Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Houston. Our area in Northeast Houston saw very high flood waters and my (Courtney) family was directly affected by it’s destruction. There are so many across Houston who have a similar story to tell of how the flooding has affected them. This is our personal story told over a series of posts.
Before my dad evacuated by boat from his house on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, he took photos of the high water in the house and on their street. Those are the photos I used throughout the post.
When the baby and I need to get out of the house we often head over to my parents’ house which is about fifteen minutes down the road. I do a little work on the computer while Connor crawls all around on the floor playing with his toys at “Bunny’s” (my mom’s grandmother name) house.
It was three weeks ago from this coming Tuesday that I was sitting at the kitchen table working when my mom mentioned about a hurricane coming towards Texas. It was the first I had heard of it but I didn’t give it much thought.
That Thursday Brent and I headed to the store to stock up on hurricane essentials: batteries, flashlights, bottled water, etc. When we got to the store we were shocked at how packed it was. All of the bottled water was gone. The shelves were empty and people were fighting over individual bottles in the coolers by the checkout. It was chaotic and we were having a hard time concentrating so we got a few things to get us through the weekend.
After the store, we went over to my parents’ house to borrow a few flashlights. My dad was getting ready to mow the lawn. We talked about how we would spend our “weekend indoors”. We thought at worst we would be without power for a day or two. Then we left their house not having any idea that it would be the last time we would see their house like it had been for the five years they had lived there.
The hurricane was supposed to roll in Friday night south of where we live so Brent only had to work a half day. Over the next few days we were glued to the TV watching the weather channel as the storm started to slam into the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Then the rain started and it didn’t show any signs of stopping for several days.
The weather alerts were crazy during this time. We were getting alerts instructing to get to higher grounds because of the flooding and take shelter downstairs because of tornados. All day and all night our phones and alarm system buzzed with weather warnings.
By the weekend we could tell that our energetic little boy was not feeling very well. He was teething and he began running a temperature. The poor guy was in so much pain that he would just whimper and cry. Our stress level began to rise just as fast as the water in our area.
The rain didn’t stop and the streets around us started to flood. We started to become a little worried when areas that were right down the street from us were visibly under water. Our street was still looking okay but we soon became trapped in our neighborhood. Roads were underwater going out both directions from our subdivision.
It was around the time the news anchors started announcing that 911 was backed up with calls of people needing to be rescued from their flooded homes that Connor began running a 103 degree fever.
Brent and I obsessively watched the Lake Houston water level. My parents live down the street and down the lake from us and last year their boat dock and a portion of their backyard flooded so we were nervous that it would be worse this time.
I communicated frequently with my parents and they updated me on the status of the water level rising. As it continued to rain and they continued to let water out of Lake Conroe (which flows into Lake Houston) it became clear to my family that it wasn’t a matter of “if” water would come into their home but “when”.
They tried as quickly as they could to move as much as they could upstairs until they wore themselves out. I spoke with them Monday night and they told me the water had reached their front porch but they planned to ride it out upstairs because they were hoping it would be just a few inches.
At 2am I was up feeding Connor when I received a text from my mom informing me that the water had come into their home. This is my mom’s account from that night in her words:
As the night got darker and the rain got heavier, we sat and waited still hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. At 2 am the worst started. The water started to seep in under the doors. The sandbags and duct tape around the doors had done all they could do. We turned the power off and moved to the upper level of our home.
Sitting in the dark, listening to the all the noises started to get to me. The outside noises alone were frightening enough – the howling wind, the torrential rain beating down and the sound of debris banging against the sides of our house as the water was rising. But it was the inside sounds that got me the most – the sound of the water now pouring into the house, the sound of objects starting to move around and fall, the pops and creaks of the house.
The heavy rain seemed never ending and they were still predicting the possibility of several more days of the same weather. Our original plan was to shelter in place until the storm was over. We had all the supplies we needed and should have been fine but Harvey came to create mass destruction to the Houston area and he was accomplishing his goal. Probably one of the worst national disasters in the history of our country and I sat there with there with the realization we were going to be one of the statistics. Earlier in the night, we had discussed the possibility that the water could rise to the second floor of our home but we didn’t see how it could be possible.
