UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Texans are not victims but survivors of Harvey

Surviving severe storms


My mom went all out with the preparation for Hurricane Harvey, even though we all kept thinking it wasn’t going to be too bad; just another storm by the time it reached Houston. We had food, water, gas, a generator and clean clothes. I had just taken a shower and was sitting at the dinner table with my parents and big sister playing loteria, a card game, and drinking wine.

It was 9 p.m. and it had just started raining. My grandma is already in bed, ready to sleep through the night like any other night. After losing many rounds of loteria to my mom, we realize the rain is getting stronger. We all look out the window and see how quickly the rain is coming. It has just started to cover the street. We keep our eyes on the TV for updates about the hurricane and keep going about our night, using it as family time.

By 10 p.m. the rain is already covering our driveway, and the water has risen to about 2 inches up the tires on the cars. Mom suggests we wake up grandma and move some of our belongings to our small apartment in our backyard where there is a bed, a full bathroom, a kitchen and air conditioning; it sits at a higher point than our house. I give my rain boots to grandma and my sister walks her to the back house. Moments later we take my dog Rusty as well. My grandma has Alzheimer’s and forgot that there is a hurricane entering the city; she just thinks it is raining and doesn’t question why we were going to sleep in the back house for the night.

PHOTO: Liliana Gonzalez and Rachel Hill helping cut into the walls using the chalk line. Photo by The Signal reporter, Mariana Gonzalez.
Liliana Gonzalez and Rachel Hill helping cut into the walls using the chalk line. Photo by The Signal reporter, Mariana Gonzalez.

By 11 p.m. the water has already entered through the side door of the main house, and my mom tells me to start taking pictures of all of our appliances. We help my dad lift all the furniture on top of paint cans so the water won’t reach them. The water soon starts coming in through the back door and, shortly, the front door as well.

By 11:30 p.m. the water level is easily a foot inside the house and has ruined all the furniture. I check on the cars and see the water is halfway up the tires. I’m hoping this is as high as the water will reach tonight. It’s midnight, and I’m completely wrong. Water is still pouring down and rushing through the main house. We’ve left the front and back doors open because at this point the water is already inside.

Mom said to gather my valuables and take them to the back house, so I grab my phone, laptop, and camera, throw them in my backpack and go to the back house. My grandma is falling asleep but hears me walk in and asks if it is raining outside. I say, “Only a little bit, go back to sleep.”

Our left-side neighbors call my dad because they have water coming in high too. They have five kids. Obviously, we need to provide help as soon as possible. My dad and I wade over with water up to our waists. My neighbor gives me one of the kids. The little girl I’m carrying is happy. She doesn’t understand the situation at hand; at least she’s not scared. I take her to the back house where my sister, dog and grandma are. Grandma asks again, “Is it raining outside?” Again I reply, “Only a little bit; get some sleep”. I go back to the neighbors. My dad and the other parents are carrying the other kids. Everyone makes their way over to our back house.

Across the street, another set of neighbors, who have kids, need to get somewhere else high and dry. Again we wade across the street to help. This time, in freezing water up to my stomach. I make the return trip with a young boy who is already running a fever and crying because he’s scared of what’s in the water. We all get inside the back house where there’s now seven children, nine adults and my dog.

It’s 2 a.m. and still we wait for the water to stop, which we see on the smartphone radar won’t be until 7 a.m. My parents and neighbor’s husband are outside waiting for help. Inside the back house, my sister and I look at each other with worry and say “It’ll be okay,” which I know will be true in the future. Grandma wakes up again, this time from the sound of the kids crying, and asks, “It’s been raining for a while hasn’t it?”

At 3 a.m. the rain still hasn’t stopped and now there’s water coming into the back house. About two inches of water gets in; still it’s better than standing in the feet of water in the other houses. The hours pass and the rain doesn’t let up. We try calling emergency numbers but the lines are busy. My sister tweets about our situation asking for help. More than 175 people retweet her message sending links and numbers to authorities or rescuers. Rescuers never arrived.

We stay inside where I continuously shake off ants and spiders from my body that came from the flood. Daylight finally arrives and the water comes down slowly, but it was still raining slightly. Feeling relieved that the water is lower, we walk outside around 9 a.m. Seeing that the water is only at about four inches, the neighbors feel safe enough to return to their homes to see what kind of damage the hurricane left behind.

Although what we went through was traumatic, to say the least, there has been an enormous number of silver linings in spite of the damage Harvey brought. I’m currently living with a friend who has generously offered my sister, my dog and I a place to stay until our house is livable again, and it has been a great blessing. FEMA has covered our family to stay at a hotel until the end of Sept., so that is where my parents are staying. My aunt from Mexico came to pick up my grandma, and she will be staying in Mexico until our house is up and running again.  I’d like to say that we aren’t victims of Harvey. We came through the storm as survivors of Harvey.