I remember on Sunday, I got the first message that Friendswood was in danger. My friend said his house had eight inches of water on the first floor, and I thought my house had as much water as his did.
When saw on Thursday that Harvey was as big as the Gulf, I didn’t risk going back to my neighborhood in Galveston County. I fled to a narrow part of Katy in Cinco Ranch where I was safe from the flooding.
My dad also fled, and the only updates I had were two degrees separated — from my neighbor, Angela Johnson, who was in Friendswood when the flooding started.
“We have never flooded in any other major rain storm. Even after Hurricane Ike, the area was clear,” Johnson said. “But being here for (Harvey) and seeing water rising on the street was basically like a river at one point with water just running back and forth.”
Friendswood was hit hard because of its location in Galveston County, an area which was constantly stuck in the harsh eastern bands of Harvey. Johnson said at some points, possibly 5 inches of rain fell per hour, which started the flooding.
Watching those eastern bands of Harvey slice through Friendswood left me still and empty.
“You’re kind of taken aback because you don’t expect water on your street, let alone water knee deep in the middle of the street,” Johnson said.
Johnson is a process safety engineer and took precautions for the storm accordingly.
“I didn’t feel panicky or nervous. I’m the calm one in the household,” Johnson said. “My background is a safety background at work, so you learn how to gauge but also you learn you can’t panic, either.”
The faster the water rose in my neighborhood, the longer it would take for me to get home, and the further away I seemed. I felt displaced from my home without even touching the disaster zones.
“It was deep enough for boats to go by,” Johnson said. “Down the street, I saw a man walking out there and the water was at his waist.”
When I finally drove home, I could take the highways I was familiar with — from Alt-90 to eastbound I-610 to southbound I-45. When I saw the first exit that let me know that I was 15 minutes away, everything felt foreign.
Three more exits to go, and I realized it’s not called Bay Area for nothing. From the pictures, there was enough water to fill an entire bay.
When I took my exit, everything smelled weird. I don’t know if it was the smell of unfamiliarity, but it was different. With each turn I made, the smell got stronger. Several new bodies of water surrounded my neighborhood.
Driving back home, I imagined each piece of land that looked below sea level being consumed with water. When I made the second-to-last turn, I realized that the unfamiliar smell was fish — not cleanly killed and harvested for the supermarket fish, but rotting fish. Once I got into the first bit of my neighborhood, everything was empty and silent.
When I finally got to turn into my subdivision that I knew to be underwater, I saw something that looked familiar but in an unfamiliar place. My neighborhood of upper middle-class white families looked like poverty. The contrast between houses that were damaged and ones that were not looked like gentrification.
There were mountains of broken wood, trash bags, computer desk chairs, heirlooms and silverware in front of the first few houses. The streets were full of trash and people just arriving to their homes that they thought they had. There were dozens of people standing in the middle of the street, looking stoic, almost apathetic.
Those who did move were like zombies. Baseball caps and hoodies covered their tears.
When I drove down my street and maneuvered around the debris, the mountains of damaged and flooded furniture started to decline. As more and more houses passed, I realized that my family, along with Johnson, was among the lucky.
“I definitely feel blessed that we were spared from any damage,” Johnson said. “You definitely have empathy for the people that did have damage because you know if the storm had continued or strengthened or gone on longer, it could have been us.”
I walked in through my garage and then to my dining room and was shocked, not because of any damage but because of how untouched it was. I turned on light switches, gas stoves and AC units as if they were new inventions, surprised that they worked like they were supposed to.
I searched the wood grain floors for any cracks or water marks. I put my hand on the carpet and drew my hand back, shocked from how dry it was.
If you ever want to see what humble looks like, look at the suburbs after a disaster.
Opinion Editor Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected].