Houston Youth Hurricane Harvey Seva
It started out a beautiful late summer weekend in Houston. Clear skies and a cooling nighttime breeze - that belied what lay ahead. Those who were fully aware of what awaited them knew this was just the calm before the storm. Hurricane Harvey had, just two days earlier, been upgraded from a tropical storm to a now raging category four hurricane. As the storm gathered steam in the Gulf of Mexico, the residents of southeast Texas prepped for what was predicted to be a 500-year deluge of wind and water. Some- if lucky enough to find any gas left to fill their cars- packed up and evacuated to Dallas and Austin, where they could safely ride out the storm with friends or family. Others stocked up on water and non-perishables to prepare for the worst-case scenario of losing access to power and water for extended periods of time. In either case, it was well understood - Mother Nature was not to be taken lightly.
The Hurricane made landfall near Corpus Christi early Saturday morning, battering the area with 100+ mph (160+ kmph) wind gusts and torrential rain. It was moving slowly northeast along the Texas coastline, its eye set squarely on Houston. As it approached and enveloped the city, it weakened and slowed down. Whereas most hurricanes would cause a few intense hours of damage to an area and continue along their path, Harvey hovered over Houston for more than three full days. In this case, it was not the wind, but the unrelenting rains which ultimately caused the most damage. Water levels rose dangerously fast in the city's bayous and reservoirs, and overflowed, flooding many surrounding neighbourhoods Saturday. The rains continued all day Sunday and Monday, prompting mandatory evacuations around areas where levees were breaching and rivers were overflowing.
As the water level crept up, those who could escape into a higher floor did so, while those who couldn't, awaited being rescued. And when first responders or the National Guard couldn't help in time, fellow civilians took matters into their own hands. Those with boats or high-clearance vehicles made their way around picking up stranded souls. Those whose houses were spared made their homes available as shelters, inviting any and all. As the nation and the world looked on and lent their support, Houstonians banded together, discarding any differences in race, creed or status and showed how to deal with a crisis. As the water levels slowly started receding out of homes and neighbourhoods, the real work of tearing down and rebuilding lay ahead.
Groups, ragtag and organised, young and old, gathered together to do what they could to help those most affected get back on their feet.
A group of seven Houston youth along with help from some adults assessed the damage to their neighbourhoods and started gathering volunteers' names. The work was split into gathering materials (respirators, gloves, rubbish bags, duct tape, crow bars, and hand saws), preparing home-cooked food for the volunteers, and the hard work of hauling furniture and mopping floors, stripping carpets and baseboards, and cutting up and removing affected sections of drywall, all while dressed in heavy, protective workwear. It was work that would have taken the residents days to do themselves. Work that required relentless effort. Work that would have demoralised even the staunchest of souls. But it was work that was done together. Every little thing added up.
The work is still continuing, and in fact for some, may continue for months or even years. It was particularly tough for those who didn't have flood insurance, those whose businesses were affected and those with young children trying to make sense of everything. When the dust settled, it was apparent that this was one of the worst natural disasters to hit America. But it was also apparent, that it is in trying times like these, that the best in people is brought out. These next few months and years will demand more from everyone here. His Will to help them cleanse themselves, to transform, will continue testing them. But if there's one thing all can reliably count on, along this journey to help everyone through these challenges, it's this: an unwavering belief in self - the collective self.
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