Megan’s home in Memorial Glen 

This weekend is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, and for many of us who got through the storm unscathed, it already feels like a lifetime ago. This could not be further from the truth for those who were affected. For them the destruction still feels, and is, very real. The fact is,  many people are still out of their homes and are continuing to build back the pieces and establish a new “normal”. A year later, we believe that it is crucial to be reminded that this is an ongoing process and that friends, families, and strangers still need our help and support.

We were honored and moved to tears that these seven women who experienced the destruction of Harvey firsthand came forward to share their very personal journeys over the past year with us. We were blown away by their willingness to talk about it, and we wish we could put every detail they mentioned in here, but we have had to edit it down a bit. Read on below for their incredibly moving stories, to learn where they are today, and for their insightful advice on how we can continue to help others and rebuild our city.  We also hope this will serve as a guide on how to help in future natural disasters when you are at a loss on how to help or can’t imagine what others are going through.

Megan’s home in Memorial Glen after Harvey

For those of us who were not affected, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the destruction and loss, as well as the process involved in getting back to “normal”. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal experience a year ago?

Megan, Memorial Glen

We spent about a year and a half building our home in Memorial Glen, which we chose because it was close to beautiful Hershey Park and the bayou. We’d been in our home about 8 months when Harvey hit. In fact, we had just finished decorating most of our first floor. After the first night of rain, our street was literally a river. At first the water just came inside our home in small puddles. My son and I drove through our front yard with friends to evacuate to my parent’s house, while my husband stayed behind to try to mop up the water that came in. But after the dam releases, we ended up getting about 3 feet of water in our home – completely destroying our first floor. My husband spent a couple of days camped out, trying to save furniture and what he could of our things. The water was brown and “sludge-like”. It sat in our house for eight days and at one point we literally had fish swimming in our living room. Furniture, like our giant coffee table, was floating around the house from room to room. Our refrigerator in the pantry was floating sideways. We lost our car, our bed, but the worst damage was of course, just the house itself.

Michele, The Heights

It was Sunday morning of August 27th, the morning that was supposed to be our 3-month-old son’s baptism.  After staying up most of the night before watching the City of Houston bayou flood gauge online and making a few trips to the end of our street to check the White Oak Bayou levels, we finally thought we were in the clear for the night and headed to bed around 3AM.

It was around 6:30 or 7AM when my son’s early morning cries woke me up.  First thing I did was peak out the window. My car in the street was flooded, and the water was half way up our yard.  Oh man, am I glad my son woke up when he did! The panic started to sink in, and I broke down in tears. I just kept thinking, what kind of mom would put her baby in that danger? Why hadn’t we gone to my parents’ house the night before, to be on the safe side? I felt like the worst mother ever.

My husband and I immediately started putting furniture up on cinderblocks, which we had the foresight to buy the previous Thursday. We packed a ziplock bag with some necessities, threw the baby neck floaty on our son, and grabbed our golden retriever and took a kayak to a neighbors house that was elevated. They had opened their home to us,  gave us their daughter’s room to use as our own, let us use their shower, clothed us, and emptied their pantry and fridge to feed everyone. Mind you, these were neighbors we never even met; we were complete strangers.

My husband called up his buddy with a fishing boat and went back out into the waters to help get people out of the flooding. Not only that, but he went back to our house, and saved the breastmilk in the deep freezer I had been storing up in preparation of going back to work – best news of the day! Perhaps that’s an odd thing to mention here, but I think all the time of nursing mothers who lost their frozen milk stash in Harvey with the long power outages. I would have been devastated to lose that – hundreds of pumping hours and lost sleep would have been for nothing!

Lauren, Braeswood

We had just moved in to our home about 6 weeks prior to Harvey. Ironically, we purchased this particular house because it had not flooded in the 2015 floods. We woke up around 5am to water pouring in the front door and bathroom. We scrambled to pack bags and pile as much as we could onto the dining room table and kitchen island.  The scariest part was going into to the nursery to find my one year old standing in his crib pointing at the rising water. That was the point I started to panic and told Scott we had to get out NOW! Scott took Ford and I took the cat and we waded next door to our neighbors 2 story house. We got about 3 ½ ft of water (up to the windowsills) in our home. Basically, anything touching the floor was ruined – the couch, our bed, a ton of clothes & shoes, rugs, everything in the nursery, and sentimental photos. Both of our SUVs also flooded. Fortunately, all of our artwork (a lot painted by my late grandmother) was hung above the water line and safe. I also managed to grab our wedding album and Ford’s newborn & 1st birthday albums in my getaway bag.  

