Part 1: THE STORM
We had stayed up until 2:30 am Saturday morning monitoring the water levels around our home in the Larchmont neighborhood (south of the Galleria) and went to bed confident that the water had started receding and wasn’t rising at an alarming rate.
However, I woke up not two-and-a-half hours later to the sound of my husband’s feet unsuspectingly plopping into at least four inches of water. Our daughter still sound asleep, we locked eyes and immediately went into survival mode as the adrenaline began to flood our system.
Our first thought was, “Where are the dogs?” Frantically we searched. Our medium/small dog was trembling using his bed as a makeshift raft. Meanwhile, our miniature dog was lost in our blankets cuddling with the baby and took way too long to find. After discovering that everyone was safe, we rapidly turned our attention to our physical property.
Luckily, we had done some prep the night before just in case — removing most valuables from the floor, placing extra weather stripping and towels at every door, moving our paint cans inside, packing a weeks worth of clothes in a single hiking pack. Despite this prep, however, we quickly realized that there is no way to be prepared to abandon your home.
The water was rising rapidly; it bubbled up through cracks in the floor and started coming through the windows and doors. We flipped our couch onto our dining room table, chair onto bench, and entertainment center on to paint cans. We unplugged cords hanging in the water and did just about everything we could think of in our sleepy stupor knowing we had only an hour before our 16 month old woke up.
“Oh wow… wow, uh-oh,” she kept saying on repeat after waking up, watching me earnestly as I packed up my makeup and last personal effects.
“Uh-oh” is right my darling.
By this time the water had risen significantly and the rain wasn’t slowing down. We had to leave. I strapped my daughter to my chest, my dog to my back. I was suddenly stricken with crippling anxiety as the reality of the danger of navigating these flood waters began to sink in as I carried the most precious cargo. I began to hyperventilate as visions of falling in the water, being swept away by the current, falling in a man hole or running into a snake filled my head. I almost wet myself as I had forgotten to pee in chaos of everything that morning. I made it to the restroom, did some deep breathing and told Ross to turn off the breaker. Then we locked the doors and said goodbye, hoping for the best.
Our journey to grandma’s house was about one third of a mile. Ross was carrying a soaking, giant pack as well as our awkward medium/small size dog, Whitey. I had our baby strapped to my chest and our small dog, Bianca, strapped to my back in a carrier. Along the way, the water ranged from thigh to chest deep. Several of our neighbors closer to the entrance of our neighborhood asked if we were alright or needed shelter. It really was heartwarming seeing people so willing to open their home to complete strangers. In the end, weighed down by the water and cargo, it took us nearly 45 minutes to make the trip.
Part 2: THE AFTERMATH
On Monday during a lull in the rain, we were able to get dropped off a few blocks away from our street to try and salvage our belonging and assess the damage.
As soon as we opened the door, we were hit with the stench of extreme moisture, sewage and mold. Walking across our now wavy wood floors and seeing the peeling paint, swollen and wonky walls and sunken deck, the adrenaline high of survival had long worn off and the stench of reality began to sink in.
I looked at my husband.
“Eira is never setting foot back in this house again, is she?” I asked.
He held me as he confirmed that my worst fears that the house was totaled were true. The home I thought our daughter would grow up in, the street I thought she was going to learn to ride her bike on, and where I saw myself for the next 18 to 30 years was now in ruin.
To add insult to injury, when we attempted to turn on our cars both of them started smoking and spitting out water. (We were able to later get one of the vehicles running.) We then aimlessly began pounding Lone Stars and packing what was left of our clothes into trash bags to protect them from the mold, not knowing our end destination or how long it would be before we saw these things again.
We are so fortunate to have been able to save what we did and to have family with shelter within walking distance of our home. As a homeowner, you invest a lot of time and energy into making your house a home, and your brain wires itself to project your life into that home long term. Having that washed away is a traumatic experience that thousands of Houstonians have had to endure over these past days. It’s left us reeling and sleepless.
For those of us that lost our homes, the journey to normalcy is just beginning and is going to take a long time. My heart goes out to all of you.