One Year Later after Hurricane Harvey

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Where were you on August 25th, 2017 as Hurricane Harvey slammed into Southern Texas and Louisiana? The entire nation watched in horror and millions of us Texans completely lost our homes or suffered traumatic damage to minor damage to our homes. People were killed in the storm and many others like me suffered minor injuries. How many of you still experience PTSD since the storm to this day? How many of you are still haunted to this day and will never forget? Extra special thanks of gratitude to ALL good Samaritans, first responders, Fire & EMS rescue, police department. Everyone who helped us get through this catastrophic storm and life changing event, we can’t say enough “Thank Yous”. Very special thank you to JJ. Watt and Mattress Mack for their never ending support and love that they’ve shown to us. The humanitarian efforts of JJ and Mattress Mack were heroic and we can’t say how much we THANK YOU for everything. To all of us Hurricane Harvey survivors, We are HOUSTON STRONG. To all of the lives that were lost in the storm, “You’re not forgotten.” We don’t forget about that. Recovery takes a long time. Some of us are back in our homes and some still are close to being done. 

Breaking news: The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for the following areas in Southern Texas and Louisiana. Flash flooding and tornado warnings have also been issued for the following counties until Mother Nature says “When I’m good and ready.”

It feels like only yesterday when Hurricane Harvey happened. August 25, 2017, will forever be engrained in my head forever. (We were the first major storm last year and then came Hurricane Irma afterwards.) Approximately, 107 lives were taken in the storm and over $125 billions in damage (maybe more). I was one of many people who experienced damage to my home. I can’t even look at photos of my home or anyone else’s without breaking into tears. Many families are destroyed and forever changed because of Harvey. So many people have lost their homes and so many are still repairing their homes to this day.

I’ll never forget how glued I was to the TV as the storm was heading towards Southeast Texas first and then Louisiana. When I moved to Texas, I had just missed Hurricane Ike and I was kind of hoping that I would miss the chance of experiencing a hurricane. Oh no, I wasn’t that lucky. I’ve witnessed tornadoes, snowstorms, and other bad weather before, but never a hurricane.

Imagine my fright when I realized that the big (ass) hurricane was going to land in my direction. Let alone a Category 4 storm. Yikes. A big nasty storm concocted by Mother Nature. Again, I perused through my hurricane preparedness guide and bought a list of supplies that I needed just in case. My main concern was getting out alive. I didn’t care if my home got destroyed in the storm just as long as my family, friends, co-workers, my dogs and myself made it out safe. I experienced the worst anxiety and panic attacks before, during and after Harvey. I experienced terrifying nightmares on a daily basis and to this day, I’m still suffering from PTSD.

My entire family lives in Wisconsin, they were so terrified that my mother, my dad and myself would be killed by this storm. They watched the news religiously and did a lot praying not just for us, but for everyone. My family cares. We care about everyone. Even if it’s someone who we don’t know, that person still is someone’s loved one. When our area was hit, my family texted us because the power kept going in and out. They wanted to know the play by-play and if we were OK. We took photos of our homes and surrounding areas and imagine their looks on their faces. Pure terror and fright. But mostly, heart wrenching to the bone. Family members were shocked to the core and cried. I almost died on Friday, August 25th. I was coming home from my shift at Starbucks. We closed the store officially due to inclement weather and we all made it home safely. The deal was that everyone texts me first (as a manager) and then each other letting us know that we were OK and we were seeking shelter from the storm. On my way home, a large tornado formed behind the Berry Center while I was driving. Oh, great! But this wasn’t my first rodeo with tornadoes. I had this happen in Wisconsin during college and a tornado roared onto I-94 and I had to pull over and find the nearest ditch and take cover. Good luck finding one big enough down here. The tornado touchdown just behind the Berry Center and was heading in my direction. I had no time to think and I carefully, sped up and made it to the intersection of Longenbaugh and turned onto that road.

Riding in a car when the winds are more than 125mph, where trees could topple at any moment along with power lines that were violently swinging back and forth, and roads that were like driving in a river was SCARY. My car rocked violently back and forth because of the winds and it felt like it was going to get picked up and thrown into the next county or something. My father texted me and said to stay at work because a tornado was in my area. Imagine his anger and fear when I told him that I was out on the road while this was happening. He was scared and angry with me. Yes, I could’ve been killed. Yes, I’m the only child. But moments like these happen so fast before you can even react. My usual 5 minute commute took 45 minutes to get home. I have a small compact car (No, not a Smart Car or Fiat), just a Ford and it was no boat. If you accelerate and brake at the same time, you can easily flood the engine. Since the water was up to my doors, I was afraid of drowning and afraid that water would seep into my car. I kissed the ground when I got home. I was safe, but the damage to my house would come later.

