Rain of the Hurricane
Kyla Wilwayco shares her reflections before, during and after Hurricane Harvey.
Harvey is supposed to be a dangerous hurricane. At least, that’s according to the Weather Channel playing in the background from the living room. The sky turned an ominous grey, contrasting to the sunny skies ironically from yesterday, and everyone could feel the storm fast approaching. I saw long lines of cars at the gas stations and caravans of families at the nearest Costco. My mom recently filled the tubs at our house, and my dad recently stockpiled our water bottle supplies. Just in case the plumbing doesn’t work anymore. Just in case the power goes out. Just in case we can’t go outside anymore. Just for this moment.
Even school changed Friday from an early dismissal to a school cancellation. It is nice to be able to be in the comforts of my own home to watch this show of a storm. I missed the previous hurricane that hit Houston. I slept soundly while Ike destroyed trees and cut off the power. Now, I get the chance to experience the speeding, headstrong winds, the ferocity of the rain on the fragile ground, the humbling but wondrous power of nature’s destructive side.
Now I wait. When will the wind come? When will I meet the fat raindrops on my window? When will I feel the sense of small-ness, that I am just a mere speck to this overwhelming storm?
Harvey was supposed to come at 3:00. It is now 5:01. For a powerful force with winds going up to 85 MPH, it is quite slow. My dad recently gave an exasperated sigh. Where is Harvey, other than the moments to moderate rainfall we got?
It is a question that I am asking myself. I am excited as he is to watch it. Maybe I can see our tree helplessly flail like a wacky tube man, or see a wall of falling water right outside our doorsteps. Maybe I could even see something fly by, since Harvey is a strong Category 3 hurricane. Hopefully a stop sign. That would be great.
At least we still have internet and power… although the power blipped out for a second a while ago.
It is a new day now. Last night brought torrential rains and a cooler temperature, but that’s about it. Actually, we enjoyed having power and cable available by watching TV while the rain occasionally gave us a thunderous applause for staying inside.
My dad told me this morning that we are under the band of the hurricane, explaining the sporadic rain and lack of wind we were getting. The hurricane also died down to a Category 1. I couldn’t help but feel . . . disappointed at first, but then I saw the TV. It may be the lowest Category, but the winds were 95 MPH and the destruction looked like it is from a Category 4 hurricane. The eye of the storm is still moving towards us, so the devastating effects from Galveston could reflect onto Houston in the near future. Even if the hurricane does not affect us as much, then the problem would be the flash floods that would snake around the streets.
Either way, people are going to get hurt. Some may even die. No matter how much man tries to control nature, it refuses to be control, to be conformed by lowly creatures. Nature has its own rules, and man has to understand that in order to survive… especially since the news claims Harvey to be a Category 4 storm with winds reaching 130 MPH by landfall.
The strongest hurricane to reach mainland U.S. ever since 2004.
It is a new day now. Sunday. I woke up to see not only the destruction of homes and power lines from the winds of the hurricane, but also the effects of a predicted result of Harvey: the flooding. I am lucky to avoid such a fate (my parents and I even ate out for dinner yesterday), but many others were not so lucky. Homes filled with disgusting water, people walking ankle-deep inside. Many had to wait outside in order to be saved by helicopters or powerful trucks that plowed through the water. Even one of my friends has water already seeping in her home. I pray that she and her family are safe.
To add insult to injury, there have been tornado warnings. There have been actual tornados as well. Another friend of mine actually saw hurricanes near her home, making her feel uneasy. I guess this is why they call Harvey “The Storm of the Decade”.
Since Bellaire is susceptible to flooding and the hurricane affected many of my schoolmates, school was cancelled for Monday and Tuesday. As I sit comfortably at my home with power, water, and internet, I cannot help but feel guilty for my luck. Families lost their homes, and HLN is broadcasting footage of them trekking in lines across the water with little boats carrying all the belongings that they could salvage. Even the President called the Houston area and Harris County and national disaster zone.
I want to help, but at the moment, all I can do is pray.
Apparently, Harvey is now a Tropical Storm. Not that I would care. A storm is a storm, after all. Fortunately, many of my friends whose streets are flooding are safe. Some of my friends and classmates even evacuated. Speaking of evacuation, my mom told me to pack some clothes whenever I can just in case the house floods since we live next to an ever-flowing lake. Now, there is a voluntary evacuation just in case the Brazos River overflows.
My mom is panicking, looking for where we should go and what should we do when we have to leave. Even as I am typing this down, I’m contemplating on what is important to take. This laptop, obviously, and a USB with all of my school information just in case the laptop is gone. My phone, which I failed to back up so far, so I have to salvage my photos right now. Some snacks, for the trip away from home. My polaroid…? No, I think the photos are more important. Most likely, the photo albums that my mom collected from her youth is upstairs, and the water most likely would not rise that high up.
