Dad's House. Houston, Texas, September 14, 2017.
Dad’s house flooded with about five feet of water after Hurricane Harvey. His neighborhood is not in a flood plain, and it did not flood directly because of the rain – it flooded after the release of reservoir waters into bayous that pass behind the neighborhood. The families in his neighborhood were not warned and were not evacuated before the release. Their houses quickly filled with 5+ feet of reservoir water during the night and early morning hours, after most of the heavy rains from Harvey subsided. Dad’s neighbors were asleep in bed, and if not for my brother's bravery the night the reservoir waters were released, dad would have been trapped inside. Most of dad’s neighbors were rescued by good Samaritans who brought their boats the next day. A couple of people around dad's age did not make it out of their homes alive. We are forever grateful to the many good Samaritans who showed up with their personal boats and worked tirelessly to rescue families and pets. One of these good Samaritans actually took us back into the neighborhood several days after the rain stopped so that we could recover a few sentimental items for dad. Riding in a boat through the street, in some cases over cars that had been parked along the side of the street, was surreal and unforgettable. The reservoir water sat stagnant inside dad’s house for about two weeks. By the time we were able to reenter his house on foot, the walls and everything inside were covered in toxic mold and sewage water, and I can’t begin to describe the smell. We wore Tyvek suits, goggles, and ventilation masks to protect ourselves from the fumes. Still, we dealt with an aftermath of staph infections and upper respiratory distress. Everything inside had to be discarded, including this beautiful mirror that once belonged to my grandmother. Dad's house had to be torn down to the studs. Lawns and streets were piled high with the walls, floors, furniture, and contents of hundreds of people’s homes. It looked like a war zone and smelled like molded sewage, which it was.