Paranoia Setting In
I have lived in Houston for 34 happy years. I remember a few years after I came, Hurricane Alicia created havoc and I realized that I lived in a semi-tropical climate prone to things like hurricanes and floods. Yet I was young and adventurous and was willing to trade warmer weather for weather events.
It’s kind of like California residents know the threat of earthquakes are always there, but they choose to live there anyway. The same for Miami which sustained several bad years in a row of damaging hurricanes several years ago – they were just pounded over and over. We attended a wedding there a year after these series of hurricanes and the broken windows and damaged buildings, trees etc were still visible everywhere. It reminded me of the power of nature, particularly in desirable areas.
Did anyone pick up and leave? Did it spook anyone bad enough to leave Florida? I wonder.
I so love living in Houston and I must say I can count six weather events that impacted me —not the weather in each case —in my 34 years here: Hurricane Alicia in the mid 80’s – no personal damage but I was an HR person for the electric company and so I was in their volunteer corps to go house to house checking on people; Tropical Storm Allison in the early 2000’s that flooded the entire city and though a low lying area of my house was affected, other entire areas of the city completely flooded.
Then there was Hurricane Katrina, which freaked everyone out, though it didn’t happen in Houston, it happened 8 hours away in New Orleans. We took in a lot of people who escaped the city and some of them remained here. We all became wary of flooding and damage from the visions of that terrible storm so close to us.
After Katrina came Hurricane Rita which was supposed to be a direct hit on Houston. We all evacuated and the actual evacuation was such a nightmare – I could write a whole blog on that awful experience; and I later wished I had just hunkered down at home because it bypassed Houston. My husband, having only lived in Houston a short time and experienced the news from Katrina, was pretty freaked out and wanted to evacuate. It was a non-weather event, but impacted us all the same due to the crazy evacuation – people stranded, and out of gas everywhere, roads jammed. It seemed like the end of the world.
Next, Hurricane Ike paid us a visit. We lost power for a while, and a fence and had some other mess to clean, but came out of it unscathed except my doggie Pebbles died shortly after.
Following Ike, we experienced a four year drought in Texas that was so severe, wildfires were prevalent outside of Houston all the way to Austin. It was a scary four years, where I lost a lot of our garden stuff, with relentless sun and drought and heat and no rain at all. You can read this Chronicle story verifying this if you are interested.
After those four years I said I would never complain about rain again. The severity of the drought was scarring, and now it seems I should not have promised I would never complain about rain.
Our Memorial Day flood ruined our home and devastated our neighborhood and entire area of town. The storm and other drains are still probably clogged and now Tropical Storm Bill is threatening us with two days of downpours.
After the flood, not only am I cursing the rain coming, but I am also paranoid about staying in my home for the very first time in my 34 years of living in Houston. I am re-thinking my plans. I dont want to be scared of storms, I want my happy, peaceful, content life in Houston back. Call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or anything else you want, but there is now an uneasiness about this El Nino weather pattern this summer, and especially now with the storm coming so soon after our flood, there is a creeping paranoia within me.
Though we spent frantic and hard-labor hours (as did everyone else) preparing by raising any remnants of ownings that escaped the first flood, I don’t want to have to live through this again. As a dear friend who also flooded confided in me, we feel too old and have a different nervous system now, to be cavalier and adventurous in weather events.
So now the big decision arrives: bail on the life I know, or stick it out? Lots of others are facing that decision. What to do? It’s not an easy decision, I can tell you that.
Postscript: Lest readers think we are contemplating bailing on Houston, that is not the case at all. As I said, in 34 years, only 3 weather events directly affected me – not a bad amount given the number of years we have lived in and loved Houston. I would never leave the family, friends and warmer weather and great community here. Due to paranoia, we may bail on living anywhere near a bayou. Our wonderful area of town is loaded with them.
Sorry to say that none of us can really escape extreme weather because of climate change. Back east they will have flooding and have already had some terrible storms in the past, including in NJ, where you might want to move. Out here we have drought and earthquake and yes, sometimes flooding too.
You just can’t escape it. Might as well hunker down and do your best.
such a great post
it’s very sad indeed..You’re facing a Sophie’s Choice level of decision, or indecision: Shall you consider giving up the unknown..for the unknown?? Leaving a city you love for something you may not love as much? My husband uses this logic that he learned as a grad student at Stamford many years ago in almost everything we do. It’s called “Decisions and Outcomes.” You make a rational decision based on the information you have on hand at the time, weighing every option. But the outcome cannot be predicted, even if every decision is planned carefully.
Oh we would not leave Houston Karen. No need to.