Monday, September 23, 2019


Houston has a tendency to get really worried about weather. I've lived here my whole life and I tend to know when to ignore it vs. when to pay attention. Post-Harvey, I try to at least pay a little attention - I mean, I make sure we have gas, some food on hand, and that I watch the news. Bare minimum attention.

So last week it was supposed to rain a lot but no one knew how much or how spread out it would be. Andrew works 30 miles from home so on Tuesday night, he set his alarm for a bit later on Wednesday since the weather was supposed to be bad that morning. That way, there would be enough info on the news for him to see if the roads were safe and give his company a little more time to cancel work, if needed. I want to say there was some rain, but nothing major, so he went to work and all was fine. He approached Thursday the same way... got up a few minutes late, checked on things, all was fine, so he went to work. It seemed that most of the rain had been in our part of town (northeast) and things were soggy, but not scary.

I want to say after he left, the decision was made to cancel school in the district we live in. But, Houston ISD was in, and most of the city lives and breathes by their schedule. If they send kids to school, it normally isn't that bad in the rest of the city.

I woke up at 7:00 that day. I had a Starbucks freebie and really, really wanted my first salted caramel mocha of the year. But it was raining pretty steadily and there was thunder and I decided it wasn't worth the tiny risk that I might get in a fender bender or anything. So I stayed home. I also normally judge Houston weather by if they go wall-to-wall coverage or if there is programming as usual. The local news went right into GMA, so I didn't worry much. 8:00 rolled around so I got to work. Around 9:00, I realized that it really hadn't gotten any lighter out since 7:00. Our power went out (luckily for only about 10 seconds, literally), and I could feel the thunder from my office on the second floor.

I had a work call coming up, but I ran downstairs to see how our street look. I didn't expect anything since our street had no flooding during Harvey but this time, the water was up over the curb and sidewalk and creeping into our yard. It was uncomfortably close to my car in the driveway. (Our cars are in the driveway because the garage is full of smokers and BBQ stuff, naturally). I put on rain gear and ran out to parallel park my car as well as I could in front of the garage door. Then I got on facebook to see reports on our neighborhood facebook page that others had similar amounts of water in their yards.

The rain stayed steady and started to move to the south, toward Andrew's office. His street floods in the slightest downpour but generally recedes pretty quickly. I had my call, he ran out to grab lunch, and it started to clear up at the house. The water receded a ton - the sidewalk was clear and the streets would have been fine to drive on. Unfortunately, a neighbor's two-door convertible parked in the street didn't make it. I walked down our cul-de-sac to the pedestrian bridge that leads to a major road and there was a river in front of me. If I looked to the left, I could see the surface of the road - it was like the area right in front of me dipped down enough to collect a lot of water. Cars were parked on the median (luckily it was a large, grassy median) from people who must have gotten stuck in the area unexpectedly. I saw a Mercedes in front of me. The wipers were going but I couldn't tell if there was someone in the car. A man was going around helping people and convinced the driver to reverse so that their car wouldn't continue to fill with water. I wanted to help, but I honestly didn't know what I could do.

I went home and tuned into twitter and local news, which by this point had gone to wall-to-wall local coverage. The rain that had been in my area was now covering the city and going over already-saturated ground. People wanted to get home before it got worse but streets had high water. Kids were at school and everyone was wholly unprepared. Around 1:30, the radar looked clear from Andrew's office to home so he decided to make the trip. I texted him "are you sure that's the best idea?" but everything looked fine - both roadways and weather - so he headed this way. I, of course, was a worried mess because we say "turn around, don't drown" here for a reason. Sometimes, the water just comes up fast.

I was kind of working but mostly watching the news when a highway intersection I knew he would pass came up. I saw cars getting by, one lane at a time, along the left shoulder. I texted Andrew to warn him to get over to the left when he got there and he was already there and it was slow. No big deal, I thought, people are getting by, and we knew this was going to take a while.

Then the news showed the traffic cam there again. I saw a truck with flashing lights and a school bus. A few minutes later, they showed it again. The truck with lights was blocking the only open path and the school bus had barely moved. No one was getting through. Of course, I texted Andrew to let him know. He said it was barely raining and figured it would recede enough to open soon. The news said that cars had started to float while trying to get through and people had to be rescued. So I reported that to him, too. He sat.

Nothing changed and no one moved. I saw on the news that people were getting over to the right, going UP an on ramp, and ending up... somewhere else? The ramp went up, so it presumably wasn't flooded but I didn't know what it was. Some freeway. I told Andrew this, and eventually, after he was able to make his way from the left to the right, he did that too. And then u-turned on the freeway and figured out how to get towards home. Thanks to facebook, I was able to report which path was clear and he got home, finally. Almost five hours after leaving.

Someone died at the spot where I get on the freeway pretty much any time I go outside my suburb. People whose homes just flooded in May were flooded again. A ton of people lost cars and kids were stuck at school since no one knew this was going to happen. We were caught off guard. This many 100 year floods aren't supposed to happen in the same few years. It was a weird, stressful day trying to check in on people and make sure everyone was safe, or could get to safety. It shouldn't be commonplace to call the Cajun Navy and see boats going down roads. But that's where we are at. I love this city, but it's exhausting, and none of it has ever been that bad for me. Yet. It seems like it is just a matter of time before I or someone close to me gets destroyed by this weather.

I wrote this long-winded post just to document the day and the feelings for me. Having your person on the roads is nervewracking. I trust him, but not other drivers, and not nature. I'm grateful for our safety and can only hope our luck continues through the next storms...