As the kids go down for a nap and the waters begin to stabilize I gather some of our thoughts over the last couple days, and the days to come.
I learned of what was soon to become Hurricane Harvey from a co-worker last Tuesday, 7 days ago. This consisted of nothing more than an awareness of a storm that was over the Yucatan. I came home from work that day and told my wife over dinner. Neither of us thought much of it as it didn’t come up again until we did 30 seconds of research on our phones before nodding off to sleep.
The second day, as I walked to my office I learned my office mate is known as our team’s weather expert. I hadn’t said good morning yet and stopped by to say hello and ask him about the storm. He mentioned it was coming off the Yucatan and headed toward Texas. Nothing to worry about right now he thought, maybe some additional rain, which we need right now. He later followed up our conversation with a link to his favorite weather blog. I thought nothing of it until I heard a couple other office mates mention that this blog specialized in hype free weather.
A little background on myself and the news is that ever since I lived in the middle east I turned away from listening to or watching mainstream news. My personal experiences taught me that what was reported was rarely true and no longer worth my time to hear a one-sided story meant to create fear and stronger viewership.
After hearing the blog specialized in hype free weather I went to research it myself, not for the weather but to see if they were truly hype free and potentially a quality resource when I did need local weather forecasts. Sure enough, the blog was written by two experienced meteorologists who have decided to leave the hype behind and specialize in accuracy, not emotions. I bookmarked the page for future reference when we might be faced with a hurricane or some severe weather in the future.
Now its Thursday, one day before what is now tropical storm Harvey is predicted to make landfall. I woke up early as I always do to work on HIT Investments. Before leaving to go to work Sarah and I spoke briefly about the tropical storm and concluded we should fill the vehicles up with gas and gather a few supplies. Later that day I filled the truck up with fuel and Sarah picked up some batteries, canned goods, dry milk, peanut butter and bread. Sarah mentioned the grocery store was busy but the gas station I went to didn’t look to be any more busy than normal. We didn’t quite get the van filled up with fuel but went to bed that night planning on getting it done the next day. Both of us slept without worries.
Friday came and we learned that tropical storm Harvey has been upgraded to Hurricane Harvey. It wasn’t but two days later I had to pull out that bookmark for Space City Weather. Sure enough Eric and Matt confirmed that we had a hurricane on our hands and that Houston was about to experience some severe rain showers. We quickly went into hurricane mode and Sarah went out to fill up the van with fuel and I boarded up the windows.
We could tell that we were newbies to bad weather as people were stopping and taking pictures of our newly covered plywood windows. For a moment, Sarah and I felt uncomfortable with all of these new eyes upon us, but after a quick discussion and weighing the pro’s vs. con’s — Would we rather be playing games with the kids or preparing our family for the worst — we went against the grain and got back to work. Friday night we slept thinking that we were prepared for what was to come.
We woke up to some rain but nothing out of the usual. It rained most of the day with the streets beginning to flood. By Saturday afternoon the rain had lightened and the streets were mostly clear. We had dinner with the kids and put them down not knowing that the hours to come were going to lead to the most devastation the city of Houston had ever seen.
The storm soon turned for the worst and our neighborhood entered the hurricane’s primary rain band. We watch very little TV and are too frugal to pay for Cable but when our internet went out soon after the heavy rain hit we setup our TV antenna and began to watch the local news. It was hard to imagine that we were really getting 10 inches per hour. It was like we were watching a river fall from the sky. The streets had turned into rivers and a class two rapid formed 15’ outside of our house. It was hard not to think the worst but I couldn’t help but kick myself for selling my surf boat two months ago before moving to Houston.
The water rose that night but it never got closer than 10 feet to our home. After a long night of little sleep and lots of worries we caught a reprieve from the steady rain on Sunday.
We continued to watch the news but learned that if we didn’t do it in small doses that the anxiety would easily overwhelm us. I couldn’t help but think this is how everyone must feel when the stock market is diving and everyone is watching their money vanish before their eyes, all while friends and reporters are telling them to sell, sell, sell. When you are in a scenario such as we were facing you want so desperately to do something, anything. Even if that something may be irrational and stupid, at least you are doing something.
My instincts were telling me to grab Sarah, strap the kids into their car seats and to get the heck out of here. We have got to move to safety, but looking back the worst thing we could have done was get into that van. I don’t want to imagine how that would have gone with 3 kids under the age of three, none knowing how to swim or even un-buckle. It sounds stupid now, we have an upstairs, our house was still dry, we still had electricity, and we had food and water to last us a couple weeks. We were already safe! The same is true for a market crash, we don’t usually need the money but our instinct is to sell our positions, get in the van and drive away.
Sunday was a long day and long night. Throughout the night Sarah and I would wake up and lean over to touch the carpet. Our subconscious kept asking “Have we flooded yet”?
Monday morning came with our hype free weather blog predicting no signs of relief and us learning that two reservoirs protecting our area were filling up and starting to release water. The rain was not as severe as prior days but the ground had already taken all it could. The showers and runoff were just enough for us to watch the water rise, rise, and rise some more. Over an 18 hour span the water had risen from the sidewalk to the foundation of our house. Neighbors were flooding and we found our garage under water. Throughout the day we continued to move our belongings to higher ground. I found myself playing games with the kids or reading business and investing books, not just because I like too but to keep my mind occupied with interesting and positive thoughts.
My sister is currently in France on a mission trip helping refugees and she wrote a quick update on how things were going. She is doing wonderful things but is also learning first-hand how disaster areas can sometimes be an un-organized mess. She mentioned how they were un-packing supplies for refugees just to learn that they need to pack them back up, and then to un-pack them again. She mentioned that she may not be able to control much in her current situation but she can control her attitude. Sarah and I have tried to take that to heart in our current situation.
We are blessed in so many ways, a few being:
- Financially – we have saved a large nest egg and could handle total property destruction.
- Friends – So many friends are praying and even asking to risk their own lives to come help us.
- Food – My wife is a wonderful planner and has set us up for at least two weeks of supplies.
- Neighbors – No one is looting, only looking for ways to help.
- Kids – When I asked my daughter what she thought of the water (while I was worrying) she said in a happy voice, “We should go upstairs Daddy.”
- Family – Notes of encouragement and prayers for our safety have been overwhelming
- House – Our home is two stories and we have a wrap around porch dock.
- Electricity – We still have power, as of when I am writing this.
- Technology – Our phones still work and continue to allow us to communicate.
- Experience – I don’t think I’ll ever have another chance to see fish in my garage.
- Time – Our daughter’s third birthday will be one of our most memorable.
- Wife – The word Awesome, still doesn’t do her justice.
That brings us to Monday afternoon where we slowly watched the Buffalo Bayou encroach on our home. It was 10’ away, and then 5’ and then in our garage, and then 1” up our foundation, and then 2”, and then 4” and then……… back down to 3” and then down to 2”.
Now after a long night it is Tuesday and the water is holding steady but in the last hour it has gone back up to 4” but is not yet in our house. The kids have eaten breakfast, played upstairs and are now down for their nap. The rain has stopped but the water continues to rise…..
We do not know if our house will flood in the upcoming hours or days but we do know that we can control our attitude, keep each other safe, and continue to be disciples in the trying times ahead.
Please excuse my grammar as this was written in the wet of the moment
References for fellow Houstonians:
NextDoor App – Neighborhood communication