Waiting the worst with Harvey, the storm that won't go away

2017-08-30 11:33
A truck is submerged on a freeway flooded by Harvey near downtown Houston. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

A truck is submerged on a freeway flooded by Harvey near downtown Houston. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

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Houston — Michael Bedner saw disasters come and go during his 33 years with the Houston Police Department. Harvey, however, just won't go away.

Bedner rides out every storm in his creekside community between Houston and Galveston Bay, and never gets more than a few feet of water on the edge of his property before the sun comes out again. 

With the water creeping up to his door on Friday, he knew this time was different. A neighbour whisked him and his fiancé to dry land on a jet ski.

Bedner is grateful to be safe, but "we have been trying to get back to the house every day, and we can't", he said on Tuesday. "Not even the house, just our street. We just want to feel like we're home. But we can't.

"We're staying at the hotel, and everyone is just walking around like zombies. It's a helpless feeling."

The hunkering down part of a hurricane usually doesn't last this long. The wind calms, the clouds clear, the recovery begins.

As Harvey crippled the nation's fourth-largest city for a fifth straight day, millions were left wondering when it'll all be over, and what will be left. For many, the fear and anxiety inspired by this behemoth storm has given way to fatigue and restlessness.

'Feel really lost'

Carla Saunders stayed in her home of 15 years until she was awakened by water soaking into the bedding she was sleeping on. She grabbed medication and a phone charger and waded through hip-deep water to her son's pickup truck.

She went to a shelter inside a high school, where she was given clothes and a hot meal, grateful to have never been separated from her beloved dogs, even for a second.

That was Saturday.

Sunday came, and with it more rain. Then Monday, and more rain. Tuesday, still more. Feet and feet of rain, more than one US storm has ever let fall.

"I feel really lost right now," she said, breaking into quiet sobs. "It's hard to know where to start in trying to move forward."

On Tuesday, Saunders got as close as she could to her house, to check on the street. She said seeing her neighbourhood so full of water, with still more rain to come, felt like a fresh wound.

"It was like the bottom fell out of my heart," she said.

Jack Bullman, 56, of Long Pine, sat with a baby blue towel hanging around his neck, looking soaked and tired at a shelter set up at the Lakewood Church. He said he lived on the coast most of his life, so was used to flooding. But the duration of Harvey was a whole new experience.

"Usually a hurricane comes by and you get hit with the surge and the rain, but here it's lingered so long there's no doubt that it will be catastrophic," he said, adding that he'd just rebuilt last year after another flood. "All that hard work, right down the tubes."

Even those whose homes didn't flood weren't entirely spared.

'Bands of rain'

At the only restaurant in the area open on Monday night, Will Bedner, Michael's son who lives in Houston, stuck his chin out and rubbed it — it was stubbly.

"I wish I could shave," he said.

Since the storm began lashing Houston on Friday, stores had closed, including the ones selling razors. Bedner hadn't thought to stock up beforehand. Only the essentials; luxuries were overlooked.

The bar Bedner owns downtown lost power days earlier, so even a cold drink from behind the counter was out of the question. He happily settled for one at room temperature.

"Everyone's getting cabin fever," he said.

Around the corner from Bedner's bar, Buffalo Bayou was overflowing, gurgling onto a stretch of road and lapping the trunks of partially submerged trees. A day or so before, its waters flooded Mark Serafin's basement, and he'd lost power.

Tired of rationing the rainwater he'd collected on his windowsill to flush the toilet, he'd checked into a hotel nearby. Then on Tuesday, the hotel lost power.

"We're better off at home," he said with a chuckle.

"Compared to what other people are going through, it's an inconvenience," Serafin said. "But the depressing part is: then you go to bed at night, and you just hear these bands of rain. It just makes this seem even more desperate."


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