Nearing The End Of Harvey

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” ~ Colin Powell

For the pre-Harvey post, click here.

Weddings, Funerals, And Wet Hot Messes

Nothing quite brings communities together like a natural catastrophe. I mean, how could She, Mother Nature, do that to us?

The nerve of her.

Waterway Level Gauges
Can you guess where we are?
Image credit: USGS capture

For nearly a decade, I’ve barely had contact with (much less even seen) most of my neighbors and yet here I find myself on a neighborhood texting group that has put me back in touch with all these individuals once again. I don’t know them, they don’t know me, but we are connected by a common thread: we’re all staying put and waiting it out.

Aside from newcomers, we had all reached out to each other much the same manner with Hurricane Ike in 2008 with the exception being information was face-to-face, not texted. High winds and water resulted in extensive damage, and many of us were filing insurance claims and securing re-build work.

Relationships were allowed to lapse between now and then, and today we find ourselves as familiar strangers, huddled together in what is now a digital lifeboat. We caused it. It’s been more convenient to check someone’s Facebook page rather than to visit across from each other over a cup of coffee or lemonade. Shame.

Conjecture riles people up and can lead to bad decision-making. Today, four days in, the whole of Houston is still under water. The hardest hit communities are dotted all over Houston and beyond, not just the concrete pad that is the city but also the tree-laden countryside beyond (where we are). Some of my own family and friends have been particularly hard-hit, but as I sit here in general comfort watching my mobile phone light up with ‘information’ every few seconds, I realize we are all positively addicted to our perceived bad situations. Level heads (like ours) get lost in the back-and-forth of all the panic and any useful information gets lost in all that noise.

Is there not an optimist among us? Praying, though thoughtful, isn’t really helping your neighbor while you also by doing nothing and ignore facts laid out in front of you. And don’t you people know how to shut off your automatic lawn sprinklers? They’re not exactly helping the situation, you know.

We take things in stride in this household. We don’t panic, pray for good outcomes, or ‘hope’ for the best. In our collective life experience, planning makes for the best possible outcome given predicted bad circumstances. In our house, there’s the Plan A, the Plan B, and should those two fail, there’s also a Plan C. We have regular family meetings so everyone is on board and no one has questions or concerns. Kids are people too.

We are planners.

We made our choice to stay five days ago when the emergency management personnel were still surmising what turned out to be exactly what happened and how. What we didn’t know at the time were the where’s, which areas would be flooded the most, but general consensus was this would be a significant flood event. It would be at least as bad as last year, which has been the worst so far, probably not a whole lot worse than that for us.

‘500-year flood event’ my butt. This is the third year straight over here, y’all, even though we weren’t home to witness that one first-hand. I’m calling it what it is:  The New Normal.

Look familiar? Up just a bit …
(Holding Steady 6/4/2016)

I feel more hopeful when I get the right information from the right sources, sources which are vetted before the catastrophe is underway. Many, God love them, simply didn’t do their homework first, and now it’s exam time.

Engineers in training and thinking, we know our neighborhood’s drainage plan intimately. Familiarity with how the water is supposed to flow out, is half the knowledge; it’s equally important to know what happens when it starts to flow the other way. One thing is certain. The civil engineers who planned our country estate did their homework, and judging from how water moves off our neighborhood and into the Brazos during past flood events, they did it very well.

But it’s difficult to relay that to groups of scared people via text — even small ones like ours — when unnecessary panic is already seeded. My neighborhood happens to be one of those ‘islands’ the county officials had so carefully named in the news, smack dab in the middle of a mass-chaos 11th-hour mandatory evacuation order. We felt forgotten, left out. That need to belong and share culminated in a group text message.

Levee districts inundated with water become large bowls; the same levees built to keep water out are equally designed to hold water in. That’s why they were evacuated. Sure, that’s good news for us just 1/4 mile outside of the levee, but no one was clear to explain that at the time. The low hum of hushed nothingness the county OEM perpetuated a palpable fear among those in our small subdivision, fear that had grown by the time a press conference was held later in the day.

By then, it was too late. Like the ebola virus, panic had become the pandemic. Neighbors hit the roads and the staying-at-home texting group quickly became a how-the-heck-do-we-get-out one. Any common sense was thrown into the storm drain.

So … the answer to the question of whether this is a true disaster for us, for my neighborhood near the river’s flood plain still lies ahead: the Brazos has yet to crest.

