A Year Later, Houston Residents Reflect on Hurricane Harvey

At the end of August in 2017, Hurricane Harvey tore through Houston. In its wake, it left catastrophic flooding in the city and the surrounding areas. All told, it caused $125 billion in damage, tying it with Hurricane Katrina as the most expensive storm in United States history, and ended the lives of 107 people, 106 of whom were American.

It’s been just over a year, and many of Houston’s residents are still recuperating from what they experienced as Harvey passed through.

Cinco Ranch Remembers

The residents of Cinco Ranch, a community in Katy, Texas, experienced exceptionally heavy flooding during Hurricane Harvey as a result of the release of Barker Reservoir. Many were forced to evacuate their homes and leave cherished belongings to be taken by the muddy water.

One resident, Valerie Moderski, says she still has moments of sadness when she thinks about what she and her family lived through, but she’s thankful that they were able to rely on others to help them in their hour of need.

“We’ve come a long way in a year and we would not be here without the help of family, friends, and strangers,” she said. As the flood waters rose throughout the day on August 27, 2017, Moderski and her two children were rescued by the Cajun Navy, a group of citizen rescuers from nearby Louisiana. Her husband stayed behind with the family dog but was later evacuated as well.

The Moderski family fled their home of 23 years with a few belongings hastily stuffed into trash bags. Hurricane Harvey marked the first time their home had flooded, and after they left, the family learned that more than two feet of water had entered their home.

Penny Long, a resident of nearby Canyon Gate, knew she was in trouble when the flood waters covered her family’s emergency generator. Luckily, a family friend with a boat came to their rescue and carried them to safety.

The Lingering Effects of Trauma

Many of the news reports about Hurricane Harvey focused on the property damage caused by the storm. In the wake of the storm, it’s equally as significant that thousands of people continue to be impacted by the trauma they experienced.

A report from the University of Texas Health Science Center found that 18% of the residents they surveyed had experienced serious psychological distress. The numbers increased for those who had experienced significant damage to a vehicle (37%) or their home (48%).

However, the report also noted the remarkable generosity and perseverance of Houstonians in the face of adversity and trauma. Many of those who were displaced were welcomed into the homes of family and friends. 60% of Houston’s residents donated time or money to help those affected by the storm.

A New Perspective in the Wake of the Storm

What many in Houston have realized in the year since Harvey’s devastation is that the flood waters did not wash away the most important things in life – their resolve and their spirit.

For Penny Long, Harvey led to a new recognition of life’s fragility and uncertainty. “Appreciate everything you have,” she said, because life can change without warning.

Moderski said that in spite of what her family endured as a result of Harvey, she feels safe. She also noted that if another Harvey-sized storm hits Houston in the future, “we’ll figure it out again.”

The resilience of Houstonians shows that when people pull together, anything is possible.

Posted in Cities.