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Former Houston resident, now on P.E.I., worried about friends in city

In this photo provided by Beulah Johnson, evacuees sit in the bleachers at the Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, after floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey inundated the facility overnight. Authorities said it's not clear where the evacuees will go.
In this photo provided by Beulah Johnson, evacuees sit in the bleachers at the Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, after floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey inundated the facility overnight. Authorities said it's not clear where the evacuees will go.

Kensington resident Debbie Crowther is praying for some calm in the storm.

After living in the north side of Houston, Tex., for 28 years before moving to P.E.I. in 2006, Crowther still has a number of close friends residing in the city that has been devastated by hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

She described the catastrophic images coming out of Houston as “frightening,” noting that some of her friends have lost their homes.

There are others who Crowther has been unable to contact since the hurricane hit.

“I’m just praying for them,” said Crowther, who owns Kitchen Tea Room with her husband, Geoff.

“Hearing what some of my friends are going through is quite frightening. There are some I haven’t heard from, so I don’t know what’s happening to them… I’m just saying a lot of prayers.”

The hurricane, considered a tropical storm as of Tuesday, has brought record rainfall to the city, leaving the fourth-largest metropolis in the U.S. in a state of emergency.

On Tuesday afternoon, officials said at least 15 people had died in the storm but warned the number would likely rise as authorities searched for missing residents.

After living through several hurricanes and tropical storms in the city, Crowther noted the decision to evacuate is not always easy to make.

It can often involve being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, as well as the possibility of running out of gas and the risk of being stranded (on the) roadside when the worst of the hurricane hits.
In some cases, the process can prove to be fatal.

“We chose to stay (during a hurricane), and I’m glad we did at the time because there were people on the road for over 24 hours to get to Dallas, which is normally about a four- to five-hour drive,” said Crowther. “It may be a little bit selfish, but I’m so glad that we’re here (in P.E.I.) and that my children and grandchildren are all here.”

Evacuees escaping the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rest at the George R. Brown Convention Center that has been set up as a shelter in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Crowther isn’t the only Islander who’s been in contact with friends or family in Texas while the hurricane has unfolded.

Ben MacCallum, who is originally from St. Peters Bay but now splits his time between Florida and Canavoy P.E.I., has been in contact with his daughter, Keri Amador, throughout the storm.

Amador, her husband and two children live in The Woodlands which is about 30 miles north of downtown Houston.

“They’re doing well, they just bought a new home about eight months ago and it’s high and dry… but the place they sold is underwater,” said MacCallum.

During an interview with the Guardian, Amador said she considered herself lucky to live in a highly-elevated area.

In fact, while some homes around her have seen voluntary evacuations, Amador’s house hasn’t lost electricity through the storm.

 “We’re counting our blessings,” said Amador. “We’ve seen all the images coming out of Houston and, oh my gosh, people just lost everything.”

She also wonders how the most affected areas will recover.

“For downtown Houston with the catastrophic damage — I don’t even know — it’s going to be years before that recovers. It is just totally underwater,” said Amador.

Dave Matthes is also a Houston resident but has been spending his summers in P.E.I. since 2004 to avoid the hurricane season.

While Matthes left P.E.I. last week and is now in Norway, he considers himself lucky that his home is also relatively high and has not flooded.

“So much of Houston is low and flat, the soil down there is very clay-like and doesn’t absorb,” said Matthes. “There’s no place for water to go once it falls and starts to accumulate.”

After a career in the oil industry, Matthes said he believes the city will eventually recovery but knows the catastrophe will bring some heavy effects including to the area’s refineries.

“It’s going to be disruptive, but it’s not going to keep (industry) from starting up again.”

Mitchell.macdonald@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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