Hurricane Harvey Hits Home

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  • Houston wasn’t the only city affected, as Emily Gao’s ‘18 fence was completely blown down by the strong winds.

    Emily Gao
  • As the water gathers, neighbors become stuck in their homes as escape pathways get flooded too.

    Asif Maknojia
  • The streets become rivers, as man made lakes flood, causing a massive surge in water to gather.

  • At the climax of the storm, the water transforms the landscape of Houston

  • Victims and volunteers flock to the George Brown Convention Center.

    Asif Maknojia
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The pastel yellow sky glows with happiness, starkly contrasting the sorrow infesting the waters. Families gather their courage as they retreat from the prison that was their neighbors’ flooded home. The fresh air is soon forgotten, destruction being the only thing on their minds. Flashbacks of rising waters and panicked swimming creates a constant reminder that their lives will never be the same. As neighbor consoles neighbor, the whirr of a hovercraft interrupts their dark thoughts. A group of volunteers, armed with only one umbrella to protect against the rain, race over to the house, water sloshing in their boots. Stretched out hands and bright eyes represent a thin lifeline for these families, who have already been through so much. As the pastel yellow sky turns pink, love revives the broken hearts created by the hurricane.

As the big numbers slowly come in from cities reeling from disaster, it allows a glimpse of how infamous this storm. 34,000 displaced people are struggling in more than 240 overcrowded shelters all across Southwest Texas. 32 people have already died because of Harvey, but the number only represents people that they have found in areas where the water is declining. As families slowly return to their damaged homes, they get first hand account of the effectiveness of the storm. In order to return to their normal lives, families will have to pay off the $48 billion dollars worth of damages around the area. Volunteers will have to quickly repair a region spanning 140 miles, and even with unlimited resources, the process would probably take a couple of weeks, possibly months. Even with the extra help and money, many of these cities will have areas that will be uninhabitable or economically unstable.

“Thankfully, our neighborhood wasn’t heavily affected by Harvey, but my heart goes out those in the main path of the hurricane,” Qurban Momin (grandfather of student Sara Momin ‘20) said. “When Hurricane Ike came, my business was right on the Gulf Coastline, therefore it was completely destroyed. I had to move to Austin to find a new job. After a while, I needed to retire, so I was able to move back to Houston, but because of Ike, we had to completely unroot our family, who had lived in the same area for ten years. Now, others will have go through the same struggles with Harvey.”

The hurricane’s fury wasn’t just contained in the Houston region; its effects were echoed across Texas. While Austin experienced minimal flooding compared to other areas, many residents have family members who reside in the areas that were heavily affected, such as Corpus Christi  and Houston. Westwood students and teachers spent the weekend checking up on their families, even with the sporadic power outages and heavy rains. When the waters started to decline, they raced to Houston, eager to feel the embrace of their loved ones.

“Along the side of the road, the Brazos River looked like an ocean,” Ms. Darcy Johnson said. “There were rescue boats along the side of the road in parts of Houston, near the Barcos Reservoir, and the dam that everyone hears about on Buffalo Bayou, in that area, the water was really high. It was coming up right to the edge of I-10, and you could look down, right around West Houston, and see airboats in what was normally a street.”

Hurricane Harvey created a path of destruction, but the relief efforts have brought happiness to those who have lost everything. After the heavy rains started to reside, volunteers known as the Cajun Navy stepped up, and made sure that families were able to escape their homes and get the essential resources that they need. Even without electricity and running water, they traveled all across the affected area, searching for anyone in peril. Using an app called Zello, these volunteers were able to put hundreds of victims in shelters after the storm hit. The generosity of these volunteers don’t go unnoticed, as the community bands together to thank their tireless efforts.

“A complete stranger, civilian from outside of Midland pounded on his [Ms. Johnson‘s Dad’s] door yesterday, at like 11 am, and he said, “We expect the bayou to rise eight feet, we’re here to evacuate you,” Ms. Johnson said. “It was just a volunteer with his boat, and he pulled up to my dad’s house, rescued him, and then he was taken to a church, and he hung out there until I got there. Now he’s safe in our home. “

As the flood waters recede, supplies are coming in from all across Texas and the United States to eliminate the food and resource shortages shelters are facing. Food and donations rush in from Austin, and other nearby cities, preventing tension and conflict in the already overcrowded shelters. While giving food is important, the the people who were in the flood zone lost everything, so volunteers from different groups opened their doors to those in need. Austin, and Texas, unite behind the victims, and as a family, we help rebuild these great cities greater than they were before.

“I think it’s really great that everyone’s bringing supplies, and I hear a lot of people talking about how they want to go to Houston, and help people there, “ Haley Bentron ’20 said. “I think it’s really nice, and I definitely want to get involved with the donations. I know that a lot of the people organizing Hurricane Harvey donations don’t just want money, and so we could organize a clothing drive, or help to get other supplies that are needed.”.

As families leave their homes, rescued by brave volunteers, they look to the pastel pink sky as moral support, providing much more than a pretty background. It reminds others that after a disaster, the one thing that will always survive is love. And as families rebuild slowly come back to their homes, cleaning up and rebuilding their lives, they know that they will be stronger than before, because the generosity and help from others always creates the strongest shield.