Heartbreaking and heartwarming — helping out after Hurricane Harvey

I live in Houston, which received over 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey between August 25, when it made landfall in Texas, and August 29. On Friday, August 25, I used Facebook’s Safety Check feature to notify my friends that I was safe. Earlier in the day, I had filled my car with gas, my bathtub with water, my freezer with ice cubes and my cupboards with food. Then I hunkered down to wait for the rain to stop.

I was lucky. I live near the Galleria mall, in a neighborhood that was relatively untouched. Other than a tree down in the dog run behind my apartment building and a stuck window shade, I had no damage.

But elsewhere in and around Houston, many people weren’t so lucky.

Take Meyerland, a section of Houston located on the banks of Brays Bayou, which is home to much of Houston’s Jewish community. I lived in this area, one of the worst hit by flooding, for ten years. A photograph of a street corner in Meyerland, under at least five feet of water, has circulated on the Internet and on Fox News. Three of Houston’s largest synagogues, a home for the elderly, and the Jewish Community Center suffered severe water damage.

Today I drove back to Meyerland to help an old family friend, Eric Bishop, whose house was flooded. He and his wife Rachel had to be airlifted to safety on Sunday, August 27, when the water level inside the house rose to four feet.

The Bishops climbed onto countertops while awaiting rescue. Their cars were both waterlogged and will have to be totaled. Luckily, they were able to locate emergency housing for themselves, their two children, and their dogs. (My personal thanks — and best wishes — to the Bishop family for allowing me to share their story in this column.)

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Getting to Meyerland wasn’t easy. The water levels have gone down and traffic levels have returned to normal, but all traffic lights in the area are malfunctioning. There were long lines of cars at each intersection.

Then there was the need to find a place to park my car. Flood wreckage lines the streets, which is being picked up by dump trucks. The city has requested that curbsides next to trash piles be kept clear. I had to park some distance away from my destination in order to leave the street clear next to piles of trash.

As the water receded inside the house, it left mold on nearly everything, which necessitated wearing gloves and masks inside the house. All the furniture inside the house had to be discarded, as did nearly all the other contents. Only a few things could be saved, including clothes and dishes.

As Eric says, “I had to watch a dump truck carry away a lifetime of memories.”

This was a tragedy, but it was also a heartwarming experience. A number of other friends have been coming to the Bishops’ house to assist with the cleanup, including old friends of mine as well as new friends who came to Houston in 2005 from New Orleans seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina.

Similar phenomena are occurring all over Houston and southeast Texas. Those of us who live here and survived Harvey are grateful for the help we’ve received and are receiving.

Charity Navigator lists a number of organizations to which relief donations may be made, including

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Most charitable organizations serving the Houston area are no longer accepting donations of clothing other than underwear and diapers, which are highly sought. They advise that cash is the most appreciated donation at this time. Donors are advised to contribute to reputable organizations and to watch out for scammers.

Both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport have reopened with limited operations, but many roads remain closed and will for an indefinite time to come.

But Houston is beginning to recover. I saw a FedEx truck drive past the Bishops’ house today – the most encouraging sign of positive things to come.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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