As the rain continued to pour down, I started to believe anything was possible with this hurricane. Our older next door neighbor had already evacuated by Coast Guard boat shortly before nightfall and I knew I couldn’t take another night like this. I told my husband that I wanted to leave first thing in the morning as soon as rescue boats started. I knew he wanted to stay as long as possible but I had to get out.
He agreed that I should take our dog and leave. Ideally he and my son would continue to shelter in place with our cat as long as they felt it was still safe. We are usually so busy and my days just seem to fly by but the minutes dragged as I sat and waited praying that it would soon be daylight.
I texted back and forth all night with a sweet neighbor whose home was also flooding and appreciated her words of encouragement and prayers. I packed a small bag of essentials and prepared to leave as soon as I could even though I had no idea how I’d be going or where I would be going.
It is hard to sleep when your son is running a fever over 103 and you aren’t sure how soon you could get him to the doctor or hospital and your parents are in their home while water is rushing into it. Talk about stressful.
First thing in the morning Brent went down the street and knocked on a neighbor’s door who has a large truck. We had never met him before but he was kind enough to agree to drive through the flood waters that sat on the long road between our house and my parents house.
I stayed home with our son and corresponded back and forth between my mom and Brent as he went to rescue her. By sunrise the water in their neighborhood was high enough that the only way to reach them was to drive a boat down their street.
Brent and our neighbor got as far as they could into the neighborhood by truck and then my mom and dad (and their dog) all waded through the water down the street in their life jackets. At times the water was waist and sometimes chest high. There were several volunteers offering to drive their boats to pick up people from their flooded homes. One of those generous volunteers drove Brent in his boat so he could pick up my mom and her dog.
My dad felt like there was still things he wanted to take care of at home plus he wanted to go back because my brother and their cat were still in the house.
I was happy we were able to get my mom to our house safe and sound but still worried about my dad and brother being in the house. It was still raining and the waters were still rising and they no longer had power in their home.
Finally, after my dad had tried to move as much additional stuff upstairs as he could, the water continued to rise and he and my brother agreed it was time to leave. There was nothing else for them to do at that time.
So Brent went on rescue mission number 2. This time he asked our next door neighbor who also has a large truck if he could drive him through the high water to my parents’ neighborhood. From there he found another boat to take him to the house where my dad and brother (and the cat) would be waiting outside.
When he got there they weren’t out there so he jumped into the water to go to the front door. He was shocked that the water was considerably higher since he had been there in the morning. It was now above his waist at the top of their front porch. In the street it was over his head.
There was some miscommunication on my part and it turns out my brother and dad had been picked up by a different boat and brought back to our neighbor’s truck. So Brent headed back to dry land.
By the late afternoon my mom, my dad, my brother, the dog and cat were dry and safe back at our house. Our house is only about 15 minutes down the road and sits on the same lake but location made all the difference in this case. And thank goodness by Tuesday night Connor’s fever had gone down on its own.
When I first saw the photos of their home I was really shocked. This house is not my house and I didn’t grow up in it. I actually never lived in it except for the three months when we first moved to Houston.
But it feels like a second home to us because we stop by there often for dinner and all the items in the home surrounded me during my childhood. A lot of their furniture they have had for 20+ years and I always remember it just being around. It is an eerie feeling seeing it all underwater.
It was finally a relief to have my family all with me and know they were okay physically. It definitely took an emotional toll on everyone that day. There was still a lot of uncertainty. At that point we didn’t know how long the water would continue to rise.
There are so many families out there that went and are going through this same situation and it really is a scary feeling during the event and heartbreaking afterwards but the compassion and willingness to help we have seen and been given first hand from neighbors, friends and complete strangers has been overwhelming.
The next day Brent and my dad went back to the house to survey the damage (they had to swim to get there) which I will share more about in Part 2 of our story.