Fun fact: Hurricane’s are awful.

In my last post, I talked about the preparations Gulf Coast residents are taught to take during hurricanes. When hurricanes/tropical storms have previously rolled through town, I was a child, so all I needed to be concerned about was keeping safe and staying with my family. In those instances, the preparations we were taught were very helpful, however, I don’t think they prepared me for living through this storm as an adult.

Many additional preparations have been added to my hurricane checklist over the past few days :

  • What will you do if your area goes through a mandatory evacuation? You still have a choice to stay, as they cannot force you to leave your home, which would you choose?
  • You can’t take your pet(s) to most shelters? If you evacuate but can’t take your animal, how will you get back to them?
  • What will you bring with you knowing that, when you return, your house may have taken on water of an unknown depth for an unknown length of time?
  • If water does come into your house, what is most likely to be damaged? Can any of that be moved higher ground to reduce material casualties? Are any electrical systems close to the ground that are likely to be damaged by incoming water? Can rugs be removed, rolled up, and stored on higher ground? Is there anything in your garage (common location for cardboard box storage), that will be needed during repairs and therefore need to be moved to higher ground now?
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My cat, Clooney, using my tower of rolled up carpets as his throne.

For the series of questions pertaining to water coming into your house, nobody tells you that you may not have much time to prepare these things. If you’re told you need to leave your house due to a mandatory evacuation, you are maybe given a few hours to run through this checklist before you need to leave your home; at which point, you won’t know when you’ll be returning to survey the damage.

We’re not taught that if you are making these decisions for the first time in your life, you will experience an unexpected amount of stress and anxiety about whether your picking the right things to save, how you’ll pay for things if/when they get damaged, and how you’ll need to start repairs to your house once you get back. You know you have friends you can stay with while your house is getting repaired but, if your cars been totaled due to high flood waters, how are you going to get there? How long are the repairs going to take? Do you have flood insurance to cover the damages as most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover damages due to flooding?

I am one of the lucky ones; I have parents to help me through this. I am alone, stranded on an almost literal island, but my house still has power, so I can keep charging my phone to contact my parents who can talk me through a lot of this. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I kept looking out the window to check the water level in the street, then obsessively checking my phone to see how many more inches of rain were expected to fall that night. Thousands of people in the Houston Metropolitan Area right now don’t have that luxury.

Water didn’t come into my house last night, though most of yesterday was spent agonizing over if/when it would. The water on my street is almost 3ft deep now. I’ve never been so happy to live on a block where the houses are raised that much from street level.

People keep texting me. Family members and friends keep checking in to see how things are going and whether I’m safe.  I appreciate the thought but feel obligated to respond within minutes so nobody starts worrying about whether something has happened to me.

The photos and videos online showing the damage of the storm so far aren’t lying, they aren’t showing you isolated incidents. Those images show what a large part of Houston looks like right now.

As the storm winds down, we start considering what to do next. We now have to deal with the aftermath. The cleanup and repair efforts will be expensive and time consuming, but we will get through this. I will help however I can. I am one of the lucky ones so, when I can leave my house, I will go to those who need help. This is the time to step up and come together.

 

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Posted by Megan Livingston

Ms. Livingston is a PhD student studying Biochemistry & Cell Biology at UT MD Anderson/UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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