Danielle, Briargrove Park

That is kind of a tough question to answer. Last year I had a five-month-old a three-year-old and a five-year-old. We were rescued by kayak someone came and took the three-year-old and five-year-old to safety and came back for me and my baby. My husband later went back and grabbed diapers and wipes and the dog. It was as the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. I had no idea how long it was going to last. We lost almost everything. The one saving grace is that my three kids’ bedrooms are on the second floor, and I knew that one day when we would come home, at least their rooms would look exactly how they left them. 

Amy, Fleetwood

We had taken comfort in the fact that our neighborhood had never flooded, and even during the worst of the hurricane, the water barely rose above our curb. We went to bed the night of Aug. 27 believing the worst was over. Harvey had come and gone. We knew that water was going to be released from the Addicks and Barker dams, but the last report we heard before going to sleep was that the release would not affect our neighborhood. The report was wrong.

Around 1:00 AM, our power was cut. My neighborhood was in eerie blackness.

At 7:00 AM, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw some neighborhood friends canoeing down the middle of the street. This was the first sign that something terrible was happening.

Around 7:30 AM, my aunt called to tell us they were waiting for us on Memorial and to come right away. We were confused — the rain had stopped, there was no water in our house, why would we need to evacuate? “Come now,” she said, “while you still can.”

We threw a few things into a kitchen trash bag — pajamas, toiletries, a change of clothes. We struggled for a few minutes trying to figure out how to get our 8-year-old daughter and our 115 pound golden retriever to safety. We decided our best option was to float them on an old air mattress. Luckily, we had a hand pump that didn’t require power.

I remember being surprised at how deep and cold the water was as we stepped down the driveway. I’m 5’2”, and the water was chest high. As we turned the corner to head down the main street of the neighborhood, we were met by several neighbors on rafts and canoes asking if we needed help. We saw other neighbors on pool floats. In an emergency situation, you use whatever you have.

A news crew was there to greet us at the front of the neighborhood. We didn’t think to question why they knew what was going on but no one in the neighborhood did. The question still haunts.

Margaret, Walnut Bend

We bought and moved in to our first home in May of 2017 and three months later we lost it to Harvey. When the rain finally stopped and the water had started to recede, we thought we were going to be okay. We had amazing friends who came and picked us up at the end of our street because we were afraid we may lose power. During the night, our home ended up flooding due to the reservoir release. Our home took on about 8 inches of water.

By the grace of God, we had just signed up for a flood insurance policy that was active for just one month before we flooded. I truly don’t know what we would have done financially without our insurance and we are forever thankful for God’s provision. 

Katie, Walnut Bend

Thank you!  We knew the storm was coming, but we had made it through the Tax Day and Memorial Day floods with no issues so we approached this storm the same.  We stocked up on food, filled bath tubs, packed a “bug-out” bag that we currently laugh about, etc. But truth be told, we had made it through two “500-year floods” so I can’t say we were any more concerned for our safety besides the potential of losing power or the city being shut down.  I am from New Orleans and was in high school during Katrina, so I’d seen the worst of what it could be like, but we thought we were ready.  We had gone to a friend’s house on Saturday evening during the worst of it to watch the fight (not a big boxing fan but never going to forget McGregor vs. Mayweather) and ended up staying there since the roads were bad and it was late.  We were able to get back in our house that Sunday with little problems.  The end of our block is on a creek and in the flood plain, so there were some flooded houses already.  The ones I saw had about 18″ in them.  My husband, Matt, was able to help get a few of these people out.  The rains were stopping, and the waters were receding. We were in the clear.  Or so we thought… That’s when they announced the reservoir releases.

We stayed in our house on Sunday night, not knowing what to expect.  My husband had an alarm set every hour so he could go see what was going on with the water.  He had official markers (a couple sticks) that we would move to the water line.  It was moving, but it wasn’t too bad so we were good for the night (even if the sleep wasn’t great).  On Monday, the water kept coming, and we made the call that we needed to get out before it was too late.  A couple of our friends came over to help get as much of our stuff as possible up high, decided what would be saved and what would be sacrificed.  We didn’t pack too heavy, just our bug-out bag and our two fur babies, our dog Maggie and our cat Gemma. I think at that point we still thought that we would be back pretty soon, but the waters kept coming.  We got out in our truck at about the last minute we could still drive out and may have gone through a yard or two on the way out.  We got to our friend’s house (which became our home for the next three months), and our little family was safe, which was most important.