Thinking of home . . . leaving my home. It’s terrifying. What will happen to my house while I’m gone? All my memories . . . all my stuff… But, my life is more important than stuff, as much as I do not want to admit it…
Turns out that we do not need to go anywhere just in case it floods. We just need to go upstairs. I moved all my essentials to the second floor, and my parents made sure to bring up food and important documents as well. I have a feeling that, even though we are quite elevated enough for the water to potentially not reach our home, the water is still approaching fast and furiously with all this incessant rain. The water from our lake inches closer to the community gazebo near our house.
My parents also had the local news on 24/7. I saw that there is a long line to a Kroger, similar to the line outside of the HEB near our house, which snaked around the building. We were lucky we went to HEB yesterday. I also saw people stranded in their homes and streets flooded into mild rivers. The rain will never stop, not before a lot of people get hurt.
There is a positive to all this. All over Houston, regular citizens worked with rescue workers to help any way they can. People with boats, kayaks and high-water vehicles are called to help anyone stranded by the flood and need help evacuating their homes. Even a guy with a military Humvee that he bought for fun a month ago now uses it to help evacuate families out of harm’s way along with other random citizens with boats. In times of disaster, people focus on survival. People focus on community and the importance of human life no matter who or what the person it. Ironically, in times of turmoil, solidarity and peace is best achieved.
Plus, as an added bonus, the air is finally cooler.
Today is Tuesday, and the whole family already feels tired from staying at home. I suggested that we walk around the community lake outside our house to see how much flooding has happened. I was not alone on my suggestion, as many of our neighbors also walked around to see what used to be our secondary sidewalk leading to the gazebo into an extension of the lake with random trees sticking out of the water. The gazebo itself is currently half of its visible size in this new “extension” and the water under a bridge nearly touched the bridge.
Our neighborhood never flooded like this before, but I did not feel sorrow nor joy seeing this. It just felt… different. It looked different. I just hope everything will go back to normal soon, but, at the moment, I can enjoy walking around the deep puddles in my boots.
We then decided to do our part and donate towels, toys and clothes in black trash bags at the nearest shelter at Kempner High School. Yet, when we arrived, someone working there told us that they were looking for pillows, blankets, water and diapers only. We then turned back home and quickly got some blankets and pillows that we did not need, stuffing them into more black trash bags. When we returned, the list changed yet again. Fortunately, the same worker directed us to a nearby parish and we were able to donate some of our stuff.
The Houston community is truly something else. There were lines to donate, and the only reason why we were not able to donate at Kempner is because so many Houstonians are willing to help their own. People of various backgrounds and lifestyles all come together for survival and the sake of one’s neighbor. I often see people with boats patrolling around, trying to find random strangers to save in their free time. To the rest of America, at least, Houstonians seem to be the ideal, helping each other as neighbors in the face of disaster.
My mom started to move the stuff down before my dad announced that we should start walking. He stated that it was beautiful outside and that the sun was out. I was confused until I went into my room to change that indeed, I could see the golden rays of sunlight peep though the window blinds.
I stepped outside to see that the blue skies, shining sun and a strong but cool breeze replaced the rainfall and the humid heat. The water notably receded all in the span of one day. It was like a sign of hope for the future, where the water turns to air and the floods lessen. A sign of a new day and a new hope fresher than before.
Now, I am aware that not everyone has the luxury of seeing the sunlight peep through the clouds. Some do not even have to luxury to go outside. But, in seeing the sudden but wondrous beautiful day, I do believe that hope is in the horizon, no matter how cheesy that sounds.
It is surreal to see how the sun shines as if rain and disaster did not happen beforehand. Everything goes back to normal at work and home, ignoring the high tide of the lake. Despite this cheery atmosphere, there is still threats of flooding from the reservoirs to Houston.
I carried on with my day, spending times with friends at a Target for two hours for Fish Week. Many of the restaurants and stores that were closed yesterday opened today, operating business as usual. It felt like a distant dream, the rain and the floods, but it was yesterday…. How surreal is that?
I am finally back at school after more than a week of hurricane-induced vacation. After Harvey, I was able to work, have fun, and hang out with friends with life resuming as normal. It feels just as surreal as before, but this time everyone is returning to their homes and beginning work on recovery efforts.
That storm surprised everyone. I was supposed to take quizzes and tests and do normal school stuff, and many others were supposed to work and follow daily routine, yet Harvey ruined that. It changed everyone’s lives, destroyed their homes and their livelihoods with no remorse, but Houston will rise from the ashes like the ferocious phoenix. Also, in the midst of tragedy, Houston shone a light on humanity’s purest trait: unquestioning love. Numerous people with boats and water vehicles came out into the waters with no other incentive than that human lives matter no matter who those people are. People even went out of their way to donate and to save peoples’ pets.
What Houston proved during Harvey was the innate goodness of mankind. Although it is true that the world is dirty and ugly and is filled with evil (even during Harvey), there is some good in the world. Sometimes, some good is good enough for us.
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