Leveling Out? Rising? Any bets?
Image credit: NOAA capture

I’m an optimist.

Since it appears to be leveling out, inundation maps highlight only the worst case scenario, I’m thinking we’re safe and the LID’s gave the evacuation order to cover their butts. Only time will tell, but my bet is that we will be high and dry when all is said and done.

A Blessing And A Curse

Many who use computer-in-pocket technology let these devices control them, rather than the other way around. I finally turned off notifications so that I could read group texts (discerningly) in one sitting rather than sifting out the useless tidbits on the fly.

I’m an information girl. Information is what I need, not panic. No offense to those who need to be digitally connected to others, everything else is just fluff when bothered by a constantly buzzing device in my pocket. Hugs and well-wishes and information about dogs getting to finally go outside to poop and play is better meant for the face-to-face for me.

What my brain seems to think is really buzzing around in my pocket…

Life is better lived without all that, and so far there is nothing we can do to help anyone beyond our little island. Needless to say, blogging has taken the back, back, waaaay back burner.

For the past five days, we painted stuff. We organized. We cleaned. We read. We did computer and IT maintenance to get ready for school (which got delayed a week). We took many, long, wet walks to the weirs and beyond. When we started to stink, we took military showers as to not further overload the septic.

Watching the hummingbirds and deer are among our daily highlights and bring joy to an otherwise awful situation. For a couple of days there, it’s all we had.

Wet Ruby-throated Hummingbird
(There’s a video of several fighting over a
feeder too. They’re here!)

The rain has stopped for now, and we try not to obsess too much over stick gauges, but it’s really hard not to.

See you all on the dry side of tomorrow.

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17 thoughts on “Nearing The End Of Harvey

  1. I really appreciated your perspective and wisdom here, Shannon, and applaud you for your free thinking and courage. It is not easy to be surrounded by water, disaster, and panic. Your ability to seek information, think logically, and stay guided on your course is a powerful lesson for all of us.


    1. Thank you, Jet, for your very kind and validating analysis. Cool heads certainly helped us in our own situation, but sensationalism is much more contagious among majority populations. Our experience here highlights the importance of building relationships BEFORE the need to lean on them arises. It’s on us as much as it is them, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems we are getting more and more dependent on technology, and are losing what common collective sense we might have had. But I think it is always difficult for officials to find the right balance between downplaying a potentially devastating natural event and imposing a mandatory evacuation order. Human nature, pathetic as it is, will always find fault with whatever decision is made. After Katrina, I understand that everybody wants to err on the side of caution. And with Irma approaching, should all of Florida be evacuated (if it were even possible)? It’s very complicated, definitely too complicated for me to judge.

    I am glad that you, Scott, and the kids are safe.


    1. If I had a nickel for every time a person baffled me with his decision-making process, I might have enough money to come to Colorado Springs and bird with you several times per year! I agree about the cautionary press conferences, but feel that there is a DUTY for public officials to explain things a bit better, for the layperson. The mayor kept calm and hopeful throughout and his reasoning for not evacuating 6.5 million Houstonians justifiable. Had the roadways (rather than houses) been full of evacuees when the water rose, it would have been much, much worse for deaths and rescues.

      We, thankfully, have a second story to retreat to. And you know what? We NEVER lost power. Not even for a few minutes during the 7-day shut-in. At least the kids were entertained. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am glad you were unscathed, Shannon.

        I agree with the need to have facts explained better. But I think there will always be that degree of uncertainty. In hindsight, trying to evacuate all of Houston would have been a nightmare. But if the flooding and loss of life had been worse, people would have screamed, I am pretty sure.

        From all indicators, this was, sadly, not the last time that Houston and many other gulf cities and states will have to face that same dilemma…

        I hope we can finally all come together and do something about the climate. I would love it if you came out to the Springs several times a year to bird with me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been helping our team in Houston (work team) through the past ten days. I’m glad y’all stayed safe. The sensationalism really makes it hard to actually make informed decisions and actually help those who need help… If only the news wasn’t so concerned with clicks and views (thank you, NOAA.)


    1. The news helped in some ways, but it hurt in others. So many people rely ONLY on what they see on TV or on Facebook; NOAA is a tremendous resource at everyone’s fingertips. Thanks for your contributions and I’m glad Harvey is behind us now!

      Liked by 1 person

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