Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston several weeks ago. Lyons residents/flood victims Ken Singer & Sandy Spellman’s best friends from New Jersey have a daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters living in Houston for the past ten years. With warnings that they should evacuate Houston, they went to higher ground in Austin, Texas. The following are excerpted emails (8/28 to 9/8) from Karlsson Salek, a high school science teacher in the Houston school system.
August 28 Email
Brian, the girls and I evacuated to Austin on Thursday. After staying through Hurricane Ike nine years ago we decided we would never do that again. As far
as we know our house is currently dry, but not for long. Our neighbors are flooding one by one. We plan staying in Austin as long as we need. The girls are having a good time bowling and eating pancakes.
1. We are still in Austin. The girls are having a great time visiting friends, bowling etc.
2. I am constantly watching the news, but not for impeachment this time.
3. My floors needed a good cleaning.
4. I hadn’t watered the plants in awhile.
5. I have never before in my life thought that Burning Man sounded like a nice vacation, but a desert party is sounding pretty good right now.
Wednesday addition. (I write the day of the week for my own sake. I have lost all perspective on time. This situation is like getting stuck talking to a friends' drunk relative at a wedding. You keep reaching behind you for the parachute or eject button but no help seems to come and more alcohol seems like the best solution.)
Side note: a friend of mine started a drinking game that anytime you get an iPhone emergency alert, you have to chug a beer. The sobering moments came Sat, Sun, and Mon. nights when Houstonians were alerted both to seek higher ground due to flash flooding and also to get to low ground due to tornadoes-within seconds of each other. I think that signals margarita time.
As of yesterday around 2 p.m., we had two feet of water in the house. Brian’s brother took a boat over to check it out and grab some items we would have been sad to lose. They couldn’t stay long because the water was rising. Not sure where it crested. The bayou sensor near us broke due to the current. (Probably not a good sign).
When trying to explain to people why we live in Houston, I have always said it is not the prettiest city, but the people are the most amazing of anywhere I have lived or traveled in the US. It has been so overwhelming the outpouring of community strength. We currently have seven offers to move in indefinitely with friends and coworkers. We have no idea when the water will recede.
It has been nice to be in Austin, we went camping last night and I woke up to a view of Lake Travis that is blissfully eight feet low due to summer drought. We are chomping at the bit to get back though. Austin shows its colors at times. Brian got “lectured” by a 30-something cashier at Home Depot for living in Houston and not expecting catastrophic flooding. And while I was at Target a fellow shopper was loading her car next to me with similar items (bleach, heavy duty trash bags, etc.) I nodded to her and asked “Houston?” She somberly said “yes” then turned to ask the shopping cart attendant to take a picture of her next to her shopping cart so she could post to social media how she was spending her own money for someone else. (eye roll)
Newest post by the Constable that is guarding our neighborhood from looting: “Be careful, seven foot gator in the neighborhood. Trying to apprehend.” Yee Haw Texas!!!
September 1 Email
We made it to our house, eighteen inches of water, but has receded to six inches. A friend showed up to help us get some stuff out. We had to wade/kayak through ankle to knee deep water. We floated items out on foam insulation and air mattresses.
The whole time the helicopter activity has been crazy. As we were finishing up and made it back to the car we were instructed to take cover due to an active shooter three blocks away. We are on the news from a news helicopter loading artwork into our car. I really hope we don’t get arrested or shot for looting.
September 3 Email
This may be my last update for awhile. We have been in the house twice and removed some items that were important to us. Each night I wake up and remember something new I want to try to save. The strange thing is that I find myself making weird choices. I saved cheap clothes that were completely replaceable and a coffee table book of funny dog photos.
Walking through the house yesterday it almost felt freeing to think that we were going to throw so much stuff out. It’s like extreme spring cleaning. You may see this as a reality game show in the future. -Couples are forced to downsize while being stalked by alligators and snakes, shot at by the police, and all of their stuff is tainted with poop water. But if they succeed and pick the right items, they will win the tiny house of their dreams!
The water was right at floor level yesterday so we are hoping it has gone down an additional few inches today. We have some contractor friends coming over today to assess if we can start demo of drywall and flooring. The tricky part is that you still have to take a boat to the front door and the city is cutting power to parts of the neighborhood. It’s hard to dry out your house when you can’t power a fan.
I heard Trump was in town so Brian and I went outside to wave at every helicopter while we were at the flooded house. I know Trump is not responsible for this disaster, but a person can be mad about two things at once.
September 4 Email
The National Guard... They rolled in on giant flat bed semi- trucks with wheels as tall as me. We were wading in shin deep water having a chat with neighbors about typical topics- sports, weather etc. (a surreal situation) when the three giant trucks roll up and tell us we have five minutes to get out. We threw our trash bags of items onto the truck. And they drove us to the car. We didn’t really need help, we were on the way to the car anyway but they offered so we took it. I mean, when is the next opportunity to ride with the National Guard? I hope never.
I asked if they get bonuses for the more rescues they do. They said “just bragging rights.” So I made the mistake of saying that they didn’t just “rescue” the two of us, but that our bags were filled with pets and children. At which point they all looked at me with horror. And I quickly said “that came out wrong, I’m not a serial killer.” Luckily they were at our car, we jumped down and said “thank you, we hope to never see you again.”
September 8 Email
The community response continues to be amazing. To the point where I lose perspective of the scale of the disaster. It seems very local until I turn on national news or like this morning I went on the Gap website and they say that they were committing one million dollars to Texas. I started crying and thought, “Oh my goodness, this situation is a really big deal”
We brought the girls by the house last night after dinner because we needed to check on the three 25 gallon dehumidifiers. In hindsight it probably was not the best move. We walked through the house by flashlight and it felt a bit like a horror movie. I think they were traumatized. I quickly put them back in the car and pulled up stupid dog trick videos on YouTube. (Sorry kids, don’t think about the spooky insane asylum that used to be your house. Watch this particularly gassy pug fart on his owner.)