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Hurricane Harvey: Feeling the Need to Do Something

As I sit down to write this blog about my personal experience with Hurricane Harvey, I find that my biggest problem is deciding where to start. As my grandfather would say when telling a story, “slow your mind down, relax, and start from the beginning.”

A week and a half ago, we learned that there was a tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico. Early forecasts suggested it would only be a high level Tropical Storm with winds maxing out at about 50mph. For those of us who have grown up along the coast, this wouldn’t be a big deal.

But then those forecasts began to change. A close family friend who manages FEMA west of the Mississippi called us on Thursday to let us know this would be an event unlike anything recorded in our nation’s history and to take it seriously. So we did. We filled up on fuel, food, water and made sure that our generator was functional. Fortunately, we were in one of the few areas that didn’t lose power.

That Friday, things started to turn for the worse. The skies really opened up that night and it didn’t stop for 3+ days at some points dropping as much as 3-5” an hour! All in all we received over 43 inches of rain with other areas getting as much as 52!

We quickly went from “Boy that is a lot of rain” to “Oh my God, all of these people are either having their homes ruined, trapped and even drowning”.  Initially, we were texting friends and family for status updates, but soon realized we wouldn’t be able to do anything to help, regardless of what the response was.  It was time to stop hunkering down and get out and do something, ANYTHING, if we could. I loaded up my kayak to see where I could help only to find that the current was too strong, so I resorted to driving around looking for places to lend a hand and clearing culverts of debris to help prevent homes from flooding.

In addition, our church, Tree of Life Lutheran, opened it’s doors and started setting up for any of those needing shelter. As a testament to our team, we were ready to shelter up to 50 people in less than 5 hours. While all of that was going on, I reached out to network of Texas contractors to get air mattresses, cots and bedding into the area for the shelters in need. Amazingly, these contractors got over 600 bed units to the heaviest hit areas in Montgomery County. They went to every Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sporting Goods store in DFW and Tyler and bought them out of their stock, loaded their trucks and trailers and headed our way. The Roofing Contractors Association of Texas spearheaded by Ramon Roofing in Ft. Worth and AVCO Roofing in Tyler made things happen so quickly that I am in awe of what they accomplished.

Some of the stats that caught my attention were that the total area flooded surpassed the size of Lake Michigan and that 50 inches of rain would convert to almost 40’ of snow in 3 days for those of you in the north! 9-11 Trillion Gallons of water has fallen from the sky in just 4 days. That would be the equivalent of the Mississippi river dumping its flow on Houston for 9 days, it would fill the Great Salt Lake twice, it would cover the ENTIRE US in .17 inches of water! Simply amazing and terrifying all at the same time.

In my neck of town we have this little lake called Lake Conroe, you may have seen us on the news. Normal flow for this lake through its dam is about 2250cfm (cubic ft per minute) at its record highest during Hurricane Alicia it was at 39,000cfm flooding houses downstream. Hurricane Harvey over doubled that flow to 79,000cfm! It is hard to put into words what that means for those living downstream but let’s just say it is far beyond the 500 year floodplain. I saw a term I have never seen before a 1000 year floodplain. Some places may see as much as 60 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey with would literally make it a 1 in a million year event!

Actually, we ended up with significantly more supplies than our shelter could use. However, our team jumped right back into action, getting everything dispersed to other shelters that were in need. All in all I would call it a success in the end.

Even as I write, members of our church are still out saving people from their flooded homes in areas south and east of us as Harvey slowly moves east and now north into Arkansas and Tennessee. We here in Conroe are already onto Stage 2 of a catastrophe: Short Team Clean-Up, or as we call it down here, “Mucking and Gutting”. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is literally mucking out all of the mud and debris in a home, and then gutting the carpet, sheetrock, insulation and anything else that is wet in an effort to dry the house as quickly as possible so cleaning and reconstruction can begin. If you turn on any of the weather-related news you will start seeing the process on a scale never seen before.

This “Mucking and Gutting” is a passion for our Pastor, Chris Lake, which has rubbed off on our congregation. As I am writing this he and his team have already mucked and gutted the first house for one of our members, Daniel Christenson. Dan has an awesome wife and 4 little boys, one being freshly delivered out of the oven. This is obviously devastating for him and his family but getting on it right away will save thousands of dollars in the long run and we are here to support him and his family throughout as we will with several others in our congregation who were affected.

Throughout this catastrophe I have been on the phone non-stop, receiving texts and messages from literally hundreds of friends and customers of ContractorCoachPRO checking in on me, and then with offers to help. As I write this, the emotions begin to flood my eyes thinking about how blessed I am to have so many great friends and customers ready to help us rise up and defeat this challenge facing the town I grew up in. No matter what you hear, know that there are so many more good people out there than bad ones.

If you would like to help us with our mission to “muck and gut” as many houses as we can, you can donate to the Hurricane Harvey “Muck & Gut” Trailer fund either by clicking this link:

or by texting “Treechurch Trailer” to 73256 to donate via text message. You can rest assured that 100% of your donation will go to Flood Relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in a way that will make the most immediate impact on the dirtiest job needed!

Watching the Cajun Navy, our First Responders and then the newly formed Texas Navy make rescues was both dreadful and a source of pride in our fellow human beings. Our neighbors were loving their neighbor as God would have it. There was no race, politics, religion or lifestyle it was just you’re a person that needs help and I am a person that can supply it. In it’s own way it was beautiful to watch especially after the struggles we have had in this country in all of those areas of division. Maybe, just maybe out of all of this chaos something great can rise up and show that we are one and we can love one another.