Post Flood and Displaced, The Adventure Through Hell for So Many in Houston

There was a not so bright woman who saw a photo that looked like the below, and she asked, “Did the Hurricane (Harvey) blow this home to bits or was it a tornado?”meyer2

The above photo of course is not a result of the Hurricane winds or even a tornado.

It is the result of home flooding. My neighborhood looks like this right now:

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Nothing but rubble from damaged homes as far as the eye can see.

And it is not just in our neighborhood, or even our area. Friends that live 20-30 minutes from us also flooded, much of the city of Houston flooded and not just our unlucky neighborhood, thanks to the “dirty side” of the Hurricane’s rains that brought 50 inches to our city in a short period of time. Houston Business Journal estimates that 127,600 single family homes flooded like this.

To see all the destroyed remnants of wonderful people’s lives sitting curbside is depressing, even if I wasn’t affected house-wise this time. My heart and brain doesn’t even register that. (Our garage flooded and we lost some photos and other sentimental things stored too low but that was all. We built a new higher up structure after we flooded two years ago.)

There are even things like flooded pianos out on the curbs. (Oh and the scavengers are having a field day – it took one hot minute for our flooded bikes to be carted off by a scavenger.)

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Seeing the above images day in and day out is heartbreaking, but not nearly as heartbreaking as talking to my affected friends and neighbors going through the horror of their homes being decimated by a flood event.

I have already been through this myself, and called it an Adventure from Hell.  I described my brain, my emotions, my heartbreak, my fatigue, my being involved in details 24/7 in a series of blogs I published both on my site, and on the Huffington Post. I am linking them here at the end of this blog, for all to read, because having someone who understands how devastating this is, is the best kind of tonic for many people.

In fact, several months after I was finished writing my flood blogs, a woman at an event found out who I was, and ran up to me to tell me I saved her life with my flood blogs and she gave me a huge hug. Just knowing that someone else was having the same experience and emotions, saved her from thinking she had gone crazy. (My Huff Post editor, now gone to another publication, as have I, told me the blogs should win a Pulitzer, because she so admired them for the raw emotion packed in them.)

So if you are among the flooded, please spend any spare time READING them in the hopes they help you through this difficult time.

Back to the blog, I am tending to friends as fast as I can, covering as many as I can because this affected so many people in so many areas. I was telling a friend that I am an emotional basket-case even though I am not among them, because I am so devastated for everyone affected.

My synagogue and two other synagogues were badly flooded, and we will have our high holiday services at Joel Osteen’s big gigunda church this year. Our beloved JCC flooded as did many schools. Many small businesses, favorite restaurants flooded. It is just heartbreaking even for people not personally putting their things out on the curb.

One of my dear friends, who I was very worried about, sent me this photo of her as the water came pouring into her home. She is sitting on her bed in denial, chatting on the phone surrounded by her pets as the murky waters rise around her.

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Note that she and her family along with others on her street in one story houses had to break into an unoccupied two story house by breaking a window. They all stayed there until the 3 feet of water receded about 30 hours later. Many people in one story “ranch” style homes had to find higher ground at the last minute and everyone with a two story home was hosting others. She is doing as well as can be expected now that they found a rental home.

NOTE: The boom in auto sales (so many totaled flooded out cars!) mattress sales, furniture sales, apartment rentals, housing rentals, has really stimulated the economy for all the wrong reasons. If I could only count all the mattresses curbside, those mattress retailers are making a fortune!

Where is everyone now that the water is long receded, and homes are mostly gutted out? They are displaced, a very dirty word, as I experienced it myself and it is an uncomfortable way to be. In other words, if they were lucky enough to find an unflooded relative, or rental home or apartment, they moved there, but their belongings were all boxed up after the wet things were discarded. No one knows where anything is, and it is all in mystery boxes that I described in one of my blogs. (Volunteers from all over came and helped pack everyone up – THANK YOU HELPING HANDS, Chabad, Mormons etc.)

They are figuring out what to do next. Fix up? Risk flooding again since the infrastructure of Houston did not prepare for these monster weather events? Abandon their homes and neighborhoods they love? Part of the displacement discomfort is the amount of confusion over what will come next. The brains are on overload at the moment, aside from being sleepless, emotionally and physically exhausted. (Also addressed in one of my blogs.)

