Saturday, April 28, 2018

How We Survived Hurricane Harvey - Part 1 of 2

Job 37:9-13
Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.
From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen.
Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud;
He disperses the cloud of His lightning.
It changes direction, turning around by His guidance,
That it may do whatever He commands it
On the face of the inhabited earth.
Whether for correction, or for His world,
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.

Exactly 8 months ago yesterday, Hurricane Harvey hit our city and forced my family and me to evacuate our home. It was by far one of the most emotional, adrenaline filled days of my life. I've recorded the events of that stormy experience to the best of my knowledge in this post. All of the times are approximate and to be honest, some might be inaccurate because much of that day is blurry in my memory.

Matthew 8:24-25
And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

Saturday, August 26
9ish PM
That evening, my brother- and sister-in-law were over for dinner. When they decided to head out early to avoid the storm, I thought they were being a little overly cautious. "It's just a little rain, anyone can drive in that."

Unlike me, my husband Cameron was on high alert regarding the storm. I went to bed around 10pm or so while he stayed up and watched the news. Every so often, he would come in the room very anxious about how hard it was raining and it was apparent that it would not be letting up anytime soon...I was annoyed at him for not letting me sleep.


The fast flowing flood waters down our street. 

11:31 PM

Cameron backed his truck up as close to the garage as he could in attempts to avoid water getting in it.

Sunday, August 27
12ish AM
So at some point in the middle of the night (I just know it was after midnight), I got up with Cameron and stepped outside to water running down our street like a river. What didn't even cross my mind at the time is that we had a creek at the front of our neighborhood with easily a 10 foot steep bank. So if our street was overflowing, that meant that creek overflowing by easily a dozen feet or more.

I went back to bed, but Cameron stayed up to monitor the news and the flood waters outside.

1 AM
Though the rain was still steadily coming down, the waters flooding the street did not seem to be rising, so Cameron lay down on the couch to catch some sleep.

1:45ish AM
Cameron woke up to no rain and an eerily quiet stillness. The water up had risen over the curbs and onto the sidewalk. He woke me up in attempt to get me on alert. Again, I was annoyed. But I got up with him to check out the situation.

At one point, we both walked outside again to see if we could see what the neighbors were up to, but we didn't see much. The few people we saw outside were too far away to talk to, and the water made it very problematic to attempt to get closer to them. We were terrible and never got to know any of our neighbors in during the 6 months we had been living in that house, and at that moment I desperately wanted to talk to one of them to just see what they were thinking of all this. But because of our lack of relationship and the rising waters, we never got to talk to any of them.

I tried to convince Cameron to get at least a little sleep because we would need him rested up if anything were to happen, but I was still so sure nothing would. To put him at ease, I agreed to stay up and keep an eye on everything outside. Though he tried, he was unable to settle his mind down in order to sleep.

The rain started to pick back up again and over the next two hours the waters kept steadily rising up through yard, inching closer and closer to the house.

4 AM
Our whole front yard and driveway was now underwater. I guess I was just in denial at this point because I figured we would still be fine.

4:45 AM
Water started creeping onto our front porch, and then slowly into our front two rooms (a toy room and an office/music room). My mind still didn't grasp the gravity of the situation, because I still believed, "Oh, we'll just get an inch or so of water. It'll be inconvenient, but we'll be okay."

That thought process lasted at most 15 minutes, because within that time the floodwaters started seeping from the front two rooms, the garage door and the back door into the living room. As I saw how quickly the water was rising, I knew this was bad. This was so, very bad.

For just a short few minutes, we didn't know what to do. Cameron called his dad to see if he had any ideas, but of course there was nothing he could do. Around this time I left a voicemail for my parents asking them to pray for us. They were visiting friends out of the country at the time, so they had no clue what was going on in Houston.

Then we called 911. When the lady answered, her first two questions were "How much water is in your home?" and "Where are you located?" When we answered her questions, she said it would be several hours before we were rescued because crews were rescuing other people from their roofs. We hoped telling her about our two little boys would prompt more urgency from her, but she simply responded by telling us to get to higher ground. Otherwise, we were just supposed to hang tight until help came.

5 AM
At this point we had a couple inches of water throughout most of the house. We didn't want to risk staying in the house with our two little boys, so Cameron reached out to our friends from church, Joe and D'lana, who also lived in our neighborhood and were at higher ground than us. Joe told us to come on over.

So we quickly changed into some comfortable day clothes, got a diaper bag together and started getting the boys up and dressed. JT, just 1 month shy of 2 years old, was happy to be woken up to a good six inches of water in his room. He started jumping up and down in his crib with delight as he saw the water rippling. After getting him in a clean diaper and getting Axel, not yet 6 months, changed and dressed, we headed out.

