I’ve experienced a few hurricanes.
Alicia in 1983 was practically a non-event for me. I couldn’t sleep and in the middle of the night I listened and watched the wind literally “throw the rain” against the window in loud, hard splashes.
I kept repeating “Wow!”
My electricity remained on, so no disruption there and since I lived in an apartment I had zero cleanup. Being so young, I doubt I even prepared beyond placing tape on my windows.
Alicia created widespread damage and I was all cozied up in my tiny home.
Hurricane Ike in 2008 was an entirely different story. I actually wrote a blog post as Ike was beginning its move through Houston and you can read it here. This was the beginning of what I call my “Owning My Empowerment” journey.
Ike Aftermath was LIFE CHANGING. Holy Shit.
The awareness of it all has been palpable for years and for some reason I have not shared that story and I’m now in the middle of writing it. It’s coming really soon.
Ike prepared me for Harvey and beyond and that’s where I’m going now…
My Harvey experience began the day after the eclipse. Connection? Absolutely, and that’s a separate blog post too.
So yeah, the day people were starting their trecks home from Oregon and numerous points along the 70 mile wide eclipse “totality viewing area” area across the US I heard vague information about a possible hurricane.
The first thing I did was check my Facebook flood group I’ve been a member of since the 2015 Memorial Day flood to get a pulse of the “floodie” community in Houston. I noticed a post from a Marriott sales manager about discounts for people to ride out the storm in the hotel.
“Yikes” I thought.
I immediately spoke with my father and suggested the idea of him checking into a hotel before the storm. He flooded three previous times, each one about 4 inches or so and based on the rain predictions I knew there would be much more water and my Dad would be stuck upstairs.
Of course I knew he would reject this idea, so when he did, I let it go and spoke with extended family members, who suggested I make the reservation. So that was my plan.
Then shortly thereafter, my father said to me, “You know what? Go ahead and book the reservation and here’s my card #. Book two rooms.”
Three days later my dad, dog and I checked into the hotel. Yet, what ensued within that 3 day period, OH, my.
If you’ve ever prepared for a hurricane you know
it takes a lot of physical work. And sometimes
the stress of it all creates additional challenges.
First, I headed to the store for nonperishable food and water and I ran into my Dad! He was buying water. He never buys water so that surprised me. I then cleaned out much of the food in my pantry and my Dad’s and packed it in grocery bags. I seriously thought the hotel stay would only be a week or so and it seemed like I was over packing. Thank goodness I didn’t question my actions. Intuition rules.
I checked on my mom in her memory care home and made sure she had enough meds and gluten free foods and gave her a big hug and kiss. They were staying in place and I felt confident she was very safe and taken care of. They have a generator and are near the medical center and have better drainage in that area, thank goodness.
Now time for the physical work. I told my dad I would take care of everything and somewhere in there I suggested we move some of the dining room chairs on the shelf connected to the Ikea desk.
Well, my dad apparently liked that idea and chose to move two of the chairs on his own and didn’t realize what happened when he knocked over the brass candlestick until the next day. A neighbor noticed that the front window was broken. Yep.
I called my dad over to look at the window and he said “Oh my. I did that.”
I said “How did you do it?
And he responded “When I was moving the chairs up on the shelf.”
And I said “Dad, I told you I would take care of it!” He gave me a half smile like “I goofed.”
“No worries Dad. I’ll get it fixed.”
I had to get it fixed, somehow. And fast.
I called several glass stores to see who could come out and repair the window. But this was the Friday before the storm, the rain had already begun and they were booked solid. So I had a piece of glass cut, carefully brought it to my Dad’s and taped it up all along the sides. It worked.
And in the middle of all that a 30+ year client placed an important order, so Friday in the middle of picking up that custom glass to fix the window I travelled across the city to pick up a check so that I could order the product before the storm. Whew!
Finally, after nonstop preparing, Friday night my Dad and I settled into our rooms and walked to iHop for dinner. We had turkey!
Then he called me at 11pm and said “I have a problem.”
“Yeeess” I said.
“I left my bag of meds at the condo.”
“Are you kidding me, Dad?”
“Wish I was.”
“I’ll go now.”
“No, I don’t want you to go so late.”
Reluctantly, I agreed and the next morning I checked the FB flood group to get a current pulse on what was going on from neighbors in the area.
The resident meteorologist said
“Streets are already flooding in the area.
Do you have an SUV?”
Panicking I said “No I don’t have one anymore!”
Someone suggested calling the pharmacy and to order new meds after detailing the situation and I considered that, except for the fact my dad also packed specific supplements in that bag too.
Then someone in the flood group with a van (that ended up flooding) kindly offered to meet me somewhere so we could both go to my dad’s to pick up his meds. I started to feel a little bit better and very supported. She told me she would contact me in a while after her husband woke up since she has small kids.
Then I thought “What if I venture out a short distance to see how the roads are in the area?”
I drove down the feeder and entered the freeway and didn’t see any flooding down below, so I exited and drove down the long street my father lives on and the roads were clear. I arrived at my dad’s condo, retrieved the meds, ran a few errands and went back to the hotel. Mission accomplished!
As the day went on I realized there was still no flooding, so ran more errands and arrived back to the hotel at 7pm about the time my Dad called to say “Where are you?!” The rain was picking up. Just in time.
“I’m here Dad!”
The next morning was Sunday and I woke up at 6am and checked out the Facebook flood group for updates. One of the admins said “Please post your address if you flooded.” Comment after comment of addresses of people who flooded.