So the many displaced are just hanging in day by day in utter confusion. Many have not even had insurance adjusters or FEMA visit just yet.

A few people I have been helping told me that they didn’t really “get it” or understand what I went through at the time I went through it because it didn’t affect them. It is hard to understand unless you have lived though it. And that’s why I am here for everyone possible, to tell them I understand every single emotion, every angry outburst, every fatigued and depressed moment.

When you see photos of the decimated Virgin Islands and other tropical locales thanks to ANOTHER hurricane, Hurricane Irma, understand that much of Houston looks like that too. It will take years to recover from an event of this magnitude.

I tell my friends, it is one day at a time, and it is a journey, through a lot of emotions. One step in front of the other and one day at a time, is the only way to operate.

And now for links to all the blogs. I hope this blog and any others linked below helps somewhat. If it helps just one other person, it will be worth it, so please share.

Surviving a flood, safe, but feeling unsafe.

The stages of flood grief.

Back to anger.

Manic Packing and Profound Gratitude to Helpers

On Homelessness, the Adventure through Hell

This is why I grieve so hard.  THIS ONE IS A MUST READ

Finding a place for elderly parent who flooded

The wrath of Mother Nature, No one escapes

Dust, Bleach and Tears – gutting out home

Lost Brain – confusion post flood

When you are Flamping and your decor is see through walls and plumbing pipes

After the displacement, and no longer homeless

 

10 comments

  • Thank you. I went through Matthew last year in VA. My 35 year life in a 4 bedroom ranch disappeared. I was your friend sitting in bed with my animals as the water rose all night. I’m back home now thanks to many blessings and much help. I had flood insurance for structure but not contents. When Houston flooded, I experienced what I guess was PTSD watching the people get rescued. I knew they had NO IDEA what was to come. Then the pictures of all the belongs on the curb. I cried for days, more tears than I ever released during my ordeal. I pray every minute for you all in Houston. Even after what I went through, you have it much harder. Blessings on you all.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write. There are so many of us who have experienced this, all over the world. We understand the trauma firsthand. My aim is to share to create understanding.

  • It’s been almost a year since we flooded, we fixed up, we slowly acquired new furniture and vehicles but everytime it rains I stare out my window and wonder. Every hurricane I watch with dread of the cone shifting our way. My oldest is still in therapy, although he is coping much better than he was the months we were out of our home. I had weekly phone chats with a therapist too while we recovered, just to vent all the crazy stuff that was happening. I spent afternoons sitting at FEMA with other victims processing paperwork and even once the whole room was working on riddles just for a few laughs. It’s something I’d never want anyone else to experience, but just know you can make it through this. It will be frustrating and terrible and over whelming and sad but there is another side where things slowly go back to normal, except for staring out the window every time it rains. Thanks for writing about your experiences!

  • You are correct, I cannot wrap my head around what you’re going thru! All I can do is pray for all of you. We were in Houston for a party, wrongly thinking even if there was a hurricane, it would be like we have in Florida. It comes, dumps and goes. We had never been thru anything like Harvey. We returned home and now have been thru Irma, but NOTHING like you have been thru. My heart and prayers to you and all of Houston

  • Heartbroken but not defeated. One family at a time. Things can be replaced. Life is revered.

  • Arlene, what a double-edged sword here – I’m thankful you are there for your friends, to help them on this difficult journey, but sad you are having to do this as well, as it must be so physically and emotionally draining. The pictures are heartbreaking. I personally have not gone through flooding, but I did help people in Yardley many years ago, when the Delaware river flooded and I will never forget the piles, smells, etc. Just curious, why did you have to toss your bikes?

    • Our garage is still street level and we had about 2 1/2 to 3 feet of yucky water in the garage. We did not hang up the bikes and they were oozing filthy water. Since they were old, we decided to replace rather than cleaning them out and restoring. We did lose a bunch of stuff stored in our garage because since we downsized, it was our storage place. Now everything is up on very high bracketed shelves that we are storing. Another lesson learned.
      So you have seen with your own eyes this kind of devastation. It is unbelievable to witness day in and day out.

      • Yes, Yardley Borough looked exactly like your pictures. I had to wear a mask because I’m allergic to mold. People were emotionally paralyzed. I remember the photo albums and boxes of pictures.

        I’m sorry you lost stuff again!

        Hugs!

  • So sad…

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