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A reporter's tale in Houston: When a story becomes your own disaster

The messages show that all of our lives are going to be different for a while

Clifford Krauss | NYT 

Hurricane Harvey
Harvey is the strongest storm to hit the US since 2004. After making landfall, it was downgraded to a tropical storm and came to a near-standstill near the town of Victoria, Texas | Photo: Reuters

I have covered as many as five wars on two continents, but nothing prepared me for when the big story collided with me and my family.

As I write this, the home that I saved my entire career to buy is flooding fast and my wife, Paola, our 12-year-old daughter, Emilie, and I have moved to the second floor with some of our valuables, food, water, and of course our three-year-old cockapoo, Sweetie, who is now barking frantically out of fear. It’s only a matter of time before our piano is ruined. One of our cars looks completely flooded, and the other is blocked in the garage, so it looks like we will be staying put for a while.

There is nowhere to drive anyway.

My daughter just got an alert on her phone telling us to take shelter for a possible tornado. We are ready to go to an interior closet if necessary.

For the moment, I don’t think we are in any danger, and the three of us are keeping calm, gaining strength from the sturdiness of our neighbors.

We are the lucky ones. As I looked out my window this morning, I saw the local fire department arrive to take away pregnant women and trapped in their homes. My quiet Mildred Street is now a raging river, and the emergency medical workers are using kayaks to transport people to their truck. I can hear honking car horns in the distance, which is adding an eerie staccato backdrop to the driving rain pounding our windows.

I live in a compact, two-story, four-bedroom brick house in a leafy community called Bellaire that is full of medical personnel who work nearby at the Medical Center and other professionals. It’s an area of lovely parks where people typically have young children and dogs, and dog walking is the social glue that keeps people talking and knowing one another. It also has an active email social media platform, which is normally full of advice about where to find a good piano teacher or gardener. Today it is full of messages of struggle and support. Most people are displaying a stiff upper lip. seem distraught, especially those with young children. Some are urgently asking for canoes to get out of their homes or to help neighbors do so.

Above all, the messages show that all of our lives are going to be different for a while. Probably a long while.

“We live on Pamellia Drive & the house is now completely flooded,” one neighbor wrote in a typical post Sunday morning, with no end in sight for the rain. “We have animals but we are willing to split up (3 with one person, 3 with the other) in the event that we need to evacuate or can no longer stay here. Any recommendations?”

Another woman wrote, “We have an 18 month old…anyone willing to let us into their 2 story home? Thank you so much.”
©2017 The New York Times News Service

First Published: Mon, August 28 2017. 08:22 IST