After Harvey: Weaving the Threads of Recovery

recovery after adversity

We have not been able to get over the devastation in Southeast Texas. A major overpass linking my old hometown, Lumberton to the next town has collapsed. It breaks my heart in words I can’t express. We spent over 30 years there. We have friends there. Every time they show a street or building under water my heart tightens because I know those places like the back of my hand. Despite all that’s happened, people are weaving the threads of recovery.

Neighbors and strangers are pulling together. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. That’s how we roll down here. We roll up our sleeves and cuss about it later.

Unlike New Orleans, our dams and levees held, but there was simply too much rain dumped all at one time. The water has nowhere to go so it sits until it can recede on its own. As of last Monday’s estimation, over 24.5 TRILLION gallons of rain  has fallen on Texas.

Now comes the hard part. When you’re busy rescuing people and animals your life has purpose, but once that’s done you have to wait for the water to recede before you can assess the damage, tear out, and rebuild.

Harvey survivors (I refuse to call them victims) have a long wait ahead of them. They can’t fix anything until after that water drains. In the meantime, they have to deal with snakes, fire ants, wild hogs, and even alligators.

Several retailers have opened their stores as shelters. Others with nearby ranches, have offered their dry pastures to people with horses. There are a lot of good people out here.

Other ways to help:

If you’re nearby and have power:
• Offer to do laundry for those without power.
• Set up a charging station so people can charge their cell phones and ipads.
• Have aspirin, ibuprofen, bleach, and hand sanitizer available for workers/families in the area.
• Offer to bring a home-cooked meal or invite those ravaged to a home-cooked dinner. (They’ll be busy during daylight hours, so dinner is the best time for them.)
• Offer to let them use your shower.

If you’re further away and want to help, contact local charities to see what they need. Some shelters/charities have run out of certain things or have too much of another.

One nice thing you can do for someone affected is to send them a gift card to a restaurant chain in their area. After our house fire which gutted my kitchen, and again after Hurricane Rita, those gift cards were very much appreciated. I cannot stress enough how tired everyone is right now. There’s going to be a lot to do for many weeks and months ahead. Being able to eat out after a hard day of tearing out sheetrock and carpet is a godsend.

I want to give a special shoutout to a good friend of ours. Despite a very bad back that keeps him in constant agony, he has worked tirelessly to reach people and animals trapped by water and carry them to safety with his boat. The water hasn’t yet reached inside his home, but he’s spending every waking moment helping others. This is Texas and this is what we do when trouble strikes.

For now, we’ve offered our home as refuge to several friends. So far, no one has wanted to leave, which I totally understand. But we’re here if they want to take a break from the water.

An interesting turn of events has occurred during recovery. The gas pumps started running dry. My sister chose this unfortunate week to drive from Arizona to Chicago. She texted me along the way and said it was getting harder and harder to find gas. On top of that it’s Labor Day and people travel.

Some people panicked and sat in long lines at the few pumps still operating. What they didn’t realize was that it’s only temporary. There’s no shortage. It’s just that most of the refineries are in Southeast Texas and many roads are impassable. On top of that, many refineries aren’t back online yet. They can’t pump gas to the haulers. As of this writing, nearly 75% of the refineries are starting up again this week.

It’ll line itself out in a few days. Carpool if you can, or stay home. Conserve gas until we recover.

Something similar happened to us several years ago when flooding struck the Midwest. Does anyone remember that? Many trucks couldn’t get to us and within three days, the grocery store shelves were nearly empty. It was surreal and kind of scary when you think three days was all it took to empty out a major store.

I don’t worry because I stock enough to last a year, but I did miss getting fresh bread and produce. I was forced to BAKE bread! Forced, I tell you! Within a week, things were back to normal.

The best thing to do is to stay informed. Keep an eye on weather not just in your backyard but across the country. We don’t realize how much we rely on the trucking industry until they’re not there to stock our shelves or fill our gas pumps.

Right now I’m watching Hurricane Irma to see where she’s headed. I pray it dies a quick death in the ocean, but forecasters think it’s unlikely. Whatever she does, I hope it’s minimal.

That being said, anyone who lives near the east coast should stock up on supplies now. (See last week’s post.) Don’t wait until the last minute.

Everyone else who gets gas from Southeast Texas needs to fill gas cans and cars once the gas starts flowing again–just in case Irma decides to hit the Texas coast again.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Are you seeing long lines at gas stations? Have you ever come across empty shelves at a grocery store?





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  1. So far bread loaves have been on the shelves from Butter Krust at least, hamburger buns seem to be scarce or sold out , Fat free milk 1 gallon jugs are obsolete but 1/2 gallons still available and gas lines in our area not so bad so far Maria. However since my husband is the only one out and about in our little family he may be hitting the grocery stores too late to get what he is after in the amount he is looking for as everything else seems to be pretty well stocked.

