Helping and Hurting One Drop at a Time

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I have lived in Texas near the Gulf Coast for most of my adult life, and I have seen hurricanes, floods, and tornados. I remember a very bad flood in 1994 that took out entire neighborhoods in my town with feet and feet and feet of water. I remember being off of school for a week and having to get a tetanus shot from volunteering in the flood water when that happened, because that is the sort of thing you remember as a 12 year old I suppose.

Living here for more than three decades I’ve seen flooded streets, flooded homes, folks rescued from their car roofs, and heard stories of those who weren’t rescued in time. But, y’all I haven’t seen anything like this. This isn’t hundreds or thousands of people impacted. It is tens of thousands, or more accurately hundreds of thousands of people very directly impacted, and I would guess millions impacted to a lesser degree. Some are still riding it out at home on their second story waiting for a boat to rescue them. I am personally getting pleas from folks still stuck in their homes who know we have a boat, but I can’t get to where they are because the streets are flooded.

Others are already in a shelter safe from the immediate threat, but when it finally stops raining and the waters recede, they won’t have anywhere to return to.

Their home is just gone, or at the very least it is damaged beyond being habitable. Bad things happen when homes get wet with feet of flood water and you can’t just mop up the floor and move back in. There won’t be enough reputable repair companies to help most people with the tear out and rebuilding process in an orderly fashion, assuming folks even have immediate access to funds to get started, which of course many do not. This doesn’t even factor in the reality that rebuilding everywhere it flooded to the second story or higher may not be the wisest course of action.

The national news cycle will probably largely move on within a week or so. There will unfortunately probably be a new crisis or event that grabs attention, but for the folks here who don’t have homes or businesses to return to, the real crisis will just be beginning.

When you are paycheck to paycheck, as most are, and you haven’t worked in a week with many more paycheck free weeks likely to come, what happens? When you have multiple pets and children and now don’t have a place to live, where do you go? When schools and daycares are flooded and damaged for weeks to come, how do you go to work even if you business is still open with little ones who don’t have anywhere to be? Where do you put hundreds of thousands of people when the immediate crisis is over and the outpouring of support lessens? What hard decisions do you make as a community so that you aren’t back in this situation as 500 year floods seem to happen several times in a lifetime.

I have no clue as to any of that. The individual stories are heartbreaking. The collective devastation is hard to even comprehend, even for those who are here.

What I do know is that you help one person at a time one day at a time. The droplets of help and hope add up just like the raindrops that lead to the flood. Right now the needs have been boat rescues, new dry underwear, socks, toothbrushes, clothes, towels, diapers, blankets, blow-up mattresses, and food. For the pets it has meant crates, bowls, dog food, litter boxes, and make-shift cattle pens and horse stalls…this is Texas after all, and our animals aren’t all of the small variety.

This will all shift in the coming days as the shelter needs become more longer term for some and the rebuilding process slowly begins for others. If you haven’t helped yet, you will still have your chance in the coming days, weeks, and even months, so please don’t turn away when you see a need you can fill. The needs are tremendous and some are far more immediate in nature than a bureaucratic out-of-town organization can meet, though I’m sure that larger level of traditional help will come into play, too.

I’ve had many friends and family members just Paypal me money so we can make more runs to the store to buy what the shelters and people need right this second. No one gives a hoot who is tweeting what or who hates who or anything like that. That gets washed away as quickly as the concept of time and knowing which day it even is. I feel so thankful to be connected to people like that who don’t wait for a full fledged organization and tax receipt to make a difference. See a need, meet a need. Then repeat as long as you can.

We were personally thankfully spared from flood waters as we don’t live near a body of water and our drains kept up, but no one is fully spared when rain is measured in feet. Our ceilings just couldn’t take any more, and partially collapsed in the night, and again more this morning. My mother-in-law from Kansas has been trapped here with us since the airports closed, so she was camping out just a few feet away when it fell.

After the collapse it was raining into our house with more sections of ceiling buckling when we got through to someone who climbed in the attic and helped get sections of our roof patched with tarps. It is very red neck chic.

There were some minutes when we just thought one panel after another would fail and our entire second story would take on water. It still could, I suppose, but the situation has stabilized with the tarps in place. It is easy to feel helpless when nature takes the reigns, but we are still the lucky ones in this storm. Lots of people have literally lost everything, so what would normally be viewed as some relatively significant home damage is mild by comparison.

