winds were howling here.
Saturday, Aug. 26
I wake up to more rain. Nothing out of the ordinary at this point. Just a lot of rain. We stay in the house all day. There is supposed to be some fight on, that our friend Matt wants to order. Mike and I decide we aren’t interested and don’t want to pay for it, so instead Matt and Kelly plan to just come over for dinner and grill out some fish that Matt has caught from the gulf. Just before they come over, the rain subsides and the sun is out. The street dries up, long enough for us to get outside for a few minutes and converse with the neighbors, while Nolan plays with their kids. No one seems too concerned about the storm. Matt and Kelly come over for dinner. Shortly before they leave around 10:30 or so, the rain starts back up. We are now starting to get tornado warnings. I begin second guessing our decision to stay, but am soon comforted by the Houston mayor’s press conference, stating that he does not feel it is necessary to evacuate. We decide to put Nolan in his pack and play in our bathroom so he is close to us, just in case. I am tired and go to bed right after that.
I wake up shortly after to hear the rain pounding on the windows. It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a storm. I fall back asleep. Around 12:30 I hear a really loud crash and my double window in our bedroom lit up like the neighbors did on Christmas Vacation, when Clark turns on the Christmas lights. Then I hear the power go out. I run out to the living room, where Mike was still up watching TV. I’m half asleep, and ask what happened? He says he thinks a transformer on the telephone pole in our backyard was struck by lightning. I tell him we should get the generator and A/C unit going. He says it will have to wait until tomorrow; that it’s storming too hard for that right now. I then look out the front door and see that water has already covered the street and looks to be on the rise to our sidewalk and front yard. I have Mike come in and lay down with me. We try to fall asleep. I can’t. A short while later I go back to the front door and peak out, only to realize that water is still rising. I have visions of victims of Hurricane Katrina on their roof, because the water had risen so high in their house. While I am slightly comforted knowing we have a two-story house, I begin to panic thinking for sure water is coming in our house. I decide I’m not going to sit around and wait for it. Mike is still in bed, trying to fall back asleep. I am running around, picking things up off the floor in our closet, and and taking important documents, jewelry, food and other micellaneous things up to our second floor. If we are taking in water, I want to salvage as much as possible; even if we do have flood insurance. Mike hears me running around and soon hops up and starts to be proactive as well. He takes some furniture up, and begins getting the flashlights, cooler, generator, and A/C unit out. We even got our sole kayak out. We decide we can’t take any chances. At this point we don’t know what we are messing with. Like I said this hurricane stuff is all new to us. The only thing I can think of is the visions I have from the Hurricane Katrina coverage, which coincidentally enough I had a Time Magazine book on Katrina, that I had given my friend Kate the week before. My mind is racing; thinking of all the things we need to have ready. I transport Nolan back up to his crib, we and post up in the guest room. He never woke, not even when the smoke detector went off from the candles we were burning. The window in the guest room looks out onto the street. All I can see is the reflection of light posts in the water, which is now resembling a lake. Mikes put on a soothing Pandora station, and tries to zone out and go back to sleep. I on the other hand cannot go back to sleep. I am incessantly checking the community facebook group, and post after post are neighbors reporting that they are taking in water. One even said she was on her bed pregnant with her two kids and two dogs while the water was rising around them. I can’t imagine, yet I can because I feel we are next. I continue to monitor the water level in the front yard as it makes its way onto our front porch. We have a retention pond directly behind our house, and at this point I am certain we will have some flooding. Water was already in the garage. I literally did not go back to sleep that night. So I only got about an hour of sleep before the power went out.
Sunday, Aug. 27
Morning rolls around and I am surprised to find that the water has just barely missed coming into the house, and has actually receded some. I know better than to get my hopes up though. We are expected to get tons more rainfall and that can only mean it will be back on the rise, especially since it is receding very slowly. This ebb and flow of the water will actually last for days. It is one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve even been through. I am pregnant, and all I can think about is how will we all get out safely or what if our house floods. I don’t want to bring a newborn home from the hospital to a hotel room. We went through the NICU for two weeks after Nolan was born. My initial thought was why is something happening around this time again. It is a roller-coaster of emotions. We actually do a trial run of all three of us and the dog squeezing into the kayak. If worse comes to worse, Mike can use an air mattress along side of us. We have one adult life jacket and one child life jacket. Our neighbor gives us a few empty sandbags, and in addition Mike gets the idea to fill the bags that those sporting event chairs come in. Thankfully we added a sandbox under Nolan’s playset a few months back. He and a few of the neighbors fill the bags and stack them in front of the doors. We are preparing for the water to rise again in the evening. From my second story window I can see people on the other side of the retention pond paddling in boats and kayaks, as if this is some sort of recreational event. Oh the things that cabin fever will make you do, even if it means going out your front door by water vessel. We find out we are one of four neighbors who lost power in our section. The ones two doors down didn’t, so they invite us over for dinner and to power up our cell phones. We wade over in the ankle deep water and try to get our minds off the craziness, by watching the kids play. (If there is one good thing about this hurricane, it’s that it brought us together with our neighbors, and we really started getting to know them.) Night begins to fall and the waters begin to rise again.
Monday, Aug. 28
Morning rolls around and to my surprise the water had risen, but not as high as the night before. This ebb and flow of the water becomes pure torture. At least those that got water in their house the first night know what they are up against. Our thought process was will we get water in our house, or will we not. Around 2 pm, I get a text from Kate, with a screenshot of a mandatory evacuation for Dickinson. I begin to panic, as our address is located in Dickinson. At this point I do not want to evacuate. We know that we will most likely be okay as far as our lives are concerned. We may take on water, but at this point we are prepared as best as we can be if that were to happen, and the comfort of a second story means we’d rather stay than be evacuated to a shelter. I frantically start checking the community facebook group to see what others have heard. I am hearing mixed things, some say it does not include our neighborhood, since we pay League City utilities. Mike calls the League City Police Department, and confirms that we do not have to leave. Family is now concerned as they start seeing on the national news that Dickinson is being evacuated, knowing that is where we live. The sheer thought that if we had an emergency, that first responders would not come to our rescue if we didn’t evacuate did not sit well with me. Might I remind you that I’m pregnant, and have also heard something about barometric pressure putting women into early labor. So, to ease my mind I also call the League City Police Department and get confirmation. All the while I keep hearing helicopters flying above the house, headed to rescue those in Dickinson.
We go through another two nights like this of the ebb and flow of water. I periodically wake to check the levels out the window. Thankfully, it never got as high as it did that first night. By Wednesday morning, things have settled down and the water has almost completely receded from what I can see. I wake up, peek out the back window and look out over the retention pond to see the sun shining, and it moves me to tears. We have emerged from the darkness out of the storm….literally.
While we did not sustain any damage to our home, my car ended up having electrical issues with the dashboard. We believe something underneath got wet, even though water never got inside my vehicle. Mike and I feel extremely blessed to not have gotten any water damage in our home. Others weren’t so fortunate, especially in our neighborhood, the town of Dickinson and other parts of greater Houston. The aftermath has been eye-opening to say the least. I have never in my life seen so many piles of garbage. Carpet, drywall, furniture, you name it…. all piled from front doors to curbsides. Here we are two weeks later and there are still piles. So much trash, that waste management can’t keep up. Years of people’s lives washed away in a matter of days. I feel extreme guilt and heartbreak for those that have lost so much more than I. I have recently been embracing minimalism, and believe it’s just stuff and most stuff can be replaced. But some stuff can’t; like photographs and heirloom mementos from generations past.
Even more eye-opening than the trash, is how much this community has come together to help each other. I’ve seen people volunteering at shelters, people demoing houses of those they’ve never even met, moms passing out lunches to those who are starting the rebuilding process, monetary and supply donations being made from far and wide, schools and salons, etc. from other parts of the nation “adopting” ones in this area; and demonstrating that humanity is overall good; and we can prevail even in the worst of times. #houstonstrong