When I covered Pacific, Mo., during the New Year’s Eve flooding, sandbags divided the town and the water, offering safety on one side.
There wasn’t a divide this past weekend in Meyerland, a suburb southwest of Houston, that’s received more than 2 feet of rainfall these past two days alone after Hurricane Harvey. The waters crept up overnight Saturday around the neighborhood while I stayed at a friend’s house. I thought I’d be OK spending the night. I wasn’t.
By Sunday morning, not a single street was passable. Water was chest deep in parts, and neighbors walked out in waders to help other neighbors move their things to higher ground.
Did you see that photo of Houston Police officer Daryl Hudeck rescuing the mother and her baby? That was about a mile away from where I was living.
I was a little bit concerned.
Our TV showed scenes of not so fortunate Houstonians who were fleeing for safety, leaving everything they owned. It was tremendously sad to watch, but most people seemed resilient. Things could be replaced, people couldn’t.
Like in Pacific, and other parts of Franklin County, neighbors helped neighbors around Houston. People broke out their canoes, kayaks and giant trucks in our neighborhood and went door-to-door asking flooded strangers if they needed help. Walking down a street, people wanted to know how everything was going. We were in it together.
Late Sunday, a man and his wife, who I’d never met, invited my friends and I over for dinner and to taste his rare whiskey and scotch collection. We sat around for nearly four hours and traded stories. The man gave us his number and invited us back. I plan to.
The floodwaters receded early Monday morning, allowing me to pack up and leave. Cars were strewn along the highway as I drove back and street signs had been ripped off. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.
And as I write this Tuesday morning, the rain continues to pour and people are still evacuating their homes. Fortunately, I’m safe on the second floor of my two-story apartment, well outside the flood zone. And I still have power.
But what will stick with me this weekend is the goodness of the people in Houston. During one of the biggest flooding events in U.S. history, everyone acted like they knew each other. It was like living in a small town.
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Jack Witthaus is a reporter with the Houston Business Journal and former Missourian intern. The story he wrote on the Pacific flooding was a freelance piece for the Los Angeles Times.
Witthaus is the son of Tricia Miller O’Donnell and Steve Witthaus, who both grew up in Washington, and the grandson of Bill Miller Sr., editor and publisher of The Missourian. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.