As Tropical Storm Harvey deluged Houston with record levels of rain, causing “catastrophic” flooding in the city and surrounding areas, former Kansas City area residents were trapped, fearing for their homes, their families and their friends.
Kim Cooper fled her Seabrook, Texas, apartment on the Gulf Coast to her son’s apartment in north Houston, where she waited with her grandchildren while her son was stranded in the parking lot at his wife’s nursing job.
“He’s stuck out there sitting in a parking lot,” Cooper told The Star by phone. “I’m nervous. I want to tell him to stay there and be safe.”
Cooper, a graduate of Southwest High School in Kansas City, has lived on the coast for six years and is enduring her first severe hurricane. She evacuated her apartment for safer ground but the rain has been unending. Her son’s phone is out of power, but he has posted on Facebook that he is safe at least for now.
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Her grandchildren, 14,12 and 5, are OK, she said. “They’re young and they still trust life.”
Many more in the Houston area were in danger, as the greater Houston and Galveston area received 24.1 inches of rain over the previous 24 hours. More than 100 people were rescued by helicopters, the county’s public hospital was evacuated, and the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston was opened as a shelter.
At least five deaths and more than a dozen injuries were reported by Sunday.
Both of Houston’s major airports were closed and the state activated 3,000 National Guard and State Guard members. At least 18 counties were declared federal disaster areas.
The National Weather Service warned of “additional catastrophic, unprecedented and life threatening flooding” into the next week, and placed flash-flood emergencies for all of Southeast Texas.
Heather Kachur, formerly of Shawnee, Kan., doesn’t know what has become of her home in coastal Sargent, Texas. She evacuated Thursday with her parents, her two teenaged sons, four cats and a dog.
The house they left is on stilts, but neighbors have been sharing pictures online of the damage in the canal community, including washed-away dock houses, upside down RVs and battered boats adrift.
“The hardest part is not knowing,” Kachur said. Not knowing what is left of their neighborhood and “not knowing when we can go home.”
They fled to her sister’s home in Rosenberg, Texas, just southwest of Houston, and were trapped Sunday among flooded streets. The family had to pull their cars up into the lawns and higher up on the driveways to get them away from the water that finally began to recede, though the rain keeps coming.
Christine Clauder had a dry house late Sunday morning in her northwest Houston neighborhood, but she was trapped there as she watched overflowing creek water flooding through its streets.
“We can't leave even if we wanted to,” said Clauder, who lived in Grain Valley for years before moving to Houston in 2013. “People have been advised to stay put and stay off the roads by the police chief. Leaving is not an option at this point.”
Clauder, who had moved from Texas to the Kansas City area in 1994 and returned to Houston four years ago, said the entrances to her neighborhood were blocked by rising water.
“I’m OK,” said Clauder, “I heeded the warnings and stocked up on non-perishables and water, along with other precautions such as filling up the bathtub with water, and bringing valuables and documents to the second floor of my house.”
Clauder said she had gathered enough supplies to last four days, but looking at the weather forecast made her wonder if it would be enough.
“Luckily, our power has not gone out, but I know thousands of people in Houston have lost power. Those of us with power are relying on social media and news coverage for updates.”
Clauder said her 17-year-old daughter was supposed to have her first day of school Monday, but the school district announced classes were canceled and will not resume until September 5.
Marjie Podzielinski, a Kansas native who graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in the early 1970s, can name off at least five hurricanes or tropical storms that have tested her family’s resolve over the past four decades in north Houston.
Harvey, she said, is a lot like Tropical Storm Allison of 2001, that dumped as much as 40 inches of rain on the Houston area.
“It’s just rain, rain, rain,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do. You can’t turn the faucet off…It’s going to take the city quite a while to get back on its feet.”
Houston was not evacuated in advance of the storm, but on Friday Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had encouraged residents in low-lying and coastal areas of the state to evacuate.
Cooper said she left Friday when she saw sandbags being stacked against her home and the rest of the groundfloor apartments in her Seabrook residence. Neighbors also left, and on Sunday none knew what had become of their homes, she said.
The National Weather Service said some parts of Houston and just west of the city may receive a Texas record of 50 inches of rain as Harvey stalls over Texas.
“We’re in kind of unprecedented territory with this storm,” said Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke.