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Sun, 22 Oct 2017, 09:29 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

1. There’s No Getting Out

Category 4 Hurricane Harvey hit Houston hard. It hit Dickinson harder.

Whereas hurricane rain usually comes in waves, raining hard when the arms of the storm pass overhead and letting up in between, in Dickinson there was no let up. It just kept raining.

It started Friday. It was coming down hard on Saturday.

At 3:30am Sunday morning, Bert texted, “We’re screwed. Flooding in garage and sewing room. Worse next door.”

Trudy texted back, “Will you need to get out? Can you get out? Just saw the radar.”

“There’s no getting out,” said Bert.

2. Fast Rising Water

When Dickinson Bayou rose out of its banks, the water came quickly. Bert was shocked how fast it was moving across their yard.

He later said he went next door and told the boys to save whatever they could, because it was going to come into the houses. There were stacks of books in cardboard boxes warehoused there and photos and family heirlooms. Bert rushed to put valuables in plastic bins on top of the stacks to keep them dry.

Across the street at the La Vita Bella retirement home, where Trudy and Bert’s mom Faye was living, the staff and the dozen or so elderly residents were in trouble.

Despite an extensive prewritten, 100+ page emergency plan that included detailed hurricane evacuation procedures, city emergency services told the staff to stay put. But no one, including emergency services, anticipated this much rain falling this fast and this scale of flash flooding.

3. Emergency

Once the water started coming in, it was 10-15 minutes before wheelchair-bound women were up to their waists. You might have seen tweet that went viral or read the story later.

They thought they were going to die.

The staff and the residents were in the front room waiting for help that didn’t come and didn’t come. A firetruck was on the way but couldn’t get thru. A helicopter was on the way but showed up at  the wrong place. The morning after the worst of the storm, Bert waded down to Pine Drive to see if he could flag down help. There was no help to flag down.

He went back to the La Vita Bella. He lifted his mom out of her wheelchair onto the back of a couch, trying to get Faye partially out of the water. He was there when a National Guard truck finally got there.

The residents were all taken to Mainland Medical Center in Texas City. Faye had a core body temperature of 92 degrees when they admitted her.

4. Losing Everything

On Oak Street the water had risen above the top of the toilet bowls. The water was thick and brown.

The furniture was lost. A trunk of photos and memorabilia from several generations. The cars in the driveways. The truck in the garage. The clothes in the closets. Everything on lower shelves. The flooring. The doors. The walls. Wiring. Fans. Amps. Stereos. All destroyed.

And his plastic bins, too. Saturated by the water, the towers of cardboard boxes tipped and fell over, dumping the bins with Bert’s valuable books into a mass of soaking slime.

The morning after. The week after. The weeks. The month. The months. What do you do? 

The houses are a wreck — torn down to the slab and studs. Everything’s gone. Drywall, paneling, flooring, furniture, appliances, books, dolls, everything imaginable tossed onto tall heaps running along the streets of Dickinson and all around Houston, too.

What do you do?

Yes. Faye and the staff and all the other residents were rescued. Yes. Bert and Jeanni and the boys are safe. They found dry places to stay. And the cats and the snakes and the turtle.

Just what is next, and how do are you supposed to get to it?

© jumpingfish by David Hasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License