Before I start my story; just a quick piece of advice for people affected by natural disasters.
Applying for assistance from FEMA is SUPER easy. I’m not saying people should apply just so they can see if they can get a check, but if you need assistance, don’t miss out on available resources because government paperwork scares you. Just go to www.fema.gov and click on “Apply for assistance.” The process to get started only takes about fifteen minutes and is 100% pain-free. You don’t have to have a bunch of receipts, pay stubs, or paperwork. FEMA’s job is dealing with disasters and they know you have more important shit to worry about than digging up paperwork that’s probably floating down a creek somewhere.
Here are the questions you have to answer:
- How ya doing?
- How yo momma and nem’ doing?
- Your car aight?
- House dry?
- You hungry?
- Got somewhere to stay?
- Got insurance?
- How much you think you make in a year?
- You want us to send you a check, or is direct deposit ok?
After that, someone will call and ask to come see how fucked up your house is.
I live in South Houston and this was my first natural disaster. I live in a shitty trailer right now because I’m saving money to travel. My brother (@thewisesloth) and I stayed with friends during the storm because of the threat of tornados. Everyone in Texas knows trailers and tornados go together like Israel and Palestine. Our safe house was only 4 miles from our home and we didn’t have any problems. It was a week-long pajama party; just drinking and Steeming. It rained a lot and the news was scary as shit but the water never got into the house.
The water had us trapped in the neighborhood but we never felt like we were in any danger. Thankfully we stocked up on supplies before the storm because stores got disastery really fast.
Once we got out we saw how lucky we'd been.
I figured my shitty trailer would be ok since it was jacked up like three feet off the ground but this is what I saw when I tried to go home two days after the rain stopped.
This was me and my landlord checking out the house two days after that.
I don’t know how much water got in, but the air conditioning, electricity, and sewage were completely fucked. We were lucky though. My neighbor Ben had two feet of water all the way through his home and lost everything. The thing about flood water is it’s fucking nasty. It is a mixture of sewage, pollution, filth, and a thousand other biological contaminants. Do not go swimming in flood water unless you want Hepatitis with a side of Hepatitis. Well, that shit soup is what filled tens of thousands of homes thanks to Harvey. I helped Ben clear out his house once we could actually get to it. The thing that amazed me while we were cleaning out the wreckage was how quickly mold took over everything the water touched. When you’ve been flooded you don’t get to decide what to keep. Grandma’s heirloom writing desk is now a biological weapon. You don’t get to keep it. This was horrifying because we had only been working on Ben’s shit for a few hours before people started showing up to dig through his trash right in front of us. We told them everything was covered in poison but they didn’t give a shit…literally.
After we got done with Ben’s house we went up into West Houston to help out his mom and Aunt. Let’s go back to the shit soup for a second. Houses are boxes. They have wood or brick on the outside and drywall on the inside. Drywall is a sponge for shit soup. Once the soup hits, it soaks up into the drywall and you have to get rid of it. The standard for construction and insurance purposes is four feet. That means if you get six inches of water, you rip out every wall in the house up to four feet high. If the water level was over four feet in your house you might as well set it on fire.
Then you have to run dehumidifiers and floor fans for a minimum of three days until you can even think about fixing anything unless you want black mold as your new room-mate. All these things were new to me. I’d never thought about what it means when people say words like “rebuild.” It turns out rebuilding is much more literal than emotional. Ben is an ex-contractor who took a break to go back to school, but he told me after the second day of helping him that I was screwed because we were going to be doing this every day for the next year. I was fine with that. Driving down the street in Houston is like a surreal dream. Neighborhoods that looked like post cards three weeks ago now look like war zones. It is heartwarming to see how everyone here is coming together. I was standing in Ben’s house and a lady pulled up in a 1994 Toyota POS that couldn’t be worth more than three hundred bucks. Her car was loaded down with water and she was just driving around asking people if they were thirsty. I’ve seen a couple people giving away free hot dogs. It's heartwarming as shit seeing everyone come together.
I still don’t know if or when my house will be livable but I have a huge network of people I can call on and I didn’t like that shithole anyway. I'm going to be fine. My heart goes out to those less fortunate than me. A big Houston Shout-out to Mattress Mack from Gallery Furniture for opening his showroom floor to refugees from the very start of the storm. I’d also like to give a huge fuck you to Joel Osteen for closing his multi-million dollar church to refugees and only opening them after he got Hurricane of bad publicity for it. His excuse was nobody had asked him to help the needy. Your Boss did, you piece of shit.