Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
My wife asked me to stop by our local grocery to purchase something. “No problem it’s early evening, there should be a few more people at the market because they are coming home from work,” I thought. The five-minute drive is pleasant. Parking my vehicle at the store, the last word I remembered from the radio is the word ‘storm.’ Focused to get to the aisle where my item was located, I moved past some customers standing in line. After finding my item, I determined to find the cashier with the least number of customers, I became aware there were more people in the store than usual; a lot more people! Every cashier was busy and overrun with people. I then headed to the self-checkout lines. “Excuse me the line is back there,” reprimands one customer to a surprised individual. The line of people and trolleys for self-checkout kiosks bent around the corner to produce. I turned around and headed to the back of the store. Each cashier’s row of customers extended to the back wall of meat products, except for one. I chose to stand in the short line. At the end of this line, stood two women wearing long black dresses and hijabs. I was familiar with this religious garment in Cape Town, but I’ll admit this was the first time I’ve seen it worn by two Caucasians. Listening to their conversation, I discovered one of the young ladies expected to go into labor by evening, and decided to buy items for her cravings. She then complained about the gender roles in pregnancy and wished she was a man. I interjected and shared, “Yes, it is good to be a man.” We laughed and then her friend stated that men are blamed for everything. I responded, “Yes, we are blamed for everything.” More laughter ensued. My turn finally came to checkout. I asked the cashier why so many people today. She condemned the meteorologist and wished she could wring his neck for causing this rush of people at the store. I heard about the tropical storm, but I thought this crowd was a little irrational because the storm would not make landfall until Saturday.
Returning home, I told Melanie and my parents about the run at the grocery store. My mother explained over the past two years the streets flooded in their neighborhood and a few other parts of town while we were doing missions in South Africa. People didn’t want to be stranded at home without necessary supplies. I wondered could the storm really be that bad. We turned on the news, and this was the first time I heard the name Harvey.
Saturday, Aug 26, 2017
Hurricane Harvey’s entrance into Texas was nothing out of the ordinary. It struck small coastal towns south of Houston. The downpour and winds causing damage. News reporters on camera describing the weather conditions on location. The drenched hurricane worn news reporters and the meteorologist’s high-tech graphics described the magnitude of the storm. Which I have seen before, because my parents have lived in their home for 25 years. They moved into this area during my high school years, so they were not novices to hurricanes. I honestly thought they were too prepared, along with others in the community who emptied the local grocery stores of food and supplies. My home church alerted its members by email there would be no services the next day. The skies darkened and rain fell on Houston. No torrential rain or strong wind; however, the rain was steady in my area. My family watched the evening news, television personality shared a possible tornado hit the other side of town. The cameraman showed damage caused by wind that caused a wooden fence to lay flat on the ground. The rainfall slowed and then stopped during the late evening. I looked outside once each hour between 11:00pm Saturday and 2:00am Sunday, no water collected on the cul-de-sac in front of our home. Tired from the preparation and anticipation, I slept.
Sunday, Aug 27, 2017
Muted light from the cloudy morning sky entered my room. I awoke and to my surprise, the road in front of my home was now impassable. I have experienced knee-deep water. The sky also awoke and more rain began to fall. A normal heavy downpour for Houston this time of the year. Having lived in a home for over 25 years, we felt confident that the flood waters in the street would not make it to the doors of our house. A fully stocked fridge and pantry caused us to be confident. The gray wet day and inaccessible streets kept everyone inside watching the television networks. The weathermen modeled the track of the storm, and forecast the amounts of rain accumulating on the ground. From morning to afternoon, from afternoon to early evening, my family surveyed the lawn. The water continued to swallow the land creeping closer to our home. My mother and father argued if the water had ever reached this high a mark. The argument concluded with silence as the water broke the imaginary threshold. We began to place items on top of tables, and decided to place pieces of furniture upstairs; just in case. Others in the house were beginning to lose belief in history, this house on a hill has never allowed waters through its doors. My mother began to place towels along the back door. The flimsy barrier and removal of furniture was an overreaction I believed. I thought the water level would go no higher.
Then the unthinkable, water breached my mother’s levee of towels. Water intruded into the home and made no sound as it slowly spread over the surface. Its motion traveled unhindered by any barrier we placed in its path. It decided to cover the floor and then began to climb to higher heights. Water is impressive. Once it’s entered, you simply succumb to its way. Our family fled upstairs, and watched the water slowly fill the home until the next day.
Monday, Aug 28, 2017, awake with 3 feet of water in my home was unsettling. I reflected about everything: radio warnings, lines of customers, TV reporters, meteorologists, the rains, the flood waters in the street, the lawn and in the house. Would we stay in the flooded home or leave? A decision was made and my family was on a boat travelling to a safe area. My disbelief in the severity of the storm and flood waters entering our home made me naïve to reality. Though I received many warnings, none of my preparations would have prepared me for what was coming. This helped remind me many people are in a state of disbelief. God is loving and many warnings are given and hopefully one will help someone to become awake, and get on the boat. Meteorologists will study Harvey for years to come. Only one reporter used the word biblical when describing the Harvey weather event. I concluded that God is awesome!
The waters have receded in some areas of Houston, and rebuilding has begun. My home was filled with 3 feet of water that submerged my family’s vehicles. Our car was totaled by the insurance company. We have completed pulling out wet sheet-rock and insulation throughout the home. The master bedroom and bathroom were demolished. The kitchen was gutted because the cabinets and appliances were ruined by the flood. Without flood insurance, we are faced with great cost to rebuild my family’s home. This will be a long recovery for my family. This year we have stayed with my parents waiting to hear back from the South African Embassy to see if our work permits have been approved. We hope to return by the end of the year. Cru and our church have given us a great head start by giving to our initial needs. Would you consider giving a gift of $250 or some other amount to complete the $ 15,740 goal to rebuild and return to South Africa.