All that to say we are going one day at a time here. This is going to be a long haul event. I’ll still be posting as I can because, well, that’s my job. Josh and I both have to keep working as much as we can, and we are lucky to have that ability. It won’t be as timely as normal, but that’s hopefully okay. We’ll be using trip delay coverage for my in-laws, earning points on home repair and supply purchases, and looking forward for when we are able to one day go out of town and exhale.

However, that day isn’t today. Today is for accepting that you are in the middle of it, realizing you are still fortunate, and taking action to help those who need it.

Comments

  1. My heart hurts so much for the people and pets that are displaced and will be forgotten by the rest of the country after the news cycle has run it’s course. I have a cousin in Houston who has had to lived on their second story for a couple days, thankfully the water has receded a bit and allowed them to come down and thankfully they had a second story, but they are still trapped in their neighborhood. It is hard when sitting in Austin, the only thing I can do is donate money and continue to pray for all those affected. We got tons of rain and wind and I was very upset when our roof started leaking and then snapped out of it and thought “Wow we are so lucky to be safe, dry and have a house that is not knocked to the ground.”
    Let’s remember for the next several months to give what we can and keep the people of Houston and the Coastal Towns of Texas in our prayers.

  2. Thank you for posting! I have been looking for a post from you to see that you and your family sre okay. Glad you were spared the worst of the storm. The pictures on tv are incredible. Take care.

  3. Best of luck Summer, I appreciate your perspective that as troubling it is when disaster hits, others have it worse. My sister and brother-in-law are staying with my family in Idaho this week, and the pictures of Houston-Hobby have them thinking their care is probably underwater somewhere in the parking lot. We know everything works out eventually, but that doesn’t help the thousands who are suffering. As impersonal as donating money seems, sometimes its all we can do.

  4. Summer I only know you through your blog but you and your family have been in my thoughts. Of the few friends I have in the Houston area, all have been lucky. I have many clients in the Houston area and have no idea when I will be able to return to support them.
    Right now Texas is still in the rescue and survival mode. Lake Charles may soon get some of this carry over. The recovery will be tough, long and hard for many. The emotional trauma alone will be hard to handle for many. Flooding in many ways is worse than wind damage. Wind is usually a quick event but flooding lingers. Remember to give everyone hugs and prayers. I work in the insurance industry and stuff can be replaced but people are the real asset.

  5. Wow, be safe and I wish you and everyone as speedy a return to normal as possible. I once lost everything in a house fire so I can understand people’s loss to an extent but then at least others were around to help after and not busy with their own issues.

    Hope the tarps hold and it only gets better from here on out!

  6. So sorry for you losses, although minor compared to some it is still a lot to go through! This is the first report I’ve heard of a ceiling collapse but surely not the only one. I left Houston 2 years ago after 15 years and feel so lucky to not be there to experience this, I was getting married and on my honeymoon when Tropical Storm Allison hit so I missed that one too somehow! Stay dry and hope you make it to San Diego sooner rather than later.

  7. Thank you, M.P., for providing an update on how your family is doing and sharing from an “on the ground” perspective how Houstonians are helping one another. Many of us, who do not know you personally but feel like we are your friends as a result of reading your travel blog through the years, have been concerned for your family and you. Prayers remain with you all.

  8. Your city of Conroe seems to have been hit every bit as hard as Houston. What’s important is that you and yours are safe and sound. Times like this highlight that family and friends are of primary importance —-

  9. mommypoints, I’ve been getting many emails from airlines about donating points to help the relief effort in Houston. I’m somewhat appalled since I highly doubt the donation will make as much effort as the options that you mentioned. I also, as negative as it seems, believe this might just be another way for them to release the number of miles that their customers are holding. I might be wrong stating this but it is nice for you to give a personal account on the city and giving the better options to helping the effort especially being someone that lives in the area and knows first hand what is the best way to help the cause.

    • Give miles if you want. There are some great organizations that the airlines generously allow us to give money to. During this tragic time and all the time! If you don’t want to donate miles, then the need for every basic essential is there too. Summer, Thanks for sharing how you personally have been impacted. It is not a small thing due to the fact that there will be so much need to repair. I hope your husband is handy. It is hard to watch this from afar and feel helpless, but I know an organization I give to all the time will be boots on the ground as soon as possible and they were mobilizing before it happened. Best of Luck!

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