As my husband and I sealed up our Netflix DVDs yesterday morning, he noticed that the mailing address was in Houston. It was surreal to think that there wasn’t a Houston to mail anything to because it was underwater. This country has gone through natural disasters before, but when it hits this close to home, and family and friends are waiting for rides in boats to escape their homes, you realize how insignificant your problems are compared to what others are going through.
I’m a huge proponent of learning from our experiences, so even though this storm isn’t even a week old yet, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
When Harvey first popped up on radar, our local meteorologists started warning us on Monday morning that this storm was going to sit over Texas. It was scheduled to hit our San Antonio area on Friday or Saturday. Since we’ve heard loads of storm warnings in the past that never came to fruition, I wasn’t overly concerned. Besides, we have our emergency supplies ready to go from wildfire season, so we really just needed some extra bottles of water. I left for L.A. on Wednesday morning, and by the next morning, I could see from the projected radar that my husband should stop on the way home from work to get those water bottles because we were expecting 15” of rain in our area. We wound up getting less than an inch of rain at our house. Did we stock up for nothing? Technically, yes. But if that storm had turned a few degrees in a different direction, we could’ve been Houston. It’s better to be ready for several weeks of hard living than to be totally unprepared.
Think for yourself.
My dad tuned in to a weather channel while I was visiting him in L.A. so that we could keep an eye on San Antonio. Based on their reports and those of San Antonio meteorologists, I knew that Texas was in for a doozie. By Friday, it was apparent that Houston was most likely going to get flooded. With or without evacuation orders, I hoped that people would start heading away from the projected flood areas. (Or if they were going to stay, they were fully prepared for the worst.) If weather forecasts are using descriptions like “catastrophic” and “life threatening” and “rain levels never before seen,” those are clues to be ready to get out. It’s important to not wait for someone to think for you. There’s no need to wait for a politician to tell you to leave. And if you wait until you see the flood waters coming, it might be too late to leave. Know your options. Know your routes. Know who you can call for help if things don’t go according to plan. Head out before the lines of cars get too long.
If you’re not in a possible flood area but your travels might be affected by it, do your research to know what options you have in getting to where you need to go. Even though my return plane on Sunday was going non-stop to San Antonio, my flight got cancelled, so I needed to figure out how to get home. Southwest did a great job of helping me get re-ticketed, but researching other flights and the latest weather report and road closures helped in deciding which return flights to switch to.
Avoid 24/7 news.
Yes, you need to stay updated, but remaining glued to the news can bring down your spirits and cause your brain to freeze. My dad and I plopped down on the family room chairs and watched the weather news for an hour straight. Surely some new tidbit of news would pop up, right? Instead, it was the same information over and over and over. After a while, I became a mix of zombie (just sitting there, unable to look away from the loop of repeating information) and worry wart (thinking the very worst and panicking for all of the people in Harvey’s path) and cynic (realizing that the same information was being repeated every 10 minutes with increasing dramatic tone). Cut from the studio to the reporter in the field, trying to find the most destruction or – when there wasn’t any – the biggest puddle to stand in. When there wasn’t drama, there was an effort to create some. During one interview, the reporter asked, “Can you tell us about any casualties?” The city official talked about all of the rescue missions and how everyone was doing fine. Then the reporter asked, “But weren’t there any injuries?” as if wishing something bad happened so there could be some dramatic questioning and storytelling. I felt my brain turning into a depressing heap of mush, so we finally turned off the television to focus on something more positive. We checked in once per hour to get a peek at their incredible radar and forecasting technology for a five minute update, then went back to what we were doing.
There is goodness in this world.
We all know how wonderful first responders are. Yes, it’s their job to respond, but to head into danger when everyone is trying to escape it takes someone special. Firefighters, police officers, the military, the reserves, EMTs, Texas National Guard, the Coast Guard – thank you! But then, there are civilians who went into action, too. While some people were on social media creating and spreading blame and misinformation and trying to turn a natural disaster into a political statement, there were everyday citizens who
*grabbed their boats and trucks to go rescue strangers
*used their social media streams to become liaisons between rescuers and those who needed to be rescued
*hightailed it to shelters and food banks to help with relief
*gathered fellow animal lovers to rescue lost and abandoned pets
*gave and/or raised money for the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations
Bless you for loving instead of hating.
For those of you who want to help with Hurricane Harvey relief in some way, here are some options for you:
*Text the word Harvey to 90999 to give a donation of $10 to the Red Cross
*Contact your local food bank to see how to help them get food to Texas
*Contact your local church to find out which organization in your area is loading up clothes and household items to ship to Texas
*Contact your local animal shelter to find out how you can help Texas pets and livestock
For more ways to help, as well as resources for flood victims, visit this Hurricane Harvey relief page on the Texas Tribune website as well as this information from Houstonian Craig Price.