This is My Hurricane Harvey Story, Part 1 :: The Flood

It was about 7:15 on Sunday morning when the dogs started barking incessantly and my husband jumped out of bed to go see what all the fuss was about. Water was rising fast in our driveway, and it had caused the basketball hoop to fall forward and wedge itself between my brand new van in the garage that we had owned for exactly one week, and the SUV parked in the driveway. My husband bolted back upstairs and told me to wake up.

“The water is inches away from coming inside the house; you have to get up and start moving things.”

I bolted out of bed, ran downstairs and saw the lake that was outside, both in the front and back of our house. It was a matter of minutes before the water would start gushing inside.

In a moment like this, there are two possible reactions – you either freeze, not knowing where to start, or you put yourself on auto-pilot and try to save as much as humanly possible at the fastest speed possible. I chose the latter.

I remember putting all the dining room chairs up on top of our beloved dining room table, furniture which we spent a large sum of our wedding money on seven years ago. I remember grabbing all the shoes in the cubbies of our hallway bench, shoving them into re-usable grocery bags and flinging them on the stairs. I picked up my one of my mother’s hand-made pottery soup terrines that sat on the floor of the dining room, placing it on the island in the kitchen.

My husband was wading through the water out back trying to get every last bottle of water out of the garage and upstairs. He also brought in all of our paper towels and toilet paper we keep on extra shelving in the garage.

All the while, my four-year-old son was playing obliviously on the floor with his Paw Patroller, and my two-year-old daughter was talking and singing in her crib upstairs, waiting for someone to come get her.

I remember telling my husband to stop coming in and out of the house as I watched the water flow in after him. I naively shoved a towel into the crack of the back door, believing that would slow the water’s ability to get in. Whenever I think about that now, I laugh at myself. The water has a life of its own, and wasn’t going to let some measly towel stop it in its tracks.

My son got upset when his “tushie” got wet from the water coming in. My husband finally made him go play upstairs and brought the dogs up too. I kept going, trying to salvage any little thing that had any sentimental value. The water was coming in quickly, and I started to slip and slide as I was rounding corners and half-way running around the first floor. Finally, we had to give up.

“The water is rising really fast; we need to stop and go upstairs,” my husband said in a defeated tone.

I tried to ignore him, but he was right. I now wanted to have my children in the same room with me, where I knew I could keep them safe, and everything else just fell away.

I went into my daughter’s bedroom and acted like nothing was different than the morning before. I changed her diaper and clothes, and instead of bringing her downstairs for breakfast, I brought her into our bedroom, where we had piles of supplies, snack foods, water, and other essentials on the floor.

Miraculously, we still had power {and we would continue to have power and air conditioning throughout the entire storm}, so we kept the news on the entire day as my kids played and ate all the junk food and snacks their hearts desired. My husband and I alerted our families that our house was flooding. My parents, who live in Sugar Land, happened to be on vacation in Scandanavia through the whole fiasco. I FaceTimed them to tell them what was happening and that’s when I started crying. I wanted them there with me as most people want their parents in major crises. At that point, everything was out of my control, and we just had to wait until the rain stopped, or until the water receded ­– or didn’t, and stay on the second floor of our house until some warning sign made us feel like we needed to evacuate. I took the phone with me downstairs to show my parents how high the water had risen so far, and they just stared in disbelief.

Our neighborhood had never flooded before. We honestly believed we would be fine through this hurricane. We fully expected to lose power, but that was all we thought would happen. We filled our car gas tanks the day prior to the flooding, but both vehicles were totaled from water entering the engines. We brought lots of water inside and gathered snacks on our dining room table, fully expecting to have complete use of our first floor. Instead, it was now all on our master bedroom floor of the second story of our house, and I was calling 911 to report the flooding, as the news instructed me to do.

“Does anyone is the house have any life-threatening conditions or in need of medical care?” the dispatcher asked.

“No,” I said, quietly thanking God.

“Well right now we are only sending rescue crews to people with life-threatening conditions. I will add you on to our very long list of people and we will try to get to you as soon as possible.”

I hung up the phone and felt more desperate than ever before. Every few hours, I would walk down the stairs to see how high the water was. I started brainstorming what I could do to save my family if the water got too high. We luckily have a third story in our house, and that was the next move if we needed to go higher. The electricity was still on and the water had definitely risen above the electrical outlets by this point, which meant that there was an electric current in the water and no one could exit through the front or back doors of our home due to the risk of electrocution. We would likely have to jump out of a window if the water didn’t recede.

That was the scariest moment for me. When I actually had to consider how I was going to safely evacuate my family. How does a mother push her 2-year-old baby off of a roof in the pouring rain, with full faith that someone, or something will catch them and they won’t drown in the flood water? To even have to go there in your mind is something I will never forget, and it will probably continue to traumatize me for a long time to come.

Fortunately, the water stopped rising during a break in the rain on Sunday afternoon. My neighbor had started a text group called “Hurricane Harvey Sucks” and included me in it. She asked if she wore rubber rain boots, if she could walk downstairs to open the fridge and grab more food, as our whole street still had power. Someone else responded that rubber was a good insulator and as long as you don’t get water inside your boots you should be fine. As soon as I read that, I put my rain boots on and went downstairs. The rain had started to come down in sheets again, and I was scared the water was going to start rising. I wanted to save all of my mother-in-law’s artwork on the walls, and I wanted to save our ketubah {a Jewish wedding contract} that hung on the dining room wall.

By that point, unbeknownst to me, the water would never go higher than it already had. Inside, it reached about a foot and a half. When I went down into it with my boots on, there was exactly one centimeter between the water and the top of my boots. I waded as slowly as humanly possible through the water and with all my might, I lifted large, heavy pieces of art off the walls and carefully transported them to my husband who was waiting on the steps to receive them. I began to pick up other things like toys that hadn’t gotten wet and tend to other tasks I had forgotten. I was down there for probably 45 minutes, when I had meant to be there for maybe 10. Our kids were content watching Moana on the iPad the whole time.

This was the most surreal part of the entire event for me – as I slowly made my way throughout the first floor that was filled with water, and I watched all of our possessions floating around and gathering together in the oddest places. It reminded me of that scene in Titanic, when Rose is wading through the freezing water inside the ship, desperately trying to find Jack, who was handcuffed inside a bunk. Lights were flickering on and off, and she witnessed many people trying to escape, and many people surrendering and waiting to die. Of course, my situation wasn’t as frightening. However, it was something I never expected to see in my lifetime, and my brain had a hard time processing what I was seeing. The emotional part of my brain was completely disconnected and would remain that way for quite some time. I was probably in shock when I think back on it. Our brains have a way of helping us get through things in order to best survive, and that was definitely happening at that moment.

When we woke up the next morning, the water had receded and we could even see the center of the street outside. We could safely walk around the first floor and survey the damage. Items from the recycle and trash bins were splayed all around the house. Every piece of furniture was waterlogged or warped and would have to be dumped. Every large appliance had water that affected its functionality. Every one of my kid’s puzzles, every wooden toy, the train table and all the train tracks, all of the battery-operated toys – all of it destroyed.

… To Be Continued …


About Emily F.

Emily is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who lives in Houston with her husband, two young children, dog, and cat. When she’s not trying to put food into someone’s mouth, she likes to read, write, cook, and work on her physical fitness. Emily studied Journalism and Psychology at The University of Texas {Hook ’em Horns!}, and she is semi-bilingual, with Spanish as her second language. To read more of her work, visit her web page EmilyBFeinstein.com.

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One Response to This is My Hurricane Harvey Story, Part 1 :: The Flood

  1. Sarah September 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

    Bellaire?

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