Orientation for my PhD program was scheduled to be from Aug. 21-25; all day, every day. Unfortunately, this being Texas and all, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds topping 120 mph. The center of Harvey hit many miles south of Houston, near Corpus Christi, Texas (a place with beautiful beaches when it’s not being pummeled by a hurricane). What they often don’t tell you in the headlines is that the size of these storms spans entire states, sometimes more than one. Harvey is currently taking up most of the Texas coastline, and the entire Lousiana coastline.
I have lived in Texas for a very long time. I was born and raised here, moved away for college, then moved back to start my adult life. I have seen many storms come through this area. I witnessed (from a distance) the devastation of Katrina and helped with the relief efforts afterward. I’ve lived through multiple tropical storms and was out of school for 10 days thanks to Hurricane Ike.
I know how to board up my windows and stock up on food in case the power goes out. I keep flashlights and candles within arms reach so I’ll have a way to see around my house in the dark. I have a stock of water bottles and fill all spare plastic containers with tap water, to be later purified in case the water gets contaminated/cut off.
I know all of these things because I grew up here and I’ve lived through these storms.
Previously, when one of these storms has ripped through, it’s one terrible night when you hope and pray that the flood waters don’t get into your house and the trees/power lines don’t fall into your house. You only have to make it through one night. The next day, you can leave your house, survey the damage, and start the clean-up efforts. Harvey isn’t like that.
The rain from Harvey started falling on Friday afternoon. It’s now Sunday afternoon and, depending on which weather predictions you watch, we’re not even halfway through. Harvey is unique because the storm moved inland, stayed, and is projected to move back towards the gulf, only to change direction and head straight for west Houston, meaning the rain will keep falling until Tuesday or Wednesday, if not longer.
I live in a suburb just south of Houston and we’ve gotten at least 14″ of rain already. The streets are now flooded to the point where the only ways to get out are by boat or helicopter. I am in constant contact with my parents and friends in other parts of the area. They all seem to be faring better than me, but those are only the ones I’m in current contact with. I know I could go to them if I had to evacuate, I’d just have to find a way to get there.
As the rain continues to fall and the street flooding gets closer to my front door, I hold my breath and pray for the rain to stop, and for the flooding to have the smallest chance to drain. I’ve never seen it this bad before.
I have a suitcase packed, in case the neighborhood gets evacuated. I have a plan for how to get my cat out, though I don’t know if he’d even cooperate. Bottom line, I am scared. This is the first time I’ve been scared of a hurricane. It’s no longer even a hurricane; it’s been down-graded to a tropical storm, but that doesn’t make me feel any more safe.
I have to keep counting my blessings: I still have power (i.e. Netflix), food, water, my cat, and people to call when I need someone to talk to. My situation isn’t as bad as many of those riding out the storm with me, but that doesn’t add much comfort.
I have a plan to get out if the water gets into the house, but that plan is dependent on someone coming to rescue me. I’ve never been the damsel in distress before; I don’t like the feeling.
I am crossing my fingers, saying many prayers, holding my breath, and doing the best that I can. We will get through this, we always do.