How Harvey Looked From Here

Hurricane on the horizon

Soon gasoline started running out

We evacuated to safe ground, but floodwater turned our haven into an island

At first bigger pick-ups still could get in and out for supplies

But deeper floodwater cut us off completely (until we discovered the gate)

Meanwhile, our kayaking neighbor took photos of our house while the river rose to 54 feet…

After the river rose another few inches, it began flowing from our backyard down the driveway…

Finally, the river crested at 55 feet, 3 inches – and left our house (barely) safe and dry

But my wife’s parents house flooded with more than 4 feet of water, destroying nearly everything

Thousands of others in their town, Dickinson, also saw their houses and belongings ruined

To add insult to injury, even the Dickinson mini-storage facilities flooded

Much of our street in Richmond saw horrible flooding, too, such as this trailer park

A day later, this rainbow appearedI’m hoping it’s God renewing His old Noah’s Ark promise…

Posted in Be Afraid, Brazos River, Nature

The Magic Gate

So here’s the way it went: I’d decided to handle this year’s 100-year-plus flood event the way I handled last year’s 100-year-plus flood event. My wife and kids went to stay with her sister and brother-in-law about 15 miles away in what historically has been a dry area during major floods. I would hang out in the house with the dogs while the world went all Noah’s Ark, until the deluge ended. I would use my generator to maintain power and thus the food in our freezer and fridge, and work to keep outside damage at a minimum.

Then, the National Weather Service decided the river was going to crest at 59 feet. Last year, the river crested at 54.8 feet. At 54.8 feet, the house was high and dry, and so was our carport in back. At 59 feet, pretty much all bets were off. And in case I still hadn’t made up my mind, the city ordered a mandatory evacuation.

So on Sunday, in a driving rain, my wife, son and brother-in-law helped me move valuable stuff to the second story of our house. Then we took a minimum amount of clothing, and a bunch of racks of ribs and other good things from the fridge and freezer, and two confused dogs, and took off for rural Fort Bend County.

My brother-in-law lives in a great, secluded subdivision, engineered with very wide grass ditches along all of the houses, the benefit of which was obvious after about 25 inches of rain fell and yet the yards kept draining. However, a body of water called Jones Creek soon raged up and covered a bridge and a separate roadway on one side of our subdivision, while a man-made lake at what some would call an upscale development flooded its banks and was cascading over the roadway in the opposite direction.

For the first two days, local residents with jacked-up pickup trucks could get in and out, and thus did we all build up our food and water supplies. The power went out for a few hours, but came back on, so we never needed the generator I’d brought from home.

Then the water rose. Soon, we were locked in place. My wife’s parents, who also were staying with us, were anxious to get to their property east of Houston, and my wife and I wanted to see what we could of our neighborhood, but we were trapped. It was a benign trap, all things considered, but still a trap.

Until the magic gate.

On Wednesday, my wife and I rode bicycles to the high-water points of our new world. When we stopped at the now-underwater Jones Creek bridge, we met two young couples in a four-wheeler vehicle. We talked awhile, then they said they had to get back. “Do you live around here?” I asked. They said they lived on the flooded road we were looking at, on the other side of the high water. Huh?

So how were they going to get back home? They told us about the magic gate. You drove back to the “upscale development,” see, turned in, then followed the road until you saw a drainage ditch on your right. At that point, you turned left and continued until you found a second drainage ditch on your right. And again, you turned left. Then you drove to the end of that road, into a cul-de-sac. Then you looked for a driveway that had a gate at its rear. An open gate.

My brother-in-law, son and I followed the instructions, found the house, drove up the driveway, saw the open back gate, and drove onto a county road on the other side of the high water. Free at last.

In a relative way. Now we had access to bigger county roads and highways we hadn’t been able to get to, however, we still couldn’t get to my house in Richmond, due to a web of other flooded and closed roads. But we could get to Interstate 10, which meant I could get to our farm, 100 miles to the west. Even that far away, it had been inundated by 15 to 20 inches of Hurricane Harvey rain, and the “dry” creek between my farm road and my farmhouse had for three days pretty much raged across the land.

But my farm neighbor said the coast was clear. So we went back to the subdivision and told the news of the magic gate. I took the dogs and checked out storm damage at the farm, which is where I am now. The next day, my wife, her sister and their father used the magic gate to make their way east of Houston to check on my in-laws’ house damage. Unfortunately, it is severe, as the house took on about 4 feet of water. They will have to live in an apartment until the extensive repairs are made.

In Richmond, meanwhile, the Brazos River has crested, at 55.2 inches, a few inches higher than last year. A kayak-toting neighbor sent pictures showing that our Damned Old House has survived its second hurricane and third flood without taking in any water.

But the rest of the neighborhood (and much of the rest of Southeast Texas) is going to need lots and lots of help. Some of my neighbors had just finished rebuilding after their homes took in up to 7 feet of water from the 2016 flood. Cruel fate has just forced them to start over again or leave for good. Their stories are being repeated across Houston, to Galveston and all the way down the Texas coast.

Posted in Be Afraid, Brazos River, Nature, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be, Uncategorized

This Time

So Harvey the hurricane reached Category 4 status last night and slammed into the little town of Rockport, Texas, about 150 miles from here. We’ve been taking on a lot of rain. The wind gusted a good bit, but probably nothing above 40 miles per hour. The power went out around 5 a.m., but came back on by 9. We have a propane generator ready to go, and I figured we could weather even several days of this storm.

Then the National Weather Service threw us a curve ball. They run a river-level prediction center, which had showed the Brazos wasn’t going to rise much throughout this hurricane episode. I reasoned that was because most of the water was falling downstream from us. I was wrong, the NWS just never got around to making a prediction until last night. This morning, they upped that prediction.

Now they say the Brazos will hit 55 feet in depth. That’s even more than last year’s near-catastrophe of 54.8 inches, which we survived intact, but which dumped as much as 7 feet of water into some of our neighbors’ homes.

We thought about escaping to the farm. However, Harvey has moved inland to the point that it’s actually dumping more rain at the farm than it is here. And to reach our farmhouse, you have to drive over a usually dry creek that becomes a raging beast under heavy rainfall. And as it is predicted to rain 25 inches or so over the farm in the next three days, I doubt we could get over that creek.

So the current plan is for my wife and kids to take two of our cars, this evening, and go stay with her sister a few miles away from the river. I will stay here in what I hope will be an uneventful three or four days. However, it is for sure that river water will breach a couple of my neighbors’ properties and flood the street out front to probably 4.5 feet, with a stiff current. I am hoping for continuing electricity and continued working porcelain conveniences. My job will be to mitigate any damage that may occur.

Nobody gets it like they want it to be, even during disasters.

Posted in Be Afraid, Nature, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be

Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over

The violence and hatred spawned by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend received and deserved nearly universal condemnation this week. Except in the White House, where Donald Trump and other close associates took off their sheets and unmasked themselves for the fearful racists many of us suspected they were all along.

Here is a man who denounces American war heroes and handicapped journalists at the drop of a hat, but can’t bring himself to renounce the Ku Klux Klan or Nazi sympathizers. For all practical purposes, the Trump presidency has ended. The only question left is how to remove this cancer on American democracy quickly and effectively in order to minimize the damage he is doing to our country every day. Vice President Mike Pence, who also can’t make himself criticize the American Nazi movement, has to go, too.

The only thing I’d really like to hear (or read from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed) is that he is stepping down from the presidency to devote more time to his family.

Posted in Be Afraid, Government, Politics