Attention has turned to Hurricane Irma as the East Coast anxiously awaits her definitive path, but many people continue to provide support for those dealing with the aftermath and continued flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Ian Harris, football recruiting coordinator for Maryville College, lived in Texas for a few years following graduation from Marshall University, and the Maryville Scots have more than a dozen football players who call Houston and its suburbs home.
“We decided to come up with the fundraising idea,” said Harris, a Yadkinville native and 2003 Forbush High School graduate who created the T-shirt fundraiser the college is using to begin its efforts to support those affected by Harvey. “After college I lived in Texas about five years, and on our roster, we’ve got about 20 kids from Texas and more than a dozen, about 15 are from the Houston area. A lot of these kids, their parents’ homes, their schools have been destroyed, they’ve lost everything.”
He said one of the key points his staff makes when they are recruiting players is the family and trust that are formed at Maryville. “We wanted to do something to give back to those in Houston affected by the hurricane,” Harris said of how he wanted to support his Maryville family, which he’s been a part of for six years.
The shirts were sold by advance order last week, and at Maryville football games on Sept. 2. They feature the state of Texas, with a skyline of Houston and the sayings #HoustonStrong and Scots for Houston. The limited order T-shirts were such a big hit, they’ve sold out.
But Harris and Maryville College continue to encourage people to help support Harvey victims by making donations to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, All Hands Volunteers or the American Red Cross, which is benefiting from 100 percent of the proceeds of the shirts.
“We are putting money aside to send faculty and students to help on the ground with the recovery in the spring, when we are more able to help out,” Harris said of the efforts which will continue in 2018. “Our short-term goal is to get money together now, and then the long-term goal is to be able to go down and help.
“I lived in Austin and in Corpus Christi, I’ve got a lot of friends and good relationships in the Houston area both personally and professionally. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the kids and for me,” he said.
Just because someone is from a small area in North Carolina doesn’t mean the massive damage from the storm doesn’t make an impact on one’s life. “It affects more people than you think. You’re from a small town in western North Carolina so you may not think it affects you, and then you realize you know people who are affected.
“It’s been impressive just to see the amount of good come out of this and the number of people giving back and wanting to help out,” Harris said.
“When you are from a small town, you never realize how much you can do. It’s been really special to see and to try to tell people back in Yadkin and Wilkes and Iredell, you can go do big things in your life. You can be a college coach, you can be in the media,” he said.
Elkin native Kristopher Lindsey experienced the flooding firsthand, having relocated to the suburbs of Houston following college. The 1996 graduate of Elkin High School now lives with his wife and son in Pearland, Texas, a southern suburb adjacent to Houston.
“Pearland is a suburb about 15 miles south of downtown Houston, and I live on the west side of Pearland,” said Lindsey. He explained that his neighborhood is the newer area of Pearland and drains better, so the flooding did not affect his house, as it stayed about a foot or so from his sidewalk.
But he does have five acres of land in Rosharon, which is a community he compared to Boonville, with just one stoplight. Rosharon sits right off the river, and it remains under three to four feet of water.
“They are having to air boat into homes to get essentials and were under a mandatory evacuation,” he said. Water there isn’t expected to recede for another two weeks at least.
“Imagine the Big Elkin Creek being over the railroad track bridge there near Harry’s. That’s what we’re dealing with. The levies have breached. Everything from the north plus 52 to 55 inches of rain fall, all of the records have been broken on the river’s level crested. The water had to go somewhere,” Lindsey said.
Initially the Houston area was expected to receive about 25 inches of rain, but Lindsey said the front that was forecast to put Harvey east and end the rain fall never came. “Sunday night was when it started coming. Originally Saturday they said that the water was going to go through Rockport and Corpus Christi about two and a half hours south of Houston, and when it made landfall, we were going to get the dirty side of the storm, 25 inches of rain.
“Then when it hit, the storm hit, the front we were supposed to get never came through, so it just sat over Houston and rained over us for four days, Saturday to Tuesday, even into Wednesday. It rained and rained,” he said.
With Houston sitting just about 50 feet above sea level, Lindsey said when it rains, the area’s networks like the bayous that flow into the Gulf of Mexico get backlogged and the water has nowhere to go.
“They didn’t want the dams to bust, so the mayor made the call to release water and drain the reservoir, which then flooded the western part of Houston where the million dollar homes and older homes are,” he said, noting that had been reported on the local television news.
During the peak of the flooding, Lindsey said supplies to the area were cut off because two of the major interstates were flooded. “This storm shut down all of our major network highways. I-77 for us is I-45 coming out of Dallas, and I-40 for you guys is I-10 for us going east and west, it was all underwater for three days. So when they sent FEMA down, they were lined up ready to get in, but they couldn’t because the water was four to five feet over the roadways,” he said.
“You couldn’t even get in the city to get supplies, so it was a big problem for us. Our infrastructure was paralyzed.”
He said people would travel to try to help someone out and when they went into an area the roads were fine, but two hours later, the way out would be flooded and then they would be stuck on an island unable to escape. “It caused a lot of chaos,” he said.
While his neighborhood didn’t suffer major flooding, Lindsey said many of his wife’s clients as well as their friends who live in areas like League City, Fringewood, Rosharon and Dickinson — 50 to 60 friends — were affected by the flood damage.
“We’ve found a lot of communities are working together. They are going into the homes before the insurance adjusters come in to evaluate, taking pictures of the damage first and wherever the water level has receded, turning out the power and removing damaged furniture and pulling sheet rock and putting it on the curb,” Lindsey said.
Homeowners are playing a waiting game, because nothing can be done until the insurance adjusters come through to make a final note on what they’re going to pay. “At least 50 percent of the people don’t even live in a flood zone area, so unless they have certain language in their policy, it won’t cover flooding. Then you have people who rented homes who don’t have rental insurance.”
One thing he did see was how much everyone is pulling together to help one another. Through Facebook pages and blogs, people are reaching out for help, and they are getting responses from area churches, youth groups, ministries and other organizations.
He said Houston is getting a lot of help through organizations like the J.J. Watt Foundation, but other areas like Beaumont and Port Arthur, which are where the refineries are that were flooded, shutting down the pipeline and causing gas inflation, also need assistance.
Lindsey and his sister, Suzanne Lindsey, who lives in Charlotte, are working with Carolina Panther Fozzy Whittaker, who is a native of Pearland, and his foundation, Fozzy’s Future Heroes, to get supplies to people in the area. He is raising funds and supplies for a shelter called Sarah’s House in Houston. Donations to his organization can be made online at https://www.youcaring.com/fozzysfutureheroes-917753.
For Lindsey, he said he and his neighbors just talk about how blessed they were to not see the same flooding other neighborhoods received.
“I pray the number of deaths stay under 100. We won’t know until the water recedes. We are six to seven days out and we still have areas under water,” he said. “I was here in 2008 for Ike and that was a lot of water, but that was nothing. People who moved from New Orleans here after Katrina would agree, this storm trumps Katrina three times over. It affected more people, 67 million people, and the homes flooded were in the tens of thousands that are going to have to be leveled and rebuilt or gutted and repaired.
“I’m just truly blessed. My wife and I and our neighbors were talking today, we were just blessed. There was no water in anyone’s houses. Unfortunately because our neighborhood drains, our water went into some other neighborhoods not set up to handle the drainage. Not everyone has the money to raise their house up,” he said.
To donate in support of Hurricane Harvey victims, visit http://pda.pcusa.org/, https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey, https://www.hands.org/, or to Whittaker’s foundation at https://www.youcaring.com/fozzysfutureheroes-917753.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.