An anonymous reader has been keeping us posting about enduring the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. He (or she) left two long follow-ups this morning. I didn't want them to get buried in the comments, so I'm posting them here. His/her posts contain valuable real-life lessons on living through a disaster.
As a side note, President Trump has declared tomorrow, September 3, to be a Day of Prayer for the hurricane victims and the rescue and relief operations. Please participate.
Here is the anonymous reader's story:
We live on the south side of Houston. Thankfully it has just been bands of rain that come and go. It helped that the ground was dry when the rain began. Now that it is soaked, flooding is likely. We are prepared to hunker down for as long as needed. Cities further down the coast took a hard hit.
It is now much worse in Houston. We have moved all valuables upstairs in anticipation of water entering the house. It came within 2 inches last night. The water went down and now the rain has begun again. The creeks our at record highs. Houses that have never flooded before are flooding. A friend of mine had to be rescued by a boat. The water at an intersection outside of our neighborhood has water up to a person's chest! An 18 wheeler is stuck in it. We will be fine as long as the water doesn't make it up to the 2nd floor. We have moved our food and water up there. I am about to make several loaves of bread while I still can.
Family is safe and cleanup is well underway. You think you are prepared for anything, but then something turns up missing. We had flood insurance, high ground, sandbags, and a wet vac ... until the wet vac went missing. We still haven't found it and have no idea where it went. With the wet vac missing, backup plan #2 - a pet vac that can hold about 2 cups of water ( = insufficient). Hand water pump with 36" hose ( = good for holes in dirt, but not for cleaning up water on a wood floor). Towels ( = have to wash and dry later given that the incoming water would be cow poo, human septic contaminated, dirt water ... make sure to have plenty of bleach or powdered sodium hypochlorite (aka pool shock)). ...the thoughts went down hill from there.
Fortunately, we didn't get water in our house, although other family members did. Family heirloom quilts were soaked in the aforementioned cow poo water because it was done by relatives who were freaking out about water rushing in under doors and thresholds. It was done without thinking about the necessary cleaning process afterwards.
It was a fantastic lesson in crisis stress and the proverbial shattering of peace of mind. When it happens to you, it is far different than seeing it online or watching it on TV. There is a saying that nothing teaches like experience. This was no exception. It was also a good lesson in the reality of life that no matter how well prepared you are or think you might be for anything, you aren't. It’s that simple.
Prior to the flood (48" of water in 6 days – yep, almost a whole year's worth for us in just a week), we had a couple of other preparedness lessons in failure this summer.
We had tomato gnat maggots infest a quart jar of pressure canned bacon this summer. I canned it 3 years ago as a test of what was possible and was also collecting data on longevity. Those tomato gnats found an entry point in the pressure sealed lid (the physics of it still eludes me) and they multiplied prolifically. Lots of lessons in food storage in that little ordeal.
The best education came from a couple of elderly relatives who said that our family generally kept 2 years ahead in terms of food storage (canning, etc) and that by year 3 the only thing that would be in the pantry was jelly from that year. Anything older than that couldn't be trusted. Cleanliness was everything in a world without antibiotics and nothing was ever given over to chance where food was concerned.
All of the lessons and experiences this year have made me realize that even the most prepared among us still can't hold a candle to our not-so-distant ancestors who lived off the land. Many of us are relearning commonplace skills of a bygone era.
Disasters of our own making are just as bad as natural disasters. You will be physically and psychologically affected by both.
The spirit of community and thankfulness to God is strong where I live. Neighbors help neighbors. People pull together. Even so, our collective memories are short and it is easy to slip back into the selfishness of the disposable culture we live in. The normalcy of going back to work was striking after experiencing the flooding. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said it best, that we'd be returning to "a new normal." That statement caught my attention. I am no longer phased by a 4-6" rainfall. I will not even blink at a 10" rainfall. I don't know what would phase me now, given what we've been through. Maybe 18" would make me do a double take or sit me down to think. That in and of itself is psychologically interesting, because my entire world-view of "normal" has changed. I can't begin to imagine what would change in the face of civil strife or other kinds of disasters.
I made a joke at one point during the storm about this is what Noah must have felt like – being prepared to ride out the floods. At the time, we didn't know how bad it would be. It just kept raining. It rained for 6 days with Harvey. Allison in 2001 lasted 15 days, but we only received about 30" of rain. Floods and disasters happen. It’s part of the cycle of nature. But, the duration can have a dramatic effect on your psyche as well as your property. Places that didn't flood then, flooded this time. I do not know what challenges we'll face next, but we'll continue to strive to be prepared.
Our new wet vac was ordered online because many building supply stores are still closed due to flooded roads or flood damage. Postal service resumed today, so we are hoping that the wet vac arrives sometime next week. There is another storm, south of Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic, that looks to be in position to move into the Gulf in a week or so if it holds together.
I'm tired and still a bit shell shocked. It has only been a week since the storm made landfall and it seems like a month. The good news is that the waters have receded and the mudbugs (crawfish) are busy making their mud towers, which drain the land. There is no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days. Whoo-hoo. There is a lot to reflect on and lots of people to pray for and to help.
We were very, very lucky. Family whose houses were flooded have started the cleanup process. For others, there is a long road ahead. The city of Beaumont is still without water (120K people). Over 400K FEMA claims have been filed and the number is rising daily. Over 400K National Flood Insurance Program claims are anticipated. The number of dead and missing continues to rise. The organophosphate releases in the multiple chemical explosions at the Arkema plant in Crosby have released heavy-duty volatile mutagens and caustic irritants into the air which will eventually get into the water and the Gulf. The long-term environmental impact of life along the Gulf Coast has not even been contemplated.
Nature will fix herself. She always does. The lessons of Harvey will provide a lot of food for thought for a long time. One overarching lesson that is crystal clear to me is that if one survives a TEOTWAWKI event, it will be just the beginning of the tribulation. It will take a very strong will, a solid community of neighbors, and a stalwart belief in God to get us through on a daily basis.
I have realized that the media darling snowflakes will melt completely in the first month, if not sooner. They are no longer worthy of a nanosecond of my time or energy. It is the "redneck/ Cajun/ camo-wearing/ deer-and-duck-hunting army of common folk" who arrived to help (on their own time/dime) who deserve our thoughts, thanks, and our prayers. Those brave souls probably won't receive much more than a thanks and hug from someone they rescued. So, please remember them in your prayers. You likely won't see many news stories about them, but they are incredible people. They have certainly left me humbled.
God bless you for your strength and diligence in keeping up your blog. We all wish you and your family the very best. Warn your youngest about the Navy hazing rituals when she first crosses the equator. We hope that your oldest daughter is also doing well. Love Mr. Darcy. He is cuter than a bug's ear. Thanks for thinking about all of us. We love to read your blog and keep up with all of the wonderful things you and Don do. Thanks so much for letting us share your experiences. God Bless!