I laid a huge piece of tarp in the attic before the storm hit because there were some roof leaks before Harvey. When the rains came, there was a lot of water pouring down in my house. It wasn’t like other homes, but the one corner of my home that had water damage was next to: my kitchen. Next to my gas stove, my microwave and all sorts of appliances. Yes! Terrifying. A chance to blow up in my own home. A longshot maybe, but I wouldn’t be so naïve about that. The other water damage was near my bedroom (Great!) and its great to hear water falling down near your bedroom. After the storm officially signed off on September 1st, I called a contractor out to my home and got the water damaged fixed. If I had let it sit any further, mold would start forming very fast. Great! One of the major things that I’m allergic to. After Harvey, I got sick. I got a nice upper respiratory infection and my allergies went haywire. I don’t know about you. But it was like life was spewing one bad thing after another. I couldn’t take it. My Triple Threat Disease was worse than before. PTSD reared its butt ugly head at me and caused more havoc on me.

A simple rainstorm is enough to trigger my anxiety. My heart will start pounding and I can’t breathe. The damage in my house could’ve been worse. Yes, I had water damage in my house. And I was able to get it repaired, but it was nowhere near the damage that so many others had to their homes. I kid you not when I say that my subdivision looked eerily similar to the picture below.

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In the subdivision that I live in Houston, it got flooded pretty badly. I have a home that’s on a corner lot and when I tried to leave my subdivision it looked very similar to the picture above. The roads looked like an ocean and you needed a boat to move around town. I was trapped in my neighborhood for an entire week. No one could go anywhere until the water receded a little bit. I was out of work for an entire week. That was the longest week of my life and I got major cabin fever. I couldn’t stand being in my house for another moment. I was just wanted the storm to end and move on.

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For the first time in my life have I never seen water like this. I’ve never seen 50 inches of rain fall so heavily and violently out of the sky before like I did during Harvey. Can you imagine how many feet of snow that is? The ratio of rain to snow is 1 inch of rain equals 10 inches of snow. So multiply 50×10=500. That’s 500 inches. That’s almost 42 feet of snow. Oh my GOD. (I hope my math is correct!) I still remember that the surges were over 6 feet and higher down towards the coast in Rockport, and surrounding areas. That was so terrifying. I would’ve run like hell to get away from it. I’m terrified of water and I’ve always been. I never swim because my biggest fear is drowning.

After the storm was over, I had to adjust to the new normal. I watched as repairmen fixed the water damage in my house and I remember crying. I don’t know how I would react if I lived in California with the wildfires going on or living in Hawaii with the volcano. I would run like hell. I would take my family, friends, and my dogs with me and get the hell out of there.

When I went back to my therapist’s office in the weeks after Harvey, it made me feel somewhat better that I wasn’t the only one that was dealing with PTSD. I overheard a patient in complete hysterics because she lost her home, she had nothing left and was experiencing very bad nightmares. I could totally relate to that. I didn’t lose my house, but I did experienced a lot of nightmares and PTSD because of it. But look on the bright side, things happen that we have no control over like the weather! The most important thing is that you’re alive and that’s irreplaceable. You can build a new home or repair an existing one (this can be VERY stressful and you can easily get conned by phony contractors), you can buy a new car and other possessions; but you absolutely can’t replace a human being.

Even to this day, it still feels like yesterday when that happened, not a year later. If I experience another hurricane again (probably since I live below sea level in Texas!), I now have experience under my belt. I can better prepare myself mental, physically and emotionally.

HOUSTON-STRONG

Carry this in your heart with you everyday! Don’t forget it! Remember all of the lives that were affected by this (including my family and yours) and those were tragically taken from you. They’re gone, but NOT forgotten. This is my first and my second home, too. Wisconsin (by birth) and Houston, Texas forever. I love both Wisconsin and Texas. We are HOUSTON STRONG. I am WISCONSIN AND HOUSTON STRONG!

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