Wrapping My Head Around Hurricane Harvey
I wanted to sit down and put my thoughts on paper about Hurricane Harvey for those of you who don’t live in Houston and follow my work, and also to update and reach out to my clients and colleagues.
Where do I begin? I am still trying to wrap my head around the magnitude of this catastrophic event. The preliminary data is showing that it is the most extreme rain event in US History.
The amount of rain dumped on Houston during Hurricane Harvey in some areas is what George Bush IAH Airport records in an entire YEAR.
It devastated the cities where it made landfall (Rockport and surrounding areas) with high powered wind and rain. It dumped record level rain on Houston and spun off tornadoes every chance it got. Our neighbors to the east of us in Beaumont and Louisiana then experienced catastrophic flooding and damage from Harvey after moving South then East of Houston. When I think about the events that unfolded over the last week, the massive uncertainty and catastrophic destruction, I am truly at a loss for words.
If you’re curious about Harvey’s path – here’s a great 20 second recap of the journey Harvey took all across South Texas and Louisiana.
Houston on High Alert
Last Thursday seems like an eternity ago, but that’s when Houston really started it’s high alert status. I ran to the grocery store in between seeing clients to find all the bottled water and bread was already gone and check-out lines 45 minutes long. Schools canceled classes for Friday and Monday. Most businesses had shortened work days on Friday.
News media speculated what was to come from Hurricane Harvey over the coming days. The predictions were all over the place. Harvey would be more catastrophic than Tropical Storm Allison or maybe not. It would make landfall as a category 2, no 3 (it made landfall as a category 4), then would go back to the gulf, re-strengthen and come back towards Houston. Or maybe not, there were 3-4 other possible paths that were being considered too. However, the consistent prediction was that Houston would likely not see damaging high-powered winds, but the threat to Houston would be rain. Massive amounts of rain.
These predictions were also all over the place and constantly changing. 20 inches, no 30, no maybe 40 inches of rain. Most areas of Houston received anywhere from 30-50 inches of rain.
Night 1 of Harvey started in my area, Fort Bend County, Friday night with Tornado warnings occurring what seemed like every 30 minutes. Then came a relatively mild Saturday (compared to what was to come) that gave a false sense of security. Saturday night is when the massive rain dump and round 2 of tornados hit Houston and the surrounding areas, causing flash flooding and overfull bayous to flood homes all over Houston.
Rain, Rain, and More Rain - And an Evacuation
As if this weren’t bad enough, the rain continued. It rained non-stop Sunday and Monday. Harvey WOULD NOT LEAVE. My home ended up being part of a mandatory evacuation order in Fort Bend County due to a projection that the Brazos river would crest at 59 feet, an 800-1000 year flood event that has never happened before and would decimate a large part of the county. Then there were the rising bayous in Houston and the Addicks and Barker reservoirs projecting to reach all-time highs and top their banks.
There was fear and speculation that levees would fail at these record water levels. We all watched with anxious anticipation to see what would happen with the rising rivers, bayous, and reservoirs. I don’t have adequate words to describe how awful and frightening these experiences and accompanying uncertainty were for everyone involved.
I am feeling incredibly blessed, lucky and thankful as I sit on this end of the storm. The Brazos crested at 55.19 feet instead of the projected 59. Because of this, my house ended up remaining dry. My family and belongings are safe. I am absolutely heartbroken for my friends and Houstonians who lost everything. The devastation in Houston is vast. The very thought of losing our possessions and sustaining damage to our home was overwhelming. I know that what I experienced was only a fraction of what those who flooded or lost loved ones experienced.
Processing Emotions from Hurricane Harvey
Our city has just been through a disaster of epic proportions that I hope none of us see ever again in our lifetime. It is true that our city has been incredibly resilient and has banded together in enormous ways to help each other during this crisis. I also know that it will take some time to heal. We will all need space to process the events that occurred. We will need time and permission to sort through our feelings and emotions and figure out how to restore a sense of normalcy.
It’s ok to feel really big feelings about your experience over the last week. It is an experience that shakes you to your core and one that most go a lifetime without ever experiencing. There was great loss, and with that comes grieving. I encourage you to reach out to someone to help you process these events. Talking about your story can have incredible healing power. Sometimes it means sharing with a friend. It can also mean reaching out to a therapist or professional that can help you sort through it all. PTSD is a real concern after a traumatic event like this. If you are struggling to cope and not feeling like yourself, please reach out and ask for help. Also, check out the links below about traumatic stress after natural disasters.
Resuming Business Hours
I will be back in the office normal hours starting next week. For my current clients, if I haven’t been in touch already, I will be this week. Please shoot me an email or give me a call to update me on how you are doing. If you are unable to make it into the office and still want support, I will be offering virtual sessions.
If you need help and don’t know where to turn, whether your needs are physical or emotional, please let me know. I may not be able to help you directly, but I have a pretty awesome network of people I can direct you to.
Some great resources put together by Dr. Rebecca Hamlin, PhD, Co-Director of the Texas Disaster Network and shared by my wonderful therapist friends:
How to get involved
For my friends reading this who don’t live in Houston and are looking for ways to help, these two articles provide comprehensive information on ways to help and donate:
NPR Resource List
NY Times Resource List
JJ Watt’s Foundation is raising money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and he has promised that as close to 100% of what he raises as possible will actually go to the victims of Harvey and relief efforts. You can donate here:
If you are local, there are so many local organizations needing help. I’ve been using social media to connect to community needs. Local churches and non-profits are organizing volunteer groups for clean-up and distribution of supplies to families in need. Many school districts are connecting people with the teachers that lost their classroom resources and supplies due to flooding if you’d like to help them rebuild their classroom. If you want more info on how to connect to ways to volunteer in Houston, send me an email, and I can help get you connected.
My thoughts and prayers go out to each one of you who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. I am relieved the storm is gone, now let’s rebuild Houston.