“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino
To say that the weather in Texas the past two weeks has been horrific would be an understatement. The relentless rain, the flooding, the storms have all been non-stop. We have watched in horror as rivers and bayous surpassed breaking points to sweep away families, homes, cars and businesses. The state rainfall record for a single month has officially been broken. From Wimberley to Conroe to Bazoria and Fort Bend Counties to Dallas (and just about everywhere in between), our great state has taken a beating. Houston was the chosen city this Memorial Day weekend and with our numerous bayous and low lying areas, the affected neighborhoods were devastated. In my neighborhood alone (Braes Heights), over 100 families were flooded when Brays Bayou spilled into the community. Meyerland and Westbury and those surrounding areas were hit hard and several neighborhoods close to Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway also took a beating. The water under some of the underpasses reached 11 feet in places. It came swift and forceful in the cloak of darkness.
When Houston gets torrential rain, it is a given that some areas can expect high water in low lying places; however, with weeks of rain and already soaked ground, the storm on Monday night proved it had the upper hand. Lightening, thunder and heavy rain gave way to Houston’s bayous rushing into the streets and neighborhoods leaving many residents unprepared for the onslaught. First responders were making high-water rescues and some Rockets fans sheltered in place at Toyota Center after the game. Houstonians were wading in knee to chest-high water in search of safety. The storm seemed as if it would never stop. Small reprieves in the weather that night were met with even more rain as if to mock us for believing it was over. Houston had not seen anything like this since the 2001 onslaught of Tropical Storm Allison. Allison, rest her soul (her name was retired without ever having reached hurricane status), left $9 billion in damage, 23 dead and some 30,000 homeless. Hospitals and business were destroyed (remember the medical center?) and close to 3,000 homes were decimated. While clearly, this storm did not cause as much havoc as Allison, there is still much devastation. Allison did, however, leave Houston armed with new knowledge of flooding and many of the problems that existed then and some of our city’s weaknesses were re-configured which in turn led to less destruction.
The following morning, with Houstonians in zombie-like states from lack of sleep and worry, many were seeing the devastation in the light of day (and to rub salt in the wound, it was, like the country artist Joe Nichols sings about, sunny and 75). Street after street sat homes that had taken in water and families with nowhere to go. Family possessions, memories, heirlooms and even pets, gone. But, unlike 2001 when Allison ravaged our city, residents of this amazing community had another weapon – social media. During the storms, people were posting areas of flooding to avoid (probably saving many cars and a few lives), who to call if you were stranded, and advice on water intake among other useful tips. FaceBook was the hub for all storm information and Instagram showed the world the aftermath of this vicious storm. But, it was the morning after that brought out the true colors of this beautiful city. Not only were groups getting organized on social media to rally the troops to help flood victims, but people were walking the streets armed with food, water and tools to help in any way they could. I am so very proud of my neighborhood of Braes Heights. We come together in good times, but we crank it up full blast during the bad times. Within hours there were planned donation drop off areas, fundraisers started, shelter being offered to those stranded and the list goes on.
I was so in awe of one of the newer local social media groups, “Moms and Ladies of Westbury, Meyerland, Bellaire, West U and Rice Village” who immediately put together the “Southwest Ladies Helping Flood Victims” group. These ladies have gone door to door delivering food, supplies and muscle! They’ve ripped up carpets, cleaned and anything imaginable to help. They have organized a donations drop off and delivery hub for May 31 from 9am until 3pm at CrossFit Willowbend located at 4035 Willowbend Blvd and they are in need of the following: Gatorade, packaged snacks, contractor size trash bags, gloves for cleaning, cleaning supplies, first aid kits, pet food and more (no furniture or clothes at this time). They are also looking to recruit volunteers to help the victims with the aftermath. Another great group near and dear to my heart is the Braeswood Place Mothers of Young Children (BPMOYC). These ladies know how to get things done and have already started with meals, gift cards, locating rentals, sheltering lost pets, gathering much needed items and fielding donations. Speaking of pets, if you or anyone you know needs assistance please go to Red Rover as a resource. Our neighborhood also has a lost/missing pet group that has rescued and located owners of several displaced pets (those chips really do work!). It truly does take a village in so many aspects of a community and I am so proud of ours!
After the water receded, our neighborhood begin to look less like a river runs through it and more like a war zone. With flags still waving from Memorial Day, we were reminded of the poignancy of its meaning and those flags were a gentle reminder of the strength that lies within. Sorting through soggy debris contaminated by compromised flood water and the numerous steps that have to be taken to deal with the damage will leave you overwhelmed. Our community is here to help and they are doing so in a BIG way. The Buzz Magazine has created a list of places for not only those affected by the flood, but for those looking for ways to help. There are so many organizations and groups that are offering services and supplies. We have made a list of links at the end of this post of a few we have come across. We also offer some advice on some ways you can help your community: (1) offer to babysit so the parents can work on moving stuff out, cleaning, signing temporary leases, etc. Those things are impossible with young children + it gives the kids a break from the grief and a semblance of normalcy; (2) help with the clean up – pulling up carpets and pulling down sheet rock; (3) help move or offer to store items that were salvageable; (4) offer to make calls for them or run errands for those busy with clean up or those who lost vehicles; (5) buy groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, storage bins/boxes; (6) make meals or set up a meal calendar; (7) take in pets as they are getting re-situated; (8) give restaurant, Target, Home Depot, Wal Mart and grocery store gift cards; (9) prep a few baggies with basic toiletries (think toothbrush/paste, soap and shampoo, deodorant, lotion, razors); (10) offer your washing machine and dryer (better yet, offer to take on the task of doing their laundry); (11) take bottled water (and wine!); (12) offer to take photographs for insurance purposes; (13) help create to-do lists; and (14) hug them often.
Our hearts ache for those affected by this storm and we pray each day for you and our wonderful communities that were caught in the crossfire of this crazy weather. We pray for the families who have lost loved ones and for the families who are searching for those still missing. We pray for our first responders who work tirelessly and are exhausted from search and rescue operations. Being the one who recovers a body leaves unseen wounds and we pray for healing to the fine women and men who are faced with this mission. We pray for your children and ours who weathered this storm and no doubt were terrified. We pray for the small business owners whose livelihood was compromised. We simply pray. We love you Houston!
Links for victims and volunteers: Jewish Federation of Greater Houston / McComb Carey Charba Schultz Rescue Go Fund Me (to aide in search and rescue efforts and for recovery and relief for the families) / Christopher Kirby Memorial Fund / Disaster Assistance / Braes Heights and Ayrshire Developments (for temporary housing needs) / FEMA / Floor Zone (tips for soaked flooring)