    We are watching Irma too and for all our friends, family and strangers to us sakes in South Texas coastal or inland towns that will be affected are hoping for the best outcome not
    a repeat of Harvey.

  2. I think it’s true of most people everywhere, that when disaster strikes, they help each other. Like you, I really wish everyone would figure out to live like that all the time. Your list is a great one, with lots of practical ideas. I can’t imagine how people are living day-to-day with water covering everything. The pictures are terrifying and sobering.

    I didn’t realize there was a chance that Irma could hit Texas. I hope it doesn’t – enough is enough, right? We’re watching Irma because we’re scheduled to go to Virginia next week. If it goes up the eastern coast, we may stay home. But I’d much rather it did that than follow Harvey’s path!

    • Marlene: We’ve been in constant contact with friends. Power goes out a lot. Their main concern is being able to flush a toilet. If you’re on a septic system you need power to pump sewage into the tanks.

      Mostly they’re tired. Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

      re: Irma
      Today’s projection thinks it might go up the east coast. That will save us but hurt Florida on up. Better she die and die quickly in open water.

  3. There is something about being in the immediacy of a tragedy that brings out the humanity in so many of us. I pray those directly impacted by Harvey are able to recover to a comfortable normalcy soon.

    The sad part about the gas shortage talk is that the more it has been mentioned, the higher gas prices went. Some locations were subtle, raising their price 10 to 15 cents per day over the last week. Others, not so subtle. What does that say?

    Anywho, Irma is out there over the water all fired up. It’s as if it knows the damage Harvey wrought and is in some Mother Nature competition to do more harm. I sure hope that won’t be the case.

    • Angela:
      Re: The sad part about the gas shortage talk is that the more it has been mentioned, the higher gas prices went.

      Exactly! Sometimes I think the media does more harm than good. If they’d stop sensationalizing every little thing people wouldn’t panic or have knee jerk reactions to what will level out soon.

  4. Mac: We won’t know how many people have actually died until that water recedes. At that point it won’t be rescue anymore but body retrieval.

    Some people blame the Houston mayor for telling people to shelter in place but he did the right thing. When Rita headed for us, Houston started evacuations and it was madness. Some people were stuck in cars for over 24 hours. Greg, 90 miles away was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for 16 hours for what should’ve been a 5 hour trip.

  5. We’re already prepared for Irma should she come our way, but most rural people here take all storms seriously. When I went to the market this morning about half the bottled water was already gone from the shelves. My guy trimmed the trees that needed it yesterday, and now we’re inventorying supplies, propane, getting together our lanterns and battery-operated stuff, and deciding who will stay where if we need to open the house to friends and family who live in flood zones or less safe homes. I’ll do my baking and food prep if/when we know it is coming our way.

    I’m a bit stressed over which way this storm will go. As much as I don’t want it here, I hate the thought of Texas taking another hit. Anyway, back to work.

    • Lynn: That was smart to trim the trees. I hadn’t thought about that.

      I’m trying not to stress on which way Irma is going, but like you, it’s hard. I just want it to make a decision so we know what to do next. I probably need to fill up some gas cans. Our propane tank is full and Greg test-started our generator the other day. We don’t usually get affected by hurricanes except for the tornadoes they birth along the way.

      In another few days, we’ll know. Good luck.

    • Jenny: It’s the waiting that gets you. You just want everything to be over so you can get started on the cleanup. It’s such a mess right now. So many animals have died too.

      I’m hearing a very disturbing story about the Humane Society. I hope it’s not true, but I’m trying to locate a reliable source to find out if they’re truly euthanizing animals rather than relocating them to shelters.

  6. It is so sad to see the pictures of the devastation from Harvey, but it is so uplifting to read stories of how people are banding together to help each other the best they can. Hubby, who is astute about following tings in the news, knew the impact of Harvey on refineries and filled up both vehicles the weekend of the storm. Gas did jump 20 cents a gallon the following Monday, but no lines for gas (I remember those from times in the 1970s). We do have shortages on our grocery shelves here but I think that is mainly because our minimum wage went up in January and I don’t think the stores are keeping enough employees around to keep the shelves completely stocked because I’ve noticed the trend since the first of the year.

    Hoping Irma does die out at sea.


    • Betty: Fortunately, there have been more good stories than bad. I’m getting a little suspicious of the Red Cross and the Humane Society. The local volunteers are getting some very strange messages from these two giants. This is why I prefer to donate to smaller (local) organizations than big ones. I don’t want my money going to ‘administration’.

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