Hurricane Harvey Leaves Texans Unsure of Next Steps

Karen Woodford-Johnson lives near the areas affected in Houston by Hurricane Harvey and gave SmartFem an exclusive interview about her experience there.

“We’ve been lucky,” she tells me. “There is a lot of flooding around here but we’ve been lucky.”

Hurricane Harvey Leaves Texans Unsure of Next Steps

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Bray’s Bayou. Photo courtesy of Karen Woodford-Johnson

Living in the fourth largest city in the United States is not easy when the millions of people who live there are losing everything as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Woodford-Johnson gives me an overview of the scene in Texas and it seems almost like a doomsday like scenario. Between helicopters flying around constantly, resources like food and water running slim, and spotty (if any) cell service.

“There’s not much food left in the stores,” Woodford-Johnson said.

She described her experience grocery shopping a few days before by saying the stores were letting only a certain amount of people in. They had either reached capacity or there simply was not enough food in the stores.

Despite the scarcity of food and water, Woodford-Johnson agrees with the decision of not evacuating the city. She cites what happened during Hurricane Rita. “I’ve heard stories that over 100 people died on the road,” she said.

When natural disasters hit one of the worst places to be is in a vehicle. People can become trapped and stranded out on these roads out of the city. Especially when you and hundreds of thousands of other people have the same idea.

“Once the bayou overflows, the roads are the drainage system,” she said. This is why footage of Houston looks like they have evolved into a much larger Venice, using boats on the pathways where the roads once were.

If the first thing to flood out are the streets, then evacuation with such short notice could have proved Harvey more fatal than it already is.

“They didn’t want people to panic,” said Woodford-Johnson. “The city alone is the size of New Jersey.”

Woodford-Johnson also mentioned that the city will do things like “controlled releases of the dam.”

“They’re flooding houses deliberately to save Houston,” she said.

When a disaster like this hits, many times it comes extremely quickly and leaves a lifetime’s worth of damage. It would make sense for people living in these areas to have an emergency plan just in case. However Woodford-Johnson mentioned if you have a one story home, there is only so much you can do.

“I don’t know how you prepare when you have a one story house,” she said. “I don’t know how anybody prepares for that.”

Woodford-Johnson also mentioned that for two story homes many people only had time to move everything to the second floor, “lock the door and they evacuated by boat.”

With all of the destruction and stress of not having food or other resources, tensions can run pretty high. Woodford-Johnson responded to the high stress situations sometimes causing arguments, tensions and in some cases potential for riots, by saying these people are just tired.

This is something we do not often see in the media, as devastation images and super-citizen stories are the focus in times like these. But I think Woodford-Johnson makes an excellent point.

“People haven’t slept. Starting on Thursday, we were getting alarms on our phones. We were getting tornado warnings all the time. Flash flood warnings all the time,” Woodford-Johnson said. “People need to sleep.”

Eventually they stopped the phone alarms according to Woodford-Johnson, but imagine having your phone screech at you 20 times a day with weather warnings.

Perhaps the most frightening thing about this tropical storm is that there really is no end in sight. For some people everything they own perished in floods. People are attempting to reunite with families and it is a high tension time for those in Texas right now.

“Nobody can really tell us what the future is going forward,” Woodford-Johnson said. “They are still in rescue mode.”

To learn about ways to support victims of the storm click here.