Neighbors had been up all night long watching the water rise in their homes. People were on their roofs. Kids piled on top of counter tops. People were asking for help to be rescued. Some people had climbed into the attic and were being told to get to the roof so first responders could see them. It was unnerving.
I learned – Always have a hammer in the attic in case you need to breakthrough to the roof.
Then I turned on the TV and saw the devastation in Houston. I had to talk to someone and I didn’t want to wake my Dad next door, so walked down the hall to the front desk and the hotel employee was getting the breakfast area ready.
I knew how horrific our city was flooding and I couldn’t contain myself.
I walked up to her and I said “This is going to change humanity.”
She said “No it won’t” and I was actually surprised at her response.
I damn well meant it. The world was watching and I could feel deep down that the devastation in Houston and how we handle it had the potential to change humanity. I also have a deep belief that humanity can really shift.
And I also understood her. She is a woman of color and she had been around the block a time or two more than me and I let it go, watched TV downstairs for a bit and headed back to my room and tried to wondered how I was going to walk my dog.
How do you walk your dog in days of torrential downpours?
My dog actually loves being in this hotel. We stayed here for 37 days after I cared for my mother for two years and liquidated her house. It was so healing and relaxing.
And tonight will be #46 in this hotel. Sometimes hotels come in handy. My Dad is next door. His condo took on nearly a foot of water and he wanted me close by while its in repair and thankfully it is almost ready! Good thing because he has fallen twice since the flood and I’m helping him with many things. When he let’s me 😉
Anyway, I digress…
After I headed back to my room I also heated up the coffee I bought at Whole Foods. I was using it sparingly so it would last until the store was back open. I had plenty of food. Only I wasn’t hungry. For the first several days we were all in shock.
Here is a Facebook LIVE video – Acknowledging Shock & Breathing
Monday my Dad and I drove 500 feet (it was raining!) to IHOP and they were closed. Employees couldn’t make it in and others were stranded there. A woman getting into her car said that Waffle House was open and that the roads were clear.
So I turned on GPS. Easy peasy. While we ate, phone alerts kept sounding about tornadoes and I kept checking the sky.
I said “Dad, we better go.” We paid and got back in my car and GPS took us a completely different direction. There was high water all around and I didn’t know what to do.
I stopped and considered we might be stuck. And then I gathered my courage and ploughed through a few high water areas. We each breathed a huge sigh of relief and I said “We are not doing this again!” and my Dad agreed.
I watched various news reports of rescues. The hotel we’ve been staying in housed many of the First Responders. There were several trucks labeled State Police and Game Warden and they were all out until the wee hours of the morning rescuing people. I actually never saw any of the men, only their trucks.
UPS had 47 rooms here at the hotel because deliveries were 1.5 million packages behind. There were several Servicemaster trucks here helping with remediation. Dollar Rental sent employees to help clean out the Dollar Rental stores. There continue to be numerous companies here helping businesses and individuals get their lives back together.
I watched friends doing extraordinary things with apps, boats, big trucks and gathering teams of people to help. I called my Dad’s neighbor to find out how the condo community fared and she said “It’s bad … the worst flooding we’ve ever had.”
The roads were finally clear enough on Thursday for me to view the damages to the condo. It appeared that 10-12” of flood water sat in the house for 12-18 hours. I didn’t know where to begin. So I left.
I went to Whole Foods to grab a cup of organic coffee and to see if any of my friends were there and find out how they were doing. Some didn’t flood at all. Some lost everything. Others have family or friends who lost everything. Many people from the area had been evacuated from their homes by boat and were in temporary housing of some sort, though there are currently many from around the city in shelters.
And pets are missing their owners and visa versa. (There was a cat that loved to flirt with my dog and I haven’t seen it since the flood.)
Others asked how I was doing and I told one woman I was heading back to my dad’s place to start cleaning. She said “give me your phone number. I’m arranging crews to help people clean. I’m going to try and send somebody over today.”
Within one hour I received a call from a woman. She and her husband and children came to my father’s condo and helped clean. It was huge to have that kind of help so early on. It gave me motivation to continue. Her boys started with the floors by cleaning up all the mud and then they mopped. The women washed all the dishes.
What warmed my heart even more was her husband, who,
with no arms and a big smile, swept the porch
clean guiding the broom with his neck.
Talk about service!
Time and again, I’ve been running from my place to my Dad’s, visiting my mom (she turned 85 during all this!) and back to the hotel. Helping where I can. Walking and loving my dog.
Shipping my product (read about and order iLoVeU Ho’oponopono Art Cards here). And I am taking some time to write a series of blog posts as you can see.
I even sold my first painting in a gallery art show benefiting the Houston Food Bank. Click to watch the Facebook LIVE video at the art gallery
A contractor was hired and the condo is in repair and will be livable soon. This time my dad said he’s going to sell it. The question is “Where will he move?” And that is not a question for a rainy day.
Harvey touched everyone in Houston
in one way or another. PTSD everywhere.
The intense emotions are palpable
and they will be for quite some
time as we move forward.
There is much more I could say about Harvey yet I will leave it at this for now.
I’m writing another blog post “Feeling Empowered vs Powerless” and it incorporates the many lessons I learned from the Hurricane Ike Aftermath. Hopefully my insights have the potential to help others trudging through after Harvey, Irma and more. Stay tuned.
PS. Additional replays from Facebook LIVE videos during this process: