Monday, September 11, 2017

Harvey Was No Gentleman

It's that time of year again. It's the time of year when all of us in the Southeastern United States start watching the radar maps of the Atlantic Ocean, dreading the appearance of those first storm systems spinning off of the Cape Verde Islands.

Then right on cue, a Tropical depression formed and began chugging its way west toward the Carribean, gaining strength and eventually "tropical storm" status as it crossed the Lesser Antilles. He lost some punch as he encountered land and wind shear, but began to strengthen as he crossed over the Yucatan peninsula, eventually reaching hurricane status once he entered the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche. The fact that it survived crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula and eventually became a category 4 hurricane caught many Texans by surprise.

Hurricane Harvey, photo image By NASA, NNVL 

Within 48 hours it made landfall just north of Corpus Christi, in Rockport TX. This gave very little lead time for residents to prepare. Then, to add insult to that injury, it lingered over S. Texas for hours and hours, feeding its rain bands with water from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping multiple feet of rain. There were no steering currents or weather systems to give it continued momentum over land, so there it sat, wandering around for a couple of days, inching northeast along the coast then turning north and moving toward Houston at an agonizingly slow pace of 2 mph!

Since I've lived in this house, I've survived one extreme rainmaker tropical storm (Allison) and one hurricane (Ike) before Harvey came ashore. Allison was an extreme rainmaker, also stalling and wandering over Houston for hours, dumping record-setting rain on the area. In my neighborhood we had street flooding and water levels that began to creep up onto lawns and driveways, but never really felt threatened with flooding homes.

But this most recent hurricane was worrisome because of its rain-making capabilities. I made a trip to the grocery store on Monday, just days before landfall, and stocked up on things I knew I'd appreciate having in case we lost power or were unable to get out for days after the storm.

We began to feel the outer rain bands on Friday, August 27.  Water was overflowing the curbs on our street and starting to creep up onto the lawns and driveways.

Friday afternoon, first day of outer storm bands

What I woke up to Saturday morning

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of sheets of rain rattling against my windows and the non-stop roars of thunder, while the lightning illuminated the darkness. I got out of bed and peered outside my sliding glass door. I saw some movement on my deck so ran back inside and grabbed a flashlight. Poor little raccoon guys! seeking shelter under my deck!

Raccoons crawling under my deck in the heavy rains.

Around noontime on Saturday I noticed that water was no longer flowing down the storm drain, which is right at the end of my driveway. I waded out into knee-deep water during a lull in the rain and, with a rake, pulled out a huge pile of pine branches and needles that had created a dam and was blocking the drain.

Giant wad of pine tree limbs and needles created a huge clot, blocking the drain
OG the cat was VERY concerned that I was out there in the rain, wading through knee deep water to clear that drain!

Example of the type of storm drain
we have in our neighborhood

We have vertical under-curb drains so this is really saying something about the force of the rain water flow and the debris it lifted off of neighbors' lawns and into the street! All day I watched the water advance, despite having cleared the drain, and worried all night.

Later that day on Saturday water was overtaking my front lawn and had crept up my driveway. I went back out to check the drain, but it was open and flowing, just not able to keep up with the sheer volume of rain coming down.

Water in my lawn on Saturday

On Sunday there was a lull in the heavy rain and by that afternoon we could see the water starting to recede down our lawns and driveways, and we could actually see sections of our cul-de-sac emerge from the water. But it didn't last long. It began to rain more heavily and the water levels began to creep back up as it rained heavily throughout the afternoon and evening.

Water had started to recede on Sunday afternoon. Line of debris left behind
marks the high water mark at that point

Water high point on Sunday, but not for long! It was even higher by Monday

Water high point on Sunday, but not for long!

By Monday afternoon my front lawn was nearly completely underwater. I was beginning to worry because it was starting to creep up toward the foundation plantings against my garage. That night, before going to bed, I planted a little US Flag at the high water mark on my driveway. Several times during the night, I peered out the front door to see if water was getting any higher, using that little flag as my reference point.

The highest point - Tuesday morning. Up to my garage foundation plantings
Water line Monday night was at the little flag. By Tuesday AM,
it had started to recede, ever-so-slowly

Thankfully, the water never rose any higher, and the rains began to let up. As Tuesday went on, the water receded little by little and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Water receded this much by Tuesday noon
By Tuesday afternoon, there was significant improvement as the rains stopped and the drains could start to catch up.

Tuesday afternoon

Tuesday afternoon - water is half way down the drive and lawn

Water at the curb - still almost to my knees

On Wednesday morning, finally, the sun came out and neighbors began to emerge into the streets to survey the damage. I tried to walk the 3-mile loop around the perimeter of our neighborhood, but could only get about 1/2 mile before high water in the street and on the lawns blocked my progress. Many neighbors with golf carts were cruising the streets to see if neighbors needed any help. We began to hear from other neighbors and to learn that other streets in our neighborhood weren't so lucky.

It was another full day before we could exit our neighborhood. The entrance and exit roads were still flooded as were surface roads immediately adjacent to our neighborhood. We could go neither east nor west on McHard Road.

Thursday morning - almost back to normal
Thursday morning I got out and did a 3 mile run, the first since before the hurricane hit. I was able to get a better sense of the water damage to some of the homes. A couple of the streets were still flooded and impassible. My heart broke for these neighbors of mine, many who are friends, almost all of whom are elderly and some are infirm.  I could finally get out in my car, and I made a trip to the grocery store and picked up some eggs for my neighbor. I'd checked up on her the day before, asking if there was anything she needed, and "eggs" was her answer.

Walking around the outside of my house, checking for any damage, and I could see just how high the water had gotten in my front yard.

Water line clearly visible. I guess that liriope on the left didn't like being
submerged for so long.

Water was right up over the lip of these foundation beds

I could also see that some critter - some say a skunk, others say an armadillo - had dug up huge portions of my now-very-soft front lawn in search of breakfast.

The work of a skunk or an armadillo, digging up my front lawn, looking for grubs

Our town and our little neighborhood all did a fantastic job of keeping us fully informed throughout the ordeal. I received emails and could see the frequent Facebook posts that Pearland was sending out to all residents, keeping us totally up to date, advising us of any threats or emergencies, and of access to services from the city and even from the businesses and stores in our town.

Our office manager, even though she was not at the Carriage House, was working from her home and doing a great job of communicating with us. She fielded questions, asked us all to send her photos as we took them, and sent out email notices at least hourly throughout the weekend, sharing others' photos with all of us and giving us updates on closings, city services, on street conditions, and on stores that were open once the flooding subsided. These communications had a great calming influence on many of the older residents and let us all know that we were not alone and were all in it together.

Within three days of the storm's passing, it was hard to tell that our street was under three feet of water! It will be a while before those neighbors whose homes flooded will get back to normal but the whole community is pitching in to help them recover.

Hopefully this will be our one and only hurricane for another long while.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad it was just flooding that hit your neighborhood. Good thing you have a long driveway. OG kitty looks so worried in that picture.