When it rains in Houston, the only way to go is up.
Memorial Day 2015 was yet another chapter in the city’s long flood history. In less than six hours, parts of Houston received 11 inches of rainfall. The deluge caused more than 100,000 gallons of wastewater to spill, 46 Texas counties to declare disaster, 24 people to be killed, and 11 to be missing. As freeways, buildings, cars, and homes were submerged, residents in neighborhoods hardest hit by flooding survived by going onto their roofs, into their attics and on top of dressers. Houston emergency responders conducted 531 water rescues. It was the first Level 1 emergency activation for Harris County since Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The Toyota Center, the downtown basketball arena where the Houston Rockets played the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, became a kind of emergency shelter, as nearly 1,000 fans were allowed to stay there after the game while the storm passed and some slept in the seats.
Not since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 have so many people been displaced. My friend’s family has lost everything. Personal belongings and family mementos floated away in the rising water, and they’ve put their waterlogged and ruined things out on the curb to be picked up by the city. The irony is that she and I had only just been talking about the attachment we have to our artifacts, and that we would feel so much freer if we could let go of the excess and focus on the treasures. And now, all of her things—treasured or not—are gone.
As I write this, this same friend is trapped at the apex of another Houston freeway, during another deluge, five days after her home was destroyed. “This needs to end,” she texted.
But there’s nowhere to go but up, right?
“Fo shizzle,” she says.
To help Houston flood victims:
Info on the flood: