Houston residents still braving Harvey

Former W MI resident in Texas: 'I've never seen anything like this in my life.'

Houston, Harvey, Buffalo Bayou, flooding
The Buffalo Bayou in Houston after Harvey. (Courtesy photo - Aug. 28, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even after days of nonstop rain along the Texas Gulf Coast, many residents are sticking Harvey out, hoping their homes will be spared from the rising floodwaters.

Emily Detoto is from Holland but has been living in Texas for 20 years. She told 24 Hour News 8 Monday that she’s stunned by what’s happening in metro Houston.

“I’ve lived here since 1997 and I’ve been through two hurricanes here and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” she said of the flooding.

Emily Detoto, Harvey, Houston
Emily Detoto speaks with 24 Hour News 8’s Sarah Hurwitz from Houston. (Aug. 28, 2017)

She and other Houston residents are struggling to get supplies. A grocery store in the city’s Midtown district was open for a short time Monday, but then it closed.

“There’s a bunch of cars showing up and so there’s people waiting at the entrance more or less and they’re all getting turned away with nothing basically,” Detoto described. “Kind of sad because people are fleeing, literally.”

As Detoto spoke with 24 Hour News 8 over Facetime, a woman who ran up to the front of the store only to be told it would reopen Tuesday morning.

Detoto said Houston previously prepared for storms with evacuation drills. But she said many thought Harvey was overhyped until they woke up Saturday to the devastation. Once a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm but Monday was still dumping rain on the region, which is seeing what the National Weather Service described as “unprecedented” flooding.

>>Why Harvey’s flood is worse than previous storms

Houston, Harvey, Buffalo Bayou, flooding
Left: Emily Detoto’s street in Houston after Harvey. Right: A car is submerged in a garage on a street a few blocks away. (Courtesy photos – Aug. 28, 2017)

Miraculously, Detoto’s home was spared. She sent 24 Hour News 8 pictures of her home and street, which look nearly untouched compared to streets only blocks away, where cars are submerged.

Detoto drew 24 Hour News 8 a map to show just how dangerously close her home is to the flooded Buffalo Bayou.

“My house never floods but this is the storm where they’re saying, ‘Don’t get a false sense of security because this could be the year,'” Detoto said.

She’s staying with a friend and plans to check on her house Tuesday to make sure it hasn’t flooded.

CREWS POISED TO HEAD SOUTH

As people like Detoto brave the storm, Consumers Energy here in West Michigan is preparing for the call to aid in relief efforts. Spokesperson Roger Morgenstern said it’s not unlikely that Consumers Energy will be asked to help.

“We expect we’ll get a request. We just don’t know when and for how much personnel they might be looking for,” Morgenstern said. “In past years, we’ve gone down for Hurricane Wilma, we went out for Superstorm Sandy out to the East Coast.”

Morgenstern said utility companies along the Gulf Coast may not yet know the extent of damage or what resources they’ll need to get back up and running.

Houston, Harvey, Buffalo Bayou, flooding
People wade through the floodwaters in Houston after Harvey. (Courtesy photo – Aug. 28, 2017)

If Consumers Energy gets the call, Morgenstern says it will need to assess whether it can send crews based on weather here in Michigan and if it needs to take care of immediate needs for its customers.

He said when the March wind storm took out power to more than a million customers in Michigan, energy crews from several other states came to help restore power.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of Harvey | How you can help

When the storm subsides, organizations like World Renew Disaster Response Services in Grand Rapids plan to help with cleanup.

An agency of Christian Reformed Church and a partner of Reformed Church of America, World Renew provides provide cleanup services in the days, weeks and months after disasters and conducts needs assessments by sitting down with survivors to get a feel for their situations.

“In the immediate days, we’re making a lot of local connections to figure out what communities are not getting the assistance that they need,” World Renew Disaster Response Services Communications & Development Manager Kellie Scholma said. “There’s going to be an incredible amount of need that is very real and very difficult.”

Scholma gave 24 Hour News 8 a tour of the trailers World Renew uses, which are fully equipped with every tool necessary to get the job done as the Gulf Coast recovers.

“Chainsaws in here, we’ve got wheelbarrows, ladders,” she pointed out.

World Renew plans to send its executive director and another staff member to Houston in September for assessment before they send additional crews.

“We are in Texas right now with long-term reconstruction from flooding from two years ago,” Scholma said. “And these were flooding events that hit the news but for a couple of days and it was two years ago and we’re still there. And we’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t ever think I was going to get my home back,’ or ‘I had no idea where to go for help,’ or ‘you guys were my angels. I prayed for you and God sent you to me.'”