Hurricane Harvey

I used to use this blog as a mix of personal and professional posts, but as I got busier with work and had less time for writing and blogging, I let this blog slowly evolve into a professional blog only – aka just for sharing tips and tricks for wedding photography, sharing recent wedding and engagement sessions and answering any questions my couples might have about KLP.  There’s a part of me that misses having some of my personal life mixed in with my business blog.  I’m not sure if I’ll be back to regularly blogging personal posts or not, but I feel that these images should be shared.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or without internet and cable like we have been for the past week and a half), you probably know by now that Houston was hit with the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.  I can’t speak for the rest of Houston’s experience with Hurricane Harvey (and many have only begun the journey to recovery), but this was my experience and what I personally witnessed first hand.

The days were (and still are) a huge jumbled mess in my head.  Hurricane Harvey felt like the weekend that lasted an entire week and still didn’t go away.  Harvey hit near Rockport, TX first.  David and I watched Jeff Piotrowski‘s live Periscope coverage from inside the eye of the hurricane (seriously, if you want to see some amazing first hand footage of the storm, scroll his Twitter account to August 25th and you’ll see a link to the video I’m talking about).  I don’t have much to say about this except Jeff is quite possibly crazy, but I couldn’t stop watching.  His coverage is amazing, and I was terrified for his life when he lost internet connection and the internet couldn’t find him for hours.  We feared for Jeff’s life.  Luckily, he made internet contact the next day and all was well, although Harvey was still making his way east through Texas.

While Corpus and Port Aransas got hit with the high winds of Harvey, Houston and the greater surrounding areas were left with a slow-moving Harvey who had a never-ending supply of rain.  It rained for what seemed like forever.  Several days straight.  The flooding started in Houston.  For me, that wasn’t a huge surprise as the city of Houston has flooded before and with the rain that was predicted…let’s just say I wasn’t surprised about the areas that were flooding early on.  Even so, it was so sad to see our city under water.  People displaced from their homes.  David and I tried to stay up to date as much as possible through various news outlets.  One night (sorry for my lack of knowledge as to which day – again…all the days of Harvey ran together for us), we were watching a news conference and the topic of our reservoirs needing to release water in order to keep their structural integrity in tact, came up.  Most of the attention was on two reservoirs Southwest of us.  The Addicks and Barker reservoirs.  With the already flooded areas of Houston, they told us to expect more flooding as this would just add to the already flooded Bayous, as they would be releasing water at a rate that was faster than what could currently be drained off.  I certainly didn’t know how much this would effect homes, even weeks later.  Homes that had been flooded and already had water recede out of their home were flooded a second time, but even worse.  People I know still have standing water in their homes, and they’ve been told that it could take up to two weeks for the water in their homes to recede.

There was a small mention of Lake Conroe releasing water during that press release.  What they didn’t mention was how much and how fast they would be releasing water from Lake Conroe.  Lake Conroe was 90% full before Hurricane Harvey hit.  I’m not sure why water wasn’t released the week prior to the storm hitting us as we knew we were in for a terrible storm.  We are near Lake Houston, and Lake Houston was releasing water several days prior to Harvey hitting us…people from my neighborhood are still questioning the rate of Lake Conroe’s release and I don’t think we have heard the end of it.

The night they announced these water releases, our neighborhood was completely dry and draining just fine.  The water release started at 2am the next morning and by 8am when I awoke the next day, the back of our neighborhood was flooding and people were having to leave by boat.  David spent all that day and the next doing calculations…comparing the release rate of Conroe with how fast we were releasing at Lake Houston and how much water we were expected to get.  Every time we had a calculation figured out, Lake Conroe would increase how much water they were going to release from the lake.  We spent two days doing this.  I didn’t sleep well at all…afraid that I would wake up to water in my house.

One night, we heard fire trucks and ambulances race down our streets towards the flooding.  One of the houses two blocks over from us who flooded the first night…the water had reached the breaker box in the garage and the house caught fire.  Luckily it was put out quickly, but add that to the things you need to worry about.

We were lucky enough that Lake Conroe finally slowed down their water release rate and our water started to recede.  Unfortunately, half of our neighborhood flooded and 3/6 of the homes on our cul de sac took on water.  We are so lucky and fortunate that our house sits high.  Our steep driveway is something that we have always had a love/hate relationship with.  We used to joke “well, at least we don’t have to worry about flooding” at times when we would be annoyed with the steep incline and how it was difficult for some parents and grandparents to walk up it.  Today, we whole heartedly love our steep driveway and the fact that our home sits higher.  Our neighbors have affectionately named us the “house that sits on Mt. Hazel Brook.”

It’s such an odd feeling to see not only your neighborhood underwater, but central areas of our small city and it’s businesses under water.  Our brand new 7-month old HEB was completely under water, as well as all of the restaurants in the new shopping center that had just opened.  About half of our grocery stores are flooded and closed as well as a good percentage of our Kingwood restaurants and businesses.  It’s weird to know that whole street blocks of businesses will be closed for the next 6+(?) months.  The high school flooded and students are now having to go to a school 45 minutes away because that’s the closest school that can hold the amount of students we have.  Props to the new school for opening it’s doors to the Kingwood students as I’m sure sharing a school with an entire school body from another school is not easy and has it’s challenges.

Kingwood is just one small area that will feel the effects of Hurricane Harvey for many months (and years?) to come.  I know homes downtown are still sitting in water, and I know others might have had a different experience.  But I can only share what I witnessed.

After the rain had slowed, I took an umbrella and my camera and ventured out with my rain boots to take some photos.  The water had already receded quite a bit at this point.  I felt weird taking photos during a time of high stress for many others, but I also felt like these stories needed to be told.

 

One block from our home

The top of one of those water tank trucks…this truck wasn’t here the first morning I was there.  When I went back in the afternoon it was there and by the next morning the water had risen to this level.  I guess the driver thought he would be able to make it, but instead he ended up having to abandon his truck.

Two blocks from our house

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Above everything else, it’s been amazing to see first hand people come together and help each other. Flooding started early 8/28 (in our neighborhood) and there wasn’t much help in our part of the city from anyone official (official help did arrive probably around late morning on 8/29). Almost all evacuations in our neighborhood were done with the help of neighbors bringing their boats and canoes and helping to get fellow neighbors and their furbabies out. It has been amazing to witness people acting so selflessly.

The street that runs next to our home.  We are the house to the right.  You can see where the water level was before it started to recede.

Our neighbors across the cul de sac from us.  They took on water, and you can see how high the water had risen by the brick line.

The military did arrive in the afternoon of the day the water started to recede.  It’s an odd feeling seeing military trucks driving through your neighborhood and hearing helicopters flying above your home and doing roof rescues.

THE CLEANUP

The light in all of this has been witnessing friends, neighbors, strangers come together to help anyone in need.  The need has been great, and people have stepped up and exceeded what was needed.  Drywall has been ripped out, floors have been torn out, laundry has been done for those who’s clothes were soaked in the food water, meals have been cooked and delivered, generators loaned out.  Seriously, any need or request that has been put out on our neighborhood app has been met within minutes.  The last week there’s been a plethora of people asking “who needs help?”  Strangers walking up to homes and asking “what can I do?”  That has been the bright spot in all of this.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the bad, the negative, the politics.  I’ve always been a believer that at the root of everything, all we need is to be kind to one another and I love seeing the support.  I love seeing everyone come together with a desire to help.  The feeling of community here in Kingwood and Houston has been inspiring.

In case you’re wondering what it looks like to have home after home lose all their memories and possessions to a flood here’s a few photos. I know possessions can be replaced, but it’s so heartbreaking to see everything they have worked for piled up outside for trash.

 

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