5:15 AM
As we were getting ready, the floodwaters in the front two rooms of the house had risen from a couple inches to easily a foot. When we opened the front door, we were met with floodwaters 2 feet high and pouring rain from a pitch black sky. I was carrying Axel on my hip. Though I had the baby carrier strapped on me, I didn't bother to take the time to put Axel in it. Cameron was carrying JT on his hip, his backpack strapped on (which had our electronics and important documents in ziplock bags), and the diaper bag on his other shoulder.

Because the street was downhill from the houses with the water flowing fast, we had to walk through our neighbor's yards, often right next to their bushes and front windows. Cameron led the way as I followed just a few feet behind. Adrenaline was our driving force as we navigated through the dark, rain downpour, and flood waters thigh high and rising, each with a toddler or baby in hand. At one point we had to cross the street through waist high water. This was a difficult task with our kiddos and baggage in tow. I think this is when it started to hit me just how much flooding was occurring around our home.

When we were just over halfway to Joe and D'lana's house, they met us with flashlights and raincoats.  Joe then led us the rest of the way to their house, helping us avoid other potential hazards. At one point, I veered off of his path by a few feet (what was I thinking?) and tripped over a large tree root. That was one of the scariest moments of the entire day because as I fell, my baby was submerged in the water from his chest down and I didn't have the strength in that moment to lift him up. Thankfully D'lana reacted and within just a couple seconds she grabbed Axel so that I could use my hands to push myself up out of the water.

5:30 AM
We made it to Joe and D'lana's house safely. They were so kind and hospitable as they let all four of us wear their clothes and threw our own clothes in their dryer.

We could finally breathe for a minute. We hardly knew what to say to each other as we could hardly process the severity of the situation we were in. Though we were dry, we were also stuck. The waters were covering their driveway, but still a good 15 feet or so away from their front door. The rain was still coming and waters still rising, and we all knew it was only a matter of time before the water started coming into their house as well.

At this point, there was ten of us total, 5 adults (Joe and D'lana, her cousin Hilary, Cameron and myself) and 5 children ages 12 and 6 (Joei and Journey - belonging to Hilary), 3 (Joey - Joe and D'lana's), 2 and 6 months (JT and Axel, belonging to Cameron and me). Plus three dogs. I was so thankful for Joei, the 12 year old, as she helped keep my baby preoccupied and entertained on and off throughout the morning.

7ish AM
I finally made contact with my parents and was able to fill them in on what was going on with us. I could hear my mom start to cry on the phone, and I found myself reassuring her that we were all safe and help was on the way.

Cameron's family was making efforts to get in contact with anyone who would be able to rescue us. In the end, we had to wait for the rescue boats to make their way to us.

Daybreak (8ish) AM
Some light was finally starting to make its way through. The waters were now covering Joe and D'lana's entire front yard and the bottom porch step (out of 3). For the remainder of our time at their house, it drizzled on and off but never rained heavily, thus the floodwaters didn't rise.

For hours we waited in anticipation. We were all busy between keeping the three young kiddos calm and entertained, and watching the news until the point Joe cut the power off to the house. We tried to eat what we could, but because of our nerves, it wasn't very much.
Hurricane Harvey Survival Story
Random selfie of Joei, Me & Axel

                Hurricane Harvey FloodingHurricane Harvey Flooding
Cameron & JT standing on Joe & D'lana's front porch as the waters are rising

Hurricane Harvey Street Flooding
Close up view of the flooding street in front of Joe & D'lana's house 

Shortly after sunrise, we could hear the rescue boat nearby. Each time it sounded like the boat was coming for us, everyone of us gathered all of our essential belongings together, strapped on our packs and picked up our kids to prepare to board. I believe we had about 5 false alarms of getting everyone ready to load up. Those were extremely emotionally exhausting. It was a roller coaster of excitement for being rescued just to be disappointed that it wasn't our turn just yet. And on top of that, Axel was getting frustrated with being into the baby carrier so many times. When the time actually came for us to load up, I was still in doubt until we were halfway down the driveway!

11ish AM
The rescue boat had finally arrived to us. It was our turn! It was a sturdy-looking, motorized inflatable raft manned by 4 firefighters. To me this rescue boat looked like it was designed to hold 6 people. But somehow, all 10 of us squeezed on there. I had Axel strapped onto me with the baby carrier while JT sat between Cameron's legs. One firefighter was standing at the back manning the motor while the other 3 firefighters hung onto the outside of the boat.

Here are a couple videos I took as we were loading onto the boat, getting our lifejackets on and riding through the neighborhood to higher ground. ***Heads up, there is at least one curse word in this video as the motor hit a mailbox. I apologize for my lack of video editing know-how in bleeping it out.

Check out Part 2 of How We Survived Hurricane Harvey to see how we made it to safety!


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