Tuesday- August 29, 2017
We wake up to a little bit of blue sky! It’s BEAUTIFUL! Of course the clouds quickly close in and it starts to rain again…but still. Hope. Last night was the first night without tornado warnings!! I don’t miss them! The storm continues to move towards us..which puts us increasingly IN the storm, but no longer on the rainy side of it.
Lisa had woken up the night before and stayed up for more than an hour…with all the little girls in the living room, I try to keep the little lady quiet and wake no one else. She begs to …watercolor. Rocking surrounded by little girls and listening to the sound of constant rain and having them close. I finally get her back to sleep and keep the other children miraculously stay asleep.
Much later she wakes up and gets to paint.
We’re still all centered around the power strip connected to the generator. We plug the toaster in to make toast. We have all the devices and everything in one little corner next to the fridge. This is at Lisa height. Lisa gets curious about all things plugged in about 20 times a day.
Chris sneaks out to a store and gets spinach. After a LONG weekend of all things bread, some color is VERY welcome! While Chris is out he sees the power lines down at the end of our street….definitely a very localized outage. He sees all the flooding in our town. We hadn’t had a great way to get to the freeway…which is closed anyway.
The storm is definitely moving on and starting to break up.
Tuesday late afternoon, our power comes back. HOORAAAYYY. After a very short while it is off again. Ahhh. Another hour and it’s on. We hold our breaths. And YES. We have power.
Rebecca is thrilled to have electricity for her birthday and starts writing a birthday list for food and presents. I have NO idea if there will be stores open or roads or…well they’ll have electricity!
Wednesday- August 30, 2017
And on…and on, and on. We come out of our little hovels and talk with neighbors and compare stories and…begin the real hard work. About 30 houses in our town of 5,200 are flooded. Chris’ school district had more than 70% of the schools take on some water or have some damage.
Raymond and I head out to help at a shelter in a nearby town where more than 10% of the houses are flooded. They are gathering donations and giving them to people who have been evacuated.
One little family comes to mind. By their states of partial dress, they obvious evacuated quickly and probably at night. There are HEAPS of clothes. They need diapers and formula and food and pillows. They would appreciate underwear and socks…but we have no new underwear and only sparse socks.
Blessedly there were many volunteers to seek out and find most of what else they needed around and behind and beneath the piles of clothing. They took only a small amount of what they needed…very conscious of there being many people in need.
A trend I noticed…most of those in need were so aware of what having nothing felt like, they were not at all greedy. They also frequently only had their cars to store anything-which limited what they could handle. They had much to do: just getting food and taking care of basic needs was taking a lot of their time.
They had houses that demanded attention, FEMA and insurance to deal with. Transportation problems and it was hard for them to communicate with their family (and keep phones charged-almost none had any computer access). The only people who had time to look for clothes were people off the street who misunderstood the purpose for the donations and were still in their dry homes.
Another woman comes in, who works in the elementary school, she was used to be the one giving, the person able to help. Her house was a total loss. She cried. We just started gathering what she would need and loading her car while she cried in a friend’s arms.
Our wonderful leader in this donation center was also flooded and hadn’t been taking great care of herself. In the crazy timelessness of a crisis, it’s VERY easy to forget to eat. I never forget to eat, and I skipped meals. There was such great need and so much to do.
This woman fainted, probably dehydrated and that was exacerbated by other pre-existing health issues that didn’t disappear with the storm. Blessedly one of the volunteers was an EMT and he quickly got her comfortable and stable until the ambulance came.
An army truck came. They brought heaps of water and hard-working soldiers. One of the young men, about my height (5’10), talked about carrying a baby out of a home and having to raise the baby above his head so the baby stayed dry. They worked at one point for 48 hours straight.
Chris went out to visit an older couple to hear their stories of storms past. MANY many stories. They have a family home that is over a hundred years old and talked about all of the storms it has weathered.
More than 100,000 flooded and each house will take about 50 man hours to muck out. There is so much to do, and so many immediate needs. Yet still laundry and meals and children in our own house. The next few weeks and months will be a new kind of balancing act.
After the storm for the first week, I tried everything I could to help. I volunteered at a shelter in our town run by a Baptist church. I sorted through heaps and heaps of clothes looking for the donations we needed: diapers and water and bleach and mops and earplugs (for rescuers attempting to sleep at all hours). We took our twins, on their birthday, shopping for things the shelter needed with some money that had been donated. They also each chose one present and some birthday food. It’s going to take us weeks to celebrate them.
Each day at that shelter involved new adventures with ever-changing needs. A young girl came with her mother. She had broken her arm a few days before Harvey in a normal child adventure. Evacuating and all that entails had left her with an aching arm and her mother had no children’s pain medication to give her. One woman from the shelter ran home and gave her a bottle from her cupboard.
After the shelter brought a weekend of mucking out houses with our older children. Moving piles of belongings by the side of the road and ripping out sheetrock is hard physical work. Each day after finishing a house, I couldn’t imagine how people worked construction day in and day out.
I started doing the math in my head of how many volunteers were needed to muck everyone out in 30 days! I know of a group of women in one ward who are taking on the weekday mucking as their husbands and fathers go back to work.
Meeting the beautiful people who owned the homes was heartbreaking. A wife who needed to feed her disabled husband and manage his care away from their home and all their comforts. A man who had spent his time evacuating other people, joining with neighbors to carry a man in a wheelchair into someone’s truck which then drove out over the lawns of the neighborhood… until that man needed to evacuate himself.
His efforts for others meant he had not at all prepared his own house. Dozens of pieces of art were ruined. A mother trying to stay in the upstairs of their home to be close to jobs and school, while helping her asthmatic son with all the new irritants.
We mucked out on weekends with our fellow yellow-shirted Mormons. Chris worked and I at times mothered while also carving out time to help others. Stores were starting to open more (Walmart only open for a few hours a day and stores with empty shelves was the norm for the first week and a half).
Schools somehow opened with a gigantic effort by administrators to figure out where children were and where they would be going to school (with 100,000+ homes, evacuated that’s a lot of children!). They had to balance that information with what schools were available and what teachers or subs could make their way to school. It was and still feels, like a limbo moving towards a new normal.
To round out our Harvey experience, we had the minor but real…good and bad. The bad…the football game Chris had tickets to go to was moved from Houston to Louisiana. We wouldn’t be going. The good? We found a teensy kitten in our yard on Wednesday. We couldn’t find any of his family…so now we have a little kitten named Harvey.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.