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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

City

‘This is enough,’ says student flooded three times since 2015


harvey flood

Business junior Elyse Cloyd cleans her living room after cutting out the walls. Cloyd’s house has flooded three times in three years, getting two feet of water from Hurricane Harvey. | Traynor Swanson/The Cougar

Elyse Cloyd spent all of Aug. 26 watching the news to get weather updates about Hurricane Harvey. She couldn’t fathom some of the predictions. Eight to 12 inches of rain, they said. Then, 12 to 20 inches.

The rainfall forecasts kept growing higher and higher.

“They were like, ‘Oh, it’s not gonna be as bad as the Memorial Day flood,’” said Cloyd, whose Meyerland home flooded in the 2015 Memorial Day flood and last year’s Tax Day flood — three times in three years.

But by midnight, floodwater made its way into her house — one of more than 185,000 homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The storm was the most extreme rain event ever recorded to befall the contiguous United States.

Cloyd, a business junior at UH, said she’s ready to live in a different part of town, safe from recurring floodwater.

“This is enough,” she said. “People were telling us after the first flood: Move out. I’ve talked to a couple of my neighbors, and they’re in the same boat. They don’t want to live here anymore.”

Into the attic

Early Sunday morning, the water was rising in Cloyd’s home, where she lives with her boyfriend and her mother. They made the necessary precautions — raising expensive furniture with soup cans and placing chairs on top of tables — before trying to get some rest.

“I just couldn’t sleep though,” she said. “I don’t know how my mom and my boyfriend could sleep. I kept staring at the water and gauging it by the outlet right by my bed.”

The water kept rising, Cloyd said, all the way up to her mattress.

“I was like, ‘OK, we need to go in the attic or something,’” she said, “so I woke everybody up and went to the attic.”

They grabbed their laptops, phone chargers and three dogs and headed up to the attic around 2 a.m., leaving the attic door open to see how high the water was rising.

“Everyone was freaking me out,” she said. “They were like, ‘Go on the roof! Go on the roof!’ and I was thinking, well, we’re not gonna sit on the roof in the rain for 10 hours.”

Once in the attic, they tried calling the emergency numbers, like 311, 911 and the Coast Guard, but it was impossible to get through.

“We would either get a busy signal, or we were on hold for like 30 minutes,” Cloyd said. “It was insane.”

Ever rising

Complicating matters was the fact that Cloyd’s mother, Beth Cloyd, injured her knee in February, rendering her unable to climb onto the roof for a potential helicopter rescue by the Coast Guard. She was supposed to have surgery the week after Hurricane Harvey hit, but it’s been delayed.

“They told us, ‘Get on the roof, and they’ll come get you at some point,’” Elyse Cloyd said. “What does that mean? My mom — she didn’t feel comfortable getting on the roof. I was like, ‘My mom has a bad knee! We can’t get on the roof.’”

Elyse and her boyfriend eventually moved to the roof Sunday afternoon, but the Coast Guard still had at least 50 people to rescue before them.

Finally, two strangers from Tyler, who came to rescue their own family members, decided to continue their rescue operations for the rest of the day in a flat-bottom boat.

Although the first responders were amazing, Beth Cloyd said, the 911 system wasn’t equipped to handle a storm of this magnitude.

“A lot of the rescues happened through volunteerism, and without that, the loss of life would’ve been so much higher,” she said. “People were coming into our city and our communities. You saw that everywhere.”

Eventually, the three flood survivors were shuttled in a dump truck to the George R. Brown Convention Center, where they stayed overnight with the three dogs they were watching.

Blessed and lucky

After experiencing three floods in three years, Beth Cloyd said the first Memorial Day deluge was the worst in terms of losing possessions.

This year was harder, however, because of the magnitude and duration of the rain, she said, creating uncertainty about whether they would be rescued and having to reach out on social media to no avail.

“And knowing you’ve got two kids up on the roof,” Beth Cloyd said. “I mean, I couldn’t get up there if a helicopter came, but knowing you have two kid up there on the roof in red-band, pelting rain was scary to make sure they didn’t fall of the roof.”

By the time they could return home several days after the flood, all three of their cars were destroyed.

Despite having to tear up the floorboards and cut out the walls for the third time in three years, things could’ve been much worse, Elyse Cloyd said.

“Anytime something happens like this, it’s super humbling,” she said. “Material possessions don’t really mean anything, and I know that I’m very lucky compared to some people. … I can see how blessed and lucky I am, but it still sucks.”

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