We are almost a week post-Hurricane Harvey here in Houston and life is anything but normal.
I haven’t seen a national newscast in more than a week, so I don’t know what is being said and shown, but here’s a window into what is happening in my Houston neighborhood.
Homes in all directions are standing but eerily bare. The downstairs, and sometimes upstairs, framework of the house is all that is left inside after wet sheetrock, insulation, wooden floors, cabinets, and more have been quickly removed. Piles of trash (destroyed furniture, insulation, tile, etc.) so fully line the curbs of houses, the structures themselves are hard to see. A stench of mold, water, sweat, and tears permeates the neighborhood…literally.
But in front of those piles of trash, the streets are lined with bumper-to-bumper cars of friends and neighbors that are helping each other. Facebook is inundated with people asking who still needs help with their houses or who could use some cold water or cleaning supplies. Neighbors and groups from different states are driving in and banding together to prepare and deliver lunches. Hot meals are being delivered for free to those hardest hit and the people who are helping them. Families are reaching out to house complete strangers because they need to feel safe and have nowhere to go…and won’t for months.
The highways that we used to travel to downtown were completely submerged in water until the end of last week. The flow of water was so strong across those highways that it moved the concrete barriers making it look like a child’s toy train that was snaking along s-shaped tracks. It was truly an unbelievable thing to see.
In our neighborhood alone, we’ve lost a couple of grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor offices, restaurants, mom & pop businesses and even our library to the flood…in addition to hundreds of homes. There has been a run on food in the stores that remain, causing them to reasonably limit the amount of each item you purchase.
One of our local high schools took on water all the way up to the second floor. The structure is so damaged, it has been closed for the coming school year forcing the students to find a learning alternative. A neighboring community reached out and has agreed to house our students and teachers for a split schedule at their facility…a selfless act that is beyond appreciated so our kids can stay together after all the trauma they’ve endured in the last week and for the weeks to come. In addition to the stress of starting school amidst the aftermath of a flood, some students have lost their clothes and school supplies.
We still aren’t receiving regular mail or packages yet, making it difficult for some to have access to safe foods and/or medicines.
Special Note: I’m aware that a picture often speaks a thousand words, but these pictures would be of people’s lives and heartache and I just can’t bring myself to take pictures of other’s devastation. If pictures really help you visualize the situation, I’m sure national media have some on their websites.
Please know that I say all these things, not for your pity or to ask for help. I DO say these things for two reasons:
- So you know your monetary and food donations to disaster relief funds DO make a difference.
- So you can hopefully be better prepared in the wake of a natural disaster.
Monetary and food donations to disaster relief funds do make a difference and are a blessing to many with dietary restrictions when they are visiting local food banks. That said, I encourage you to check on friends and acquaintances that live in the affected area of a natural disaster to see if they are able to reach those food banks. If not, band together with others to provide those friends with some care packages (once mail is restored). Not only will your friends benefit from your blessing, but they will most likely be able to share those goodies with others in their neighborhood that are also struggling to find safe food.
Here are some helpful hurricane preparation tips I highly recommend:
- Buy enough food and water to last every member of your family two weeks. Be sure a good 75% of these items are nonperishable in the event that you lose power. Thank goodness, we had Enjoy Life and ZEGO products on hand.
- Stock up on high protein items. My family bought tons of SunButter and bread so if nothing else, we would be able to have sandwiches.
- Stock up on ice that you can store in ice chests. It can help keep you cool and refrigerate any food from your fridge for at least a little while.
- Get refills on all medications in case your pharmacy is affected. It could be days before you have access to life-saving medications, so make sure you have extra on hand. Call your doctor to have them renew any medications that you need.
- Withdraw cash in case you are unable to get to a bank and debit/credit cards do not work in a situation where there is no power.
- Go in with a neighbor and buy a generator and some long extension cords. If you lose power you will have enough electricity to run a nebulizer or other important devices.
- Don’t forget to fill up portable gas cans to supplement your generator and/or car if need be.
- Fill up with gas…even if you already have half a tank. Not only is gas not always readily available after a hurricane, but in Texas we managed to create pandemonium with a rumored gas shortage (of which there was not until everyone decided to fill up at one time) making it difficult to fill up vehicles.
- Wash your laundry and sheets before the hurricane hits. It could be some time before you have power to do so again.
- Fill up your tubs with water so you can use it for the toilet in the event your water is turned off.
- Clear out a designated closet or other safe room with no windows that your family can use to shelter in place if needed.
- Bring in light-weight outside furniture and/or decor that could become a hazard in high winds. We brought in several plants, wind chimes, yard signs, and more.
- Have plenty of batteries of all sizes and battery-operated lanterns and flashlights on hand. Candles (preferably odorless) are also helpful.
- Back up your computer and devices.
- Have a backup charger for devices that is already charged up and ready to go.
- Consider joining a social media avenue like Facebook. This social media outlet became a lifeline for those in my neighborhood with addresses of people who needed to be rescued, tips on what to do to help in the aftermath, as well as information about free meals and water.
If you have to evacuate, here are a few more tips:
- Pack your important medical information in a water-tight bag or ziploc. As people in my neighborhood were being evacuated from their homes by boat, they were somewhat limited in how much they could bring with them, so make the items you evacuate with count!
- Pack your home owners and insurance information in a water-tight bag or ziploc.
- Pack a water-tight bag or ziploc with “safe” food so you have enough to sparingly live off of for a few days.
- Pack life-saving and important medications in a water-tight bag or ziploc. For us, we had several back up auto-injectors ready to go so we would have additional meds. We were unable to get to either local hospital, so life-saving medicine is absolutely crucial to have on hand no matter what!
- Make sure an allergic friends/family members have on a medical id bracelet in the event you are separated.
- If room, pack one extra outfit in case clothes you are wearing become contaminated by flood waters or other hazardous materials.
If you think of anything I missed in the categories above, please list them below in the comments section.
Our community has been so blessed in that we have all jumped in to help and minister to one another. Many out-of-towners have flocked here just because they felt called to help. We are going to be okay…it will take time and a whole lot of God’s grace, but we’re going to make it by carrying each other.
Lastly, I just want to say thank you for all of the many thoughts and prayers you have been sending those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. We are grateful for each and every one!
Wishing you all good health and safety,