By Michael Mathes
Houston (AFP) Sept 2, 2017
Maline Johnney knew it was going to be bad when she returned to her Houston home after Hurricane Harvey. But she was unprepared for the mess -- and the stench -- when she opened the door.
"It smelled like a pig pen," she told AFP Saturday, hours after she cracked open her front door, like thousands of fellow Texans, to face the very personal effects of a massive disaster.
Days after she evacuated when she saw a rescue boat float down her street during the most powerful storm she experienced during her 30 years of living in Houston, 55-year-old Johnney said her biggest worry was "coming home and not knowing the unknown."
Would her bedroom flood? Would the sweeping tree in her front yard crash through the roof? Would her car take on water?
The tree still stands, she learned as she pulled up outside her ranch-style house in the Gulf Meadows neighborhood south of downtown. But her home and cars were inundated with six inches (15 centimeters) of water.
Johnney, her husband Leo, and an army of volunteers and friends from their church carried out armloads of debris: ruined furniture, moldy drapes and rugs, insulation and wiring, waterlogged mattresses and paneling, and soiled drywall.
"There's still more to go," said Johnney, who wore a cap with "Katrina & Rita 2005," the two hurricanes that blasted neighboring Louisiana 12 years ago, stitched on the back.
Many victims in this sprawling Texas city were on a similar mission after spending days in evacuation limbo.
The scene was repeated on block after block in Gulf Meadows, which abuts a bayou that spilled its banks during Harvey. Mounds of debris outside affected homes expanded as residents, taking advantage of a steaming sun and disappearing flood waters, ripped up flooring, pulled drywall and hauled out ruined furniture and rugs.
Johnney said one saving grace for her was the tile she had installed in her house, which prevented a more disastrous flooring and carpet loss.
- Starting over -
The Kuhns, a few blocks away, were less fortunate; their home was inundated with more than a foot of water, ruining their furniture, beds and kitchen appliances.
The small house was unlivable; the back yard a field of drying garments, gadgets, nicknacks and supplies.
But Mandy Kuhns, who at 27 is pregnant with her first child, said they were simply "thankful that we have our lives."
The goal now, she added, was to "find a home or somewhere to go and just try to recover from this all. Basically, we'll start our lives all over again."
As she looked to early next year and the birth of her baby, Kuhns and husband Lewis said they were counting on federal or state aid to get them through the crisis.
Across from the Johnneys, a family of Hispanic immigrants was trying to stitch their lives back together after returning to a home where little was spared, despite the best efforts of owner Felipe Landin.
His daughter Laetitia, 38, broke into tears as she considered the efforts her father -- who moved from Mexico to Houston in the 1970s before she was born -- made to bring the family into the middle class.
"He's worked so hard to make this happen. He's provided for all of us," she said, noting his endless hours operating his drapery store.
"I need to do something. I need to figure out, because it's my turn to give back for everything that he's done for us."
Landin, taking a break from the cleanup to chat with visiting reporters and show them his smartphone video of the realtime inundation, rubbed his daughter's shoulder as their eyes met.
Laetitia said: 'My promise to you is, we're going to get through this, you're going to get back to where you need to be."
Houston (AFP) Aug 31, 2017
Storm-battered Houston began limping towards recovery Thursday as Harvey's floodwaters started receding there, though the historic storm was still wreaking havoc further east. While clouds parted at last in America's fourth-largest city, rural areas of Texas were drenched as Harvey headed eastwards, with the city of Port Arthur especially hard hit. Authorities in Louisiana scrambled to s ... read more
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