Alot of our neighbors were not as fortunate as us to get out of their houses before it was too late, and Matt was out all Monday night helping them out by boat with other neighbors.  His number somehow spread around the neighborhood as a go-to person to call for assistance, so he was getting calls throughout the night.  The next week or so was a blur of friends, family, and strangers in and out of our home via boat, canoes, etc. trying to save everything they could.  At this time, I was 4 months pregnant and unable to go to the house due to the standing bayou water surrounding it.  I was posted up at our Harvey home (our friend’s house) making sandwiches for those who came to help, going through boxes of all of our belongings, and doing loads upon loads of laundry.  The amount of help and outreach that we received was beyond anything I could of imagined, and it was hard to fully take in.  At this point, it still didn’t seem real to me.  I was just going through the motions and trying to keep it together.  
The moment it all hit me was when we were at a friend’s house for a birthday dinner.  Others were talking about how they can’t wait to decorate for fall and all their plans to do so.  Normal conversation that i would usually be a part of.  And then it hit me… I don’t have the comfort of my own home to go to after this dinner.  I don’t have my own home to decorate for fall.  I broke down when we got back to our Harvey home.  This was the first time since we flooded.  Don’t get me wrong, our friends who hosted us those three months were beyond welcoming and hospitable, and we couldn’t have asked for better roomies!  But it will never be the same as your own home.

Michele’s husband and baby looking out as the waters rise

Where Are You and Your Family Now?

Megan, Memorial Glen 

We are very blessed that we are back in our home. Our builder, Ryan Lippold, of Lippold custom homes showed up and waded through the water – determined to help us get our home back as soon as possible. Their crews worked round the clock to help us move in, which we did in late May.

Margaret, Walnut Bend

This year, we have lived with with family and friends for eleven weeks in total. Six weeks after we flooded and before we got an apartment, and five more weeks when we moved out of our apartment — thinking our house would be finished before it was livable.

Now we are a work in progress! We moved back into our home the second week of August and it is still being worked on currently with us in it. The majority of our stuff is still in boxes because we are waiting until more is finished before we can fully move in. Even though we are living in a construction zone, it still feels good to be home! 

Michele, The Heights

We moved back into our home last month, and many of our neighbors are starting to do the same, while others are still in the process of rebuilding or remodeling. We spent most of the past year living with my parents, who we are very grateful for. While we love having a sense of normalcy back, I was surprisingly very emotional leaving my parents’ house, where my son had so many firsts, and where he and my parents had developed such a strong bond. But ultimately my family is safe, and our home has been repaired. There is not much to complain about –  God is good!

Amy, Fleetwood

The rebuild of our home began in April. It was hard to wait that long, but we wanted to use our friend as our contractor. To us, it was worth the wait to know that we will be taken care of. Our days consist of checking on the house, praying that we pass inspections, and making countless decisions about putting our house back together.

Since we didn’t have flood insurance, we applied for an SBA loan. Even though the interest rate is low, it’s basically like taking a second mortgage out on the home. We are currently living in an apartment while we rebuild our home, and each month is a struggle to pay both the house mortgage and our apartment rent, two sets of bills, and car payments for the two cars we had to purchase. We are hopeful that we’ll be home in time for Christmas. We still have a long way to go.

Lauren, Braeswood

The reality of what happened is still sinking in. I’m tearing up writing this! After a week with my parents, we moved into a one bedroom apartment for the next 4 months. Ford’s crib was in the closet and we slept on the floor for a while. Then in October, I was laid off. This actually was a huge blessing and I knew it was a possibility as my employer had gone thru bankruptcy. Working full-time and dealing with the aftermath of Harvey was overwhelming. Now I had the opportunity to deal with insurance, house renovations, replacing furniture, and most importantly spend more time with my toddler. In January, we moved back in (and I got a new job). We didn’t have a functioning kitchen for another 6 weeks but at least we were home!

A boat docked outside of Megan’s home in Memorial Glen

During the storm and after, did you feel like Houston came together as a city to help others and to support the community? 

Megan, Memorial Glen

The first day after my son and I evacuated, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I was in shock and overwhelmed, but then the phone calls and texts started coming in, and that changed everything for our family. I have never felt so supported or loved in my life. Someone told me during this situation that God has a tendency to shine the brightest during dark times, and that was so true for us. During Harvey – I experienced God’s love through our friends and family – more than I ever have.

