I spent most of my childhood and now adult life living in my hometown of Houston. I love this city to its core. It is a beautiful city filled with an amazing diverse population that love this city as much as I do. We have watched horrified as our city has taken on historic amounts of rain. An estimated 50 inches will fall in Houston before this is all over. The amount Houston sees in a year, in a matter of DAYS. My hometown is a lake. The highways are rivers. Many of my fellow Houstonians have lost everything. Thankfully, my family and friends are okay, but we of course are concerned for our neighbors. Here some things you should know about Houston, My Hometown.
Why Not Evacuate?
This question frustrates me to no end. I know people mean well when they ask this question, but if I can offer a bit of advice? Do not ask a Houstonian this right now. There are a lot of reasons why our Mayor, Sylvester Turner did not implement a mandatory evacuation ahead of Harvey. For one, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Evacuating millions of people must be well thought out and planned. Unfortunately, Harvey only provided us about 24 hours to make this decision as it rapidly strengthened. The city of Houston decided that evacuating could cause more harm than hunkering down and weathering the storm. Instead, Houstonians were advised to gas up and stock up on food for several days.
I know many folks who are not from this area think back to Katrina and ponder why didn’t Houston evacuate? Do yourself a favor and google the pictures from Hurricane Rita. Just months after Katrina, Rita was heading directly to Houston. After watching the horrifying pictures from Katrina, many Houstonians hit the highways to evacuate, my family included (I was away in college). It took my family THIRTEEN HOURS to get to the Woodlands, a Houston suburb. For a reference point, it typically takes 13 hours to drive from Houston to Kansas City and about 45 minutes to get to the Woodlands. My family, like many others, turned around and went home because they feared being stuck on an interstate when the storm hit. Many people died during that evacuation so folks really think before ordering an evacuation here.
Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions is where Harvey hit. Houston was never in the direct line of Harvey’s wrath. We just received the “dirty side” of the hurricane meaning rain and wind. State and local authorities issue mandatory evacuations ahead of a hurricane because of the storm surge that comes with a hurricane. Houston did not receive a storm surge, which is why part of why the city did not institute the orders.
Why Does Houston Flood?
I think many of us are resigned to the fact that Houston will flood. While in college in Missouri, I remember a fellow Houstonian explaining it like this, “Y’all have snow days and we have flood days!” Back then it seemed like it was every few years part of the city would experience a significant flood. Now, it feels like it’s every year, widespread and in areas that never flooded before. I will not pretend to be a scientist who understands global warming or the impact that Houston’s rapid growth has had on our propensity to flood. What I will do though is point you to this article from Kinder Institute at Rice for further reading on the topic.
How We Can Help
The danger is not over. We are expecting more rain through the week and the flooding will continue. Some crucial areas have seen water recede, but we expect the flood waters will go right back up. There is literally NO end in sight. When I looked at the weather report, there is not a sunny day until well into September y’all.
Here is a list of places that I have heard about that need volunteers and donations. If you know of others, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below. I’ll add more as I learn of them
- For emergencies:
- Call 911 and the Coast Guard 281-464-4851; 281-464-4852; 281-464-4853; 281-464-4854; 281-464-4855
- The “Cajun Navy” are volunteers from around the state and Louisiana who came to Houston with flat bottom boats to help with rescues. They asked those who need help to download the Zello Walkie Talkie app & type in “Texas search and rescue.” These folks are REAL heroes. They hit the highway with boats in tow to help.
- The Mayor opened the George R. Brown Convention center as a shelter for evacuees. They have asked for Sweaters, socks, packaged food, blankets, pillows, towels, diapers, formula, toothbrushes, ready to eat food, comfort kids, first aid supplies, medical gloves, feminine products, shampoo/conditioner and hand sanitizer. They also asked for volunteers if you can safely make it to that area.
- Here is a list of other shelters around the city. Places like Gallery Furniture have opened up their stores as shelters.
- For attorneys or persons seeking legal advice regarding the storm, the State Bar of Texas has opened a hotline. If you are interested in volunteering as a disaster relief volunteer attorney please click here.
- Texans’ Player JJ Watt started a fundraiser and you can donate here.
- Local Food Banks such as the Houston Food Bank are taking donations. Please remember that smaller cities beyond Houston need assistance as well. Here is a list of food banks.
- Covenant House Texas works with homeless and non-profit youth. As you can imagine, the last few days have been challenged so they are asking for donations if you can help
- Star of Hope Mission works with homeless in Houston every day, so they will be a great organization that already based in Houston that can help.
- GoFundMe has set up a page of vetted campaigns that you can donate too. I would stick to these for the time being.
- Volunteer Houston launched a virtual Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) where you can sign up to volunteer. I do not believe they are dispatching volunteers just yet, but you can sign up now.
- Texas Diaper Bank provides displaced families with much needed diapers. Visit here to donate.
- The Red Cross is also taking donations, but if you can try to donate to local organizations first.
- Hope City, a local church is offering an opportunity to volunteer on their relief team and donate to the cause.
- YWCA Houston will need volunteers once the water has receded. You can donate here.
- A fellow blogger (Hangry Woman) highly recommended BakerRipley, a community development organization. BakerRipley is already engaged in the type of work that will be needed during the recovery. You can support them here.
- Mayor Turner established a Hurricane Harvey relief fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation. You can donate here.