I don't think you can ever fully process the word "catastrophic," until after you've lived through it. That's the word the weather forecasters kept repeating to us as the days leading up to what would be hurricane Harvey went on. Having lived in this city for most of my life, I'd been through a million floods, and Hurricane Ike a few years back, but nothing can prepare you for something catastrophic.
There is always this point in emergency warnings where whatever light hearted nervousness you're feeling, soon turns to dread. Suddenly, the coverage of the storm was all that was on tv 24/7. Pictures came rolling in of waters rising steadily. They showed pictures of our freeways which are sunken in specifically in case of flooding, that were now completely submerged so much so that the water was up to the freeway signs some 25+ feet above the street level. Thanks to a lot of drone coverage, you could see once beautiful neighborhoods, totally inundated by some 3-8 feet with water. I cannot describe to you the insanity of seeing rivers and oceans of water on streets you've driven, or covering sidewalks you've walked everyday, or seeing the amount of people ferrying one another from place to place in make-shift rafts made of plastic tubs, and mattresses.
In one shot on the news, I saw my two friends, a married couple, hand in hand, water up to their waists, trying to walk somewhere. In another, the local community center with water all the way up to their 6ft gates. I was online or on the phone most of the day trying to help my mother and father who had come to stay with me, to make sure all of our family members and friends had gotten to higher ground or had checked in with us.
The thing about the city is, most people live near a bayou or a creek, or a waterway, so whether you were rural or urban, in this storm, the danger was real. So real that at 3am, one of my friends put out a distress call on his Facebook alerting everyone that his partner and their two dogs had to evacuate to the roof of their house and could someone send help. Thankfully a neighbor with a boat came and got them because there was literally no way anyone on foot or by car could have helped, which was so incredibly heart breaking.
Now we're going on nearly a year later come the end of August. Of course, when a storm or other emergency is happening, the world knows about it and there are cameras everyday to capture "news worthy suffering" but once a few weeks goes by, those that lived through it are the only ones left to pick up the pieces as volunteers, money, and heart wrenching coverage all goes away.
So 125 billion dollars of damage later, many people had to pack up and leave homes they've lived in for 20+ years. We had 2 recent floods prior to Harvey that caused a lot of damage, and after number 3, it was too much and there was no money left for a lot of people. Immediately after it was safe to once again drive down a street, the clean up began. The amount of trash and debris was overwhelming. No one in the city had heavy trash pick up for almost 2+ months so every single day you'd drive down the street, there were massive mounds of people's lives out on their front lawns; it was a daily reminder of the devastation. It took almost two plus months for a lot of businesses to open back up again whilst many were just devastated to the point of permanent closure.
Three of my local libraries have not re-opened since the storm and many once thriving neighborhoods are now ghost towns filled with for sale, and lots for sale signs. My friends who were on the roof had to do an entire gut of the house they bought just a month before the storm and replace both of their cars. There are now neighborhoods where it is now mandatory that new houses be built up at least 3-5 extra feet off the ground. Many old homes have been raised now to meet this requirement because the alternative is another storm, sure to come in our future, that will cost more than the cost of building their houses up now.
As we near to another hurricane season, there is a lot of quiet suffering and pain that still runs through this city like a current. Start talking about "the big one," and you'll gather a crowd of people that will tell you their stories of survival, heartache, financial free fall, or of having to start over from absolute scratch but as with most tragedies, there is an equal current that runs through people of wanting to rebuild, and of having quite literally come through hell and back through the storm to get to the other side where there is this idea that life sometimes really sucks, but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep it moving as best you can.