Our “demo” day was one I’ll never forget. We had everyone from real estate executives to prison ministry volunteers helping us. We had housewives, a retired Baptist preacher, and even a very famous former Houston Astro (that we didn’t even know) stop by to help us. All of them spent hours and hours at our home. They were covered in sweat while tearing up floors, hauling materials, punching out our cabinets, etc. It was one of the greatest displays of selfless generosity I’ve ever seen. It was humbling and inspiring.

Danielle, Briargrove Park

I have never felt so loved and supported by my friends and family and even people that I’ve never even met before. I would come home and see groups of people ripping my house apart. They had no idea it was my home and I had no idea who they were but they were they were all there working for me and my family. One day I came home to work and I found a group of moms from my kids school they had taken everything from my kitchen and bleached and washed it and dried it and wrapped it and took it it safely upstairs. When we came home it was like Christmas I had no idea what was saved. And every box I unwrapped I felt the love of my friends and family knowing that someone took time out of their day to wrap a silly cup or a plate just for me. Not one thing that I unwrapped was broken. I couldn’t believe it.

Margaret, Walnut Bend

YES! It was incredible and we felt so uplifted by our city! #HOUSTONSTRONG! Watching how our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers came together to support us after the flood is something that I will never forget. We were so touched by the outpouring of love. Watching my friends and family muck out our house was such an amazing thing to see. A family friend from Dallas who owns a construction company drove down with all of his supplies and expertise to help us gut the house. We still had water more than halfway up our front yard when we started remediating. Our people literally had to wear waders or ride in a boat in order to get to our house. We loaded our stuff in plastic tubs and literally floated it down the street in boats to take to storage! It was crazy and I still can’t really believe that happened. I was so touched by everyone who came that I will always remember those few days as very happy ones. 

Image from Katie in Walnut Bend

How can those of us who weren’t directly affected continue to best support friends and family who were? 

Megan, Memorial Glen

Invite them to your home for dinner so their kids can run around in your backyard! Call or text to check in on them. Even just asking if there’s anything you can do to help can encourage someone and lift their spirits. Bring them a meal, offer to babysit while they deal with house things, or volunteer with a local church that continues to help with the rebuilding effort. Now that I’m saying all this – I feel like there are people I need to reach out to! Life gets so busy for all of us and we tend to forget – but maybe by reading this you’ll be reminded of a friend that needs encouragement and you will reach out to them! 🙂

Margaret, Walnut Bend

The hardest part about this whole ordeal is that we are still in it! I am so happy you all are publishing this article to raise awareness of the fact that so many people are still displaced. I would strongly urge readers to send a quick text or note to friends who have been affected. Let them know you are thinking of them. You don’t have to DO anything, but just letting friends know you are thinking of them will be an encouragement.

Michele, The Heights

Honestly, talking about the storm has been cathartic for me. I have never felt like it was a sore topic, but I also feel extremely grateful and lucky that my husband and I had flood insurance, and didn’t lose a significant amount of personal belongings. So many people weren’t as lucky.

Lauren standing in a bedroom of her home

Do you feel like Harvey has affected you for the long term?

Lauren, Braeswood

Harvey definitely changed my perspective of personal belongings. In that it is just stuff! It can be replaced. But in actuality, I haven’t wanted to replace much. Seeing all your stuff laid out on the lawn, makes you realize how much excess there is and how much you really don’t need!

Danielle, Briagrove Park

A thousand percent. So many of the little things really don’t matter anymore. It’s easy to get lost in material possessions, but everything can be replaced. You realize what’s really important in your life. Your family, their health, your friendships with others and thanking God for keeping you safe. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little nervous every time it rained.

Margaret, Walnut Bend

Absolutely! This is an experience that we will take with us forever. My husband and I have grown more in this year together than we did throughout our first three years of marriage combined. We’ve learned how to divide and conquer, support each other, give each other grace, and to remember that home is where our family is together. I am so thankful to take these things with us.

This process has truly changed the way I view others going through some type of crisis. Whatever the crisis may be, it is not an isolated moment in time. There is the outpouring of love and support following the tragedy, but then, life moves on. What I hope I will always remember is to reach out to those who are experiencing any type of tragedy or hardship in an on-going manner. The people in our lives who have continually checked on us have been the greatest encouragement.

Outside of Lauren’s home in Braeswood

We are so thankful to these women for sharing their journeys. If you have your own story to share, or if you know of an organization continuing to support Harvey victims, please let us know in the comments below.