Voices of Harvey: ‘The Water Is Just Coming Into Every Room’

Houston—A week ago, Tropical Storm Harvey deluged Houston after making landfall near Corpus Christi, TX, about 200 miles down the Gulf Coast. Over six days, 27 trillion gallons of water fell on Texas—nearly four times the rainfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The region is beginning what will be a years-long rebuilding of homes, stores, and schools damaged or destroyed. Businesses and restaurants are starting to reopen. Many residents spent the Labor Day weekend mucking out their homes, tearing out rotted sheetrock, and dumping waterlogged furniture and other household items on curbs. But some areas, namely parts of west Houston, are still under water. Access to neighborhoods there remains restricted.

Harvey aftermath. (Photo courtesy: Mike Pitzen.)

Kim Bond Evans, co-founder and CEO of Houston health IT company Seremedi, had lived through previous hurricanes and tropical storms in Houston, and came out relatively unscathed. This time, Harvey’s floodwaters forced her out of her home, which is now destroyed. On Monday afternoon, Evans shared her story in this first installment of “Harvey Voices.” For more coverage of how the Tropical Storm has affected Houston’s innovation community please click here.

“This one was just ominous. … The rain was steadily coming down; the first two to three nights, I was checking to see if it was flooding. It was 6 a.m. when I woke and saw the streets were impassable. At that point, we knew we were trapped in the neighborhood, on Sunday [Aug. 27]. We hoped that it would stop and we wouldn’t have water in the house. Around 8-ish that morning, we knew the water was continuing to rise and we’d likely have some flooding. The water started coming in and we were we were going into survival mode. The water level was higher outside the house than inside. So you pretty much knew what was going to happen.

“We started out putting out towels and sheets to be barriers by the doorways. But that’s not where it comes from. The water started coming through the floors and from the walls from every direction. The house is totally breached and the water is just coming into every room and you can’t stop it. It’s just coming in. It’s already chest deep outside; home is not safe any more.

“We live in a single-story home. The front porch is the highest point [of the house]; it was still waist deep. We went to the attic. Everybody knows from Katrina that you don’t want to get stuck there. We take up tools; We went up to the attic with a saw. We’re pretty certain we’re getting ready to cut a hole in the roof and sit on the roof in the rain and hope we get rescued. We even said, up in the attic, we looked at each other and said, ‘OK, nobody’s coming. Let’s start cutting a hole in the roof.’ Cody went down to get additional tools. That’s when he saw the boat: ‘Kim, come down.’ It took three of us to close the door, the water was rushing in so fast.

“We had packed a backpack, family photos—especially of family who had gone on—food and water and blankets in hopes we would be rescued. We had called 911 and couldn’t get through.

“First, there was the canoe. We got in. It was pouring down. Then there was a flat boat that rescued us in the canoe. There were 12 people in [the flat boat] and four dogs. The dogs were eerily quiet—no barking, no whining. They were like stuffed animals. I’ve never seen animals that still in my life before. Is this really happening? You look around it and you see it but it’s overwhelming to look at and your body goes into survival mode.

“It was an extremely menacing storm. The first three nights after we were evacuated, I could not sleep. The rain continued and I was afraid.

“I’m questioning if I want to even stay in Houston. Do I want to be living in Houston for the next storm? What are our city planners doing to make this city safe? I understand you can’t run away from events, but we have major storm every year. It’s really time to rethink the strategy and if they’re not going to do anything about it, why should I stay here? I really like Houston. I love my friends and I love the people. I want to see some evidence of a hard look at changing policies.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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