There’s a saying in the gulf coast: Hide from the wind, run from the water. Hurricane Harvey took that to a totally new place.
In case you missed earlier segments:
Just before bed, I checked the water levels—touching the edge of our driveway now. The fifth house on the street—now empty—is poised with water at the front step. It won’t be long now. The couple in the fourth house took refuge at the two-story across the street just before sundown as water began pouring in. Half the houses on the street had now taken on water. On that unsettling note, we called it a night.
Youngest son and our five cats settled into his room. Our neighbor and her cats and dogs retreated into the guest room. Hubby and I tucked the dog into her kennel, now stationed behind the game room sofa and pulled out the sleeper sofa. I’m sure we’ve never slept on it, but unless we want to sleep on the floor—literally every other piece of sleepable furniture is tetrised into the middle one’s room—there’s no choice.
Lesson #9 Sleeping through a hurricane is grounds for justifiable homicide.
We lay down, both still in our clothes, and in under two minutes he started that deep breathing, not quite snoring thing that shouted ‘I’m asleep and you’re not.’ I can see some of you nodding–you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t get me wrong, hubs is truly a fantastic human being and an awesome husband, but in that moment, smothering him with a pillow crossed my mind as a viable option.
No judge or jury would convict me—sleeping through a hurricane–especially this one–is a reason for justifiable homicide. Really.
As he snoozed though wave after wave of pounding rain, I tried not to toss and turn too much. The sleeper sofa creaked and bounced too much, and at least one of us ought to sleep. (Or so my rational mind argued.) During those moments the rain slowed, I sort-of kind-of dozed, only to be jolted into wakefulness when the AC kicked on—it sounded so much like rain—or more rain bands slammed into us. Occasionally I would remember something that had not made it upstairs, but should have. My grandmother’s amethyst combs, handwritten notebooks of half-finished stories—I made the trek downstairs to find them—and check on the water. It was over the front curb, then a yard into the front lawn.
Just a few more hours until dawn. The water wasn’t rising that fast. We might make it out before the water reached the front door.
Lesson #10 Don’t be the punchline of a bad joke.
Dawn came and everyone and everything began moving. The animals got fed, but I doubt any two footed creature could actually stomach food. The water was half way up the drive way and at least three feet deep in the street.
By 7AM hubby was able to get enough wi-fi signal to use the phone as a hotspot. A few minutes later he called up data on the nearby river, the one making a visit in my front yard at the moment. According to what he saw, we were just a couple of hours from the rivers cresting—they were only a couple of feet from projected crest—if of course ‘they’ were right. So maybe, just maybe, we would escape without flooding.
On the other hand, the weather reports were divided—one model had the storm heading to Louisiana, the other said it would go back into the Gulf for a repeat performance and two to three more feet of rain. (We were approaching three feet at this point.)
I took a moment to jump in the shower. By the time I got out, there were boats mooring in the trees in my front yard (just to the left of the picture above.) Read that sentence again. Boats were moored in my front yard! Not a sentence I ever thought I would write, nope not ever.
We headed out to talk with the boaters. One of the bass boats was manned by one of my son’s HS wrestling coaches from last year. He tells us they are starting evacuations several blocks behind us where there are dozens of homes already with feet of water in them—children and the elderly needed rescue.
I checked the water levels against a clump of grass in the driveway cracks and it seems like it hadn’t risen in the last hour. Was it possible?
Hubby started to talk about continuing to shelter in place. All his data pointed to the rivers having crested now. But if there is more rain—and it is starting to pour again—all bets are off.
Moreover, we have someone else’s adult-child with us. We had to think about her as well. With all the animals, evacuating, especially in a smaller boat, was not without risk. If a critter panicked and a crate or travel bag went into the water, we’d have a tragedy.
So what to do? The potential consequences were overwhelming on all sides.
A knock on the door. A large, uniformed Parks and Recreation officer with a large, stable boat, also moored in my yard, asked for me by name. We were on his evacuation list.
That settled it.
There’s an old joke about a guy in a flood who prays for rescue. He turns away a truck, a boat and a helicopter, then drowns and complains to God for not having rescued him.
Yeah, we weren’t about to be the punchline to that joke. They had a couple of evacuations before us—people with water already in the house took priority. So we had a few minutes to get ready. Crate creatures, pack bags, wrap computers in plastic trash bags. They won’t survive plunging overboard, but hopefully the bags would keep off the rain well enough.
Lesson 11: Cats are heavier when wet.
With twelve animals: nine cats in travel cases, two dog crates with three dogs—four people and eight bags (is this sounding like a trip to St. Ives yet?) we cannot all travel together. Two trips are necessary. I can’t begin to describe how much I didn’t like being separated, but like so many other things, there is no choice.
Youngest son and I, all nine cats and our one dog are on the first boat out, along with two bags.
I try not to look back as we go. It’s just too hard. The boat has to steer around a sprayer truck that to stranded in the center of the road. Only a couple of inches remain visible. The water is over 8’ deep in the street.
Several blocks up, the water is too shallow to continue. They have to drop us off in a front yard of a house that, like ours, was still barely above water. We pile the critters around me–and mind you, it’s pouring rain–and wait for hubby and neighbor to arrive. Cats yowl around me–they do not at all appreciate sitting around getting wet. Younger son forges ahead, trying to find my sister who is supposed to arrive to drive us out to dry ground. I’m sure she has been trying to call, but under these condition, the phones are just not much use.
Through the pounding rain, I make out a street sign. Heaven’s above, it is at least half a mile from here to where we were told the police were stopping incoming traffic.
The rest of our party debarked and we were faced with a new, unexpected challenge. Four of us had to get all the critters and luggage half a mile through the rain and streets that were flooded waist deep in places to actually get to the waiting cars.
Plan A: We’d have one person wait at one end while three carried what they could to the next safe stop point. One would wait there with stuff and critters while two returned to the start point and brought all that remained.
Military experts say no plans survive first contact with the enemy.
Lots of people stood around gawking at the evacuations. Several jumped up to help. Soon, I’d lost track of bags, cats, dogs and my own people. There was no choice but to slog on and hope to meet up with sis and the rest of the caravan at the end of the journey. So with a cat carrier on each shoulder and one carried in front—45 pounds of cats when dry, probably over 50 pounds now that they’d been sitting in the rain for a while—I trudged into the hip deep water.
Now I understand why water aerobics are such a great workout. I wonder if adding wet cat weights to the workout will ever catch on.
I regularly run a three-mile track around the neighborhood, but that was the longest half mile I’ve ever traversed. At last I spot my sister’s car and dad’s van. I load up my three cats and turn back around to try to locate all that came with us.
A quarter-mile away, I find hubby and son with a friendly canoer who could navigate the shallower waters. He was trying to load a bunch of our stuff into the canoe. Our dog though had been pushed to her limits. She saw me, jumped out of the canoe and looked at me with eyes that said. “I’ve done everything you wanted, but I can’t do that.”
Fair enough. I grabbed her leash and we walked to the van, taking a very long way around to keep from water that was too deep for her. All the while I’m thinking it would be a miracle if we made it through with all heads and tails accounted for. I don’t even know which cat is in which carrier, much less who has which cat.
A few minutes later, I’m standing at the van counting and recounting. Nine cat bags—yes, really all nine. Count one more time. Yes, nine and three dogs. Enough heads and tails. I close up the van and slog to the car. Hubby assures me everything is accounted for there as well.
We shut the doors, strap on the seat belts and pull away from the flood, heading for dry ground. We could only hope for when we’d be back and what we’d find when we got there.
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