Hurricane Harvey: A First-Hand Account

A First-Hand Account from Someone who Endured the Floodwaters

It was a normal Texas summer day like any other: the oddly-shaped glass buildings of Houston’s Montrose district twinkled distinctly before me, drawing me in with their wacky pastel colors. I was spending the afternoon waltzing to and from different boutiques, fully enveloped in the rich smell of our city’s diverse cuisines. With the sweltering Houston heat bearing down on my head and the thick humid air heavy against my skin, it certainly wasn’t ideal, but, nevertheless, it was home. My home. Houston. What happened next is something that I never could have ever imagined. These colorful glass buildings and the warm fragrance of Tex-Mex – all the things that I took for granted while living here – would soon be completely swept away in just a matter of hours.

In the early morning of August 25th, 2017, the National Weather Service issued an emergency weather alert for a flash flood. That flash flood quickly transformed into a tornado. Shortly after, Hurricane Harvey hit my city at full force.

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“Hurricane Harvey is the first major hurricane to strike South Texas since Celia in 1970,” the report read. “This is a life-threatening situation…Take shelter now.”

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According to CNN News, Hurricane Harvey is the first huge hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Charley in 2004. This Category 4 hurricane not only caused catastrophic flooding and tornadoes but also resulted in the displacement of more than 30,000 people, the inundation of hundreds of thousands of homes, and the loss of at least 50 confirmed lives (as of 9/3/2017). Over this nine day period, rainfall accumulation in South Texas cities peaked at nearly 52 inches. The nine trillion gallons of rain dispensed are enough to fill the Great Salt Lake of Utah twice, occupy nearly 34,000 Empire State Buildings, and be spread equally over each square inch of the contiguous United States with a height of 3 pennies stacked on top of each other. Hurricane Harvey was enormous both in size and in consequence.

I’ve lived in Houston for all my life, but, since I’ll be moving out of state for college soon, I only recently realized how blessed I was to grow up in such a diverse place. As the third most diverse city in the United States, our city is the epitome of the “melting pot” image that America so heavily prides itself on. Our mix of different cultures, ideologies, ethnicities, religions, and perspectives is what makes Houston so distinctly Houston. Despite the bipolar weather and, at times, almost unbearable heat, I’ve grown to love my city and am so proud to call myself a Houstonian. That’s exactly why watching my community of 18 years get torn apart in Hurricane Harvey has been utterly heartbreaking. Witnessing more and more of my community lose their loved ones and belongings slowly broke down my will- to the point where I almost lost it completely. But there’s always a light, even in times great darkness. As I curled up in the corner of my damp, pitch-black room, I was immensely encouraged by the kind words that a few of my fellow Red Cross family members had sent my way.

Photo by: Daniel Cima / American Red Cross

As a result of the selfless words and actions of Red Cross volunteers like those who had reached out to me, my community has stayed strong. In fact, after the flooding in my neighborhood had mostly subsided, I personally visited our local Greater Houston Area Red Cross Chapter headquarters to help out, and I can firsthand attest to the sheer amount of blood and sweat that was poured into aiding those hurt by Hurricane Harvey. I’ve never seen a group of volunteers and staff so intensely passionate and earnest about their work. In the past few days, I’ve met Red Crossers in Houston from all over the nation- from Wyoming to Illinois to Hawaii to Oklahoma to Washington D.C. to California and more- all who came to help out with the disaster relief service. There were even volunteers who weren’t present physically but were aiding us remotely from other states, whether it be through administrative work, data entry, communications, or more. I urge you to get involved in the Red Cross’ Hurricane Harvey relief effort today. No matter where you are or who you are, you can make an impact.

Our hearts reach out to the many hundreds of thousands of people who have lost everything. Thanks to the compassion and generosity of our supporters, the Red Cross has been ever-present in communities across the Texas Gulf Coast Region, responding where and when people most need help. Together we have:

  • Provided safe refuge for 32,000 people in more than 230 Red Cross and partner shelters in Texas, including people affected in Louisiana
  • Served more than 180,000 meals and snacks
  • Activated 200 emergency response vehicles to bring meals, water, support, and damage assessment
  • Positioned six kitchens capable of producing 10,000 meals a day, with six more trailers on the way

Together we are making the difference between having nowhere to go and finding a safe, dry place to stay. For those who were without critical items, like eyeglasses, medications, and water, together we’ve provided a lifeline in their darkest hour. Learn more about our response here.

50 lives have been lost as of September 3rd. There are still many injured and hurt, both physically and mentally. With a number of people missing, we don’t know how many more there are out there, but we do know that we can prevent the number of lives lost from rising by offering as much assistance as possible.

Photo by: LM Otero / AP

You can make an impact. You can make a change. You can save lives. Help restore Houston and South Texas to the bright, sunny home it was before. Get involved today by registering as a volunteer here.

If you know anyone who may need help, they can visit www.redcross.org, download the free Red Cross Emergency App or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). With your ongoing help, we will continue to provide support for those who will be affected in the days and weeks to come.

 

Angela Liu, National Youth Council member from Houston, RCYO and YouthWire Editor

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