It’s not my first Big Bad Storm Rodeo. I’ve lived in Southeast Texas almost all of my life, and have seen my share of dark and stormy nights, hurricanes, floods and disasters. But I’ve never seen anything like what’s going on in the Greater Houston area right now.
I grew up on the Bolivar Peninsula along the Texas Gulf Coast, about 200 yards from the shore. Here’s the view from our deck in Gilchrist, Texas. As you can imagine, evacuation was a pretty common process for us.
We left our little tropical paradise to flee oncoming hurricanes and tropical storms many times while I was growing up. Back then, it was a world without today’s ubiquitous connectedness through internet and cable TV, and we were forced to wait until we returned to find out about the condition of our home and community. There was always damage, sometimes fairly minimal, like items in our garage being washed away by storm surge, and sometimes serious and structural, like the whole roof over the deck being blown off and crashing onto the neighbor’s deck, taking out their stairs.
As an adult living in the Houston area, I watched TV all night as Tropical Storm Allison hovered over us for hours and hours in June of 2001, fascinated and afraid as more than 39 inches of rain ravaged downtown Houston and beyond and ended 23 lives.
Marrying the Grill-Meister in 2008, I moved into his home (which we promptly renamed Glover Gardens) in the Northwest Houston area, just in time for Hurricane Ike. At 70 miles inland, we felt very safe and were happy to be the evacuation destination for my Dad and Aunt-Mom. We were wrong to feel safe. Ike’s winds felled several huge pine trees which came crashing into the house during an absolutely terrifying night, and the storm’s aftermath brought tornadoes and torrential rains and took away the electricity for ten days. It took us several months and many interactions with our insurance company to get back to normal. Our damage was minimal compared to many others in the area, and in fact, my home town of Gilchrist down on the coast was completely obliterated by Ike.
Two “100-Year Floods” in the past two years have brought down more Glover Gardens pine trees, caused more damage and long-term power outages, and made us truly appreciate the generator we invested in after Ike and our excellent relationship with our insurance company.
So – as I said earlier – it’s not my first rodeo in the Big Bad Storm Department. But I have never, ever seen anything like what’s happening right now in the Houston area. We are a community under water, and the rain is still coming.
Flooding is everywhere to some extent, not just in low-lying areas; the whole metropolitan area is experiencing this catastrophic flooding.
Freeways look like rivers, with flowing water, currents and even rapids.
Our cell phones are blaring emergency alert sounds for flash flood and tornado warnings almost every hour; almost as soon as one expires, another is announced.
Drivers are stranded in cars everywhere; abandoned cars dot the waterscape all across the area.
People are walking on freeways to get where they’re going.
The water is so deep in places that rescue boats are easily passing over the tops of stranded cars.
Stranded and submerged vehicles include a Houston Metro bus.
People are driving the wrong way on streets that aren’t flooded, causing accidents, as the Texas Dept of Transportation is urging citizens to stay off the roads.
People are trapped in their attics after moving upward as the water rose in their houses, and others wait on rooftops.
The 911 system is overloaded and callers can’t get through; the Coast Guard tweeted their emergency numbers.
Emergency response teams are so overtaxed with rescues that the city and the county have asked for the public to help with high-water vehicles and boats.
The governor has activated 3,000 Texas Army National Guard troops to help with the rescues.
Whole neighborhoods are completely and eerily deserted.
Social media is being used extensively to request rescues and the requests are heartbreaking: “S.O.S. mentally disabled senior and wife are stuck inside the second floor of a home.”
Ben Taub hospital is being evacuated; it is one of the city’s only two trauma centers.
Nursing home residents were sitting waist-deep in water before being rescued; this photo went viral and was responsible for the rescue.
News reports show folks using all kinds of flotation devices to get out of flooded homes, including a toddler being pushed along in a big plastic storage tub and a cat in a pet carrier atop a pool float.
One of our major news stations, KHOU, flooded this morning and is off the air. UPDATE: KHOU is back on the air, and check out this comment from Ray Laskowitz of New Orleans and the Storyteller blog on my previous post about it, which tells a wonderful story:
“The ABC affiliate in Dallas continued to carry them via CBS Online. That was very cool considering that on a normal day they are competitors.”
Both airports are closed (runways are flooded and unusable at Hobby) and there are reports that hundreds of travelers and workers are stranded.
Shelters are popping up all over the place, both official and unofficial.
Many schools have been closed through September 2 or later; some are closed “until further notice”.
Image after image shows folks fleeing floodwaters with pets.
The neighboring City of Pasadena has implemented a curfew with a $500 fine for violations.
Thousands of residents are without power.
Local and national news media are showing heartbreaking images of the elderly and infirm being rescued.
Good Samaritans are coming in from surrounding areas like Louisiana and Oklahoma with their boats and rescue-worthy vehicles to help (AKA the #Cajun Navy), even while neighbors act as first-responders everywhere.
Rumors are rampant and reassurances are being issued: “Drinking water is still safe.”
Sadly, looting has begun.
There are lines for gas, lines for water, lines for food.
Metro buses were stored on a freeway last night in case their bus barns flooded.
Areas to our Southwest along the Brazos River are beginning to issue mandatory evacuations in advance of the river cresting.
Flood waters are causing sinkholes and other damage to roads and bridges.
The eyes of the world are upon us, and still the rain comes.
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook