Post Harvey Update

First and foremost, I wanted to thank everybody who has reached out to me in the last few days and thought I'd write up my experiences with Harvey this far, just in case I missed responding to anyone. You can read about our exciting week on Facebook (Catherine Pasho Couturier, if we're not already friends), but here's the short answer: My family and I are safe! The gallery is dry! The house is not.

Now for the long answer:

We flooded two years ago when a freak storm overflowed the bayous in my neighborhood (Meyerland: it's probably been mentioned on the news a bit). We had no indication that flood was coming, so we had no time to plan. We only received 3" of water last time which meant that so many of our belongings could be saved, especially because I keep things fairly flood-ready ever since the gallery flooded during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. The house still had to be gutted: in a flood, no matter how little you get in your house, you lose all the carpet, all the wood floors, all the doors, all the trim, at least 2 feet of Sheetrock, all the cabinets. It's a mess.

This time around, the storm was so big and all the weather people agreed on what was going to happen, so we got to work. I packed up the gallery and well as possible (so much easier to deal with than a home) and got everything ready at the house. I was pretty sure we'd flood again, and, Friday night, as I left the house with the kids to head to my husband's hotel for safekeeping, I started making my peace with the idea that we'd lose everything this time.

About ten minutes into my drive, though, I realized that I hadn't thrown a single personal item of mine into the luggage, with the exception of my favorite blanket in case I was cold in the hotel. And I let out a huge sigh of relief because that means I don't really care about any of it anymore.

I put the photographs I own personally that aren't on the walls up as high as I could, but I realized in the car that silver prints, so far as I remember, can get wet: they just have to be rewashed and flattened if the emulsion doesn't crack. And the digital ones? I feel pretty confident that most artists would reprint the edition numbers for me if I asked.

So we moved into the hotel (my husband was going to have to work around the clock in case of emergency and wanted us with him) and waited and waited and waited and waited. I always joke that the most important supply in a hurricane is alcohol, but it's sort of true: the waiting is stressful and, if the power goes out, you're bored. Booze to the rescue....

I slept through the actual storm in a hotel room with my husband and two kids, and I'm so thankful I did. So much water hit my neighborhood that I would have ended up on the roof with my children (In case you don't have one, by the way, always have an ax in your attic in case you need to chop your way out). My 11 year old son is still so affected by the first flood (he told me, just a little over two years ago, "Mom. Until the flood I just never knew you could go to sleep and everything could be okay and then wake up and everything could be ruined."), and the idea of having to have him experience actual physical danger makes me shudder.

But what I told my son then, and I think it's a good life lesson, is that things are going to change on you in this world, and the only thing you can do is be as malleable as possible so you can change along with it. And we're super malleable.

Anyway, so we woke up to the same news everyone else did, and I figured my house was ruined again, but I still couldn't believe the picture my neighbor across the street sent me after the first band of the storm had passed.
 

View of my home from a neighbors window

But there was my little house surrounded by so many feet of water. I saw the last food from the inside of the house so this was the first time I'd seen it from the other direction. I was just so happy to know what had happened though. A day or two (I haven't been able to keep up with even which date of the week it is) later, once the waters had receded on my street, another friend sent me more pictures from the outside, and we realized we probably had 4-5 feet of water in the house.

Picture on the left is from the flood two years ago that destroyed our entire house. The one on the right is from Harvey.

 

  
Front and side view of the water line from Harvey

Keep in mind, it was still raining at this point Sunday. And it kept raining Monday. And it kept raining Tuesday.

Anyway (I need to speed up before I bore y'all all to death: congrats on hanging in there this long if you're still with me!), we were still fine in the hotel for the most part until yesterday when the dams were released and began to flood the hotel. We moved our cars to the second floor of the parking garage and were told we'd be down to one meal a day because of food rationing in the hotel (which was full because the guests and employees from the OTHER Omni were already evacuated to our Omni). That was no big deal though because I had brought plenty of bread and peanut butter and things for the kids, and, to say the least, I haven't been hungry. But then the fire alarm sounded and a voice came over the system to say, "Leave your room via the closest stairs. There is a fire emergency in the hotel." So I told the kids to grab their favorite stuffed animals and took off down four flights with them...just in time to see my husband who told me it was just some jerk who pulled the alarm. Running down four flights of stairs with two children in this kind of situation is bad enough, but add to that that I'm a pretty curvy girl and didn't have on a bra under my thin tshirt in front of a bunch of strangers. Lovely!

Okay, this is taking way too long to type so I'm REALLY going to speed up. Later, we found out the hotel was starting to flood and that the police were encouraging us to evacuate but it wasn't mandatory. Just as my husband finished telling me that, I saw a friend had sent me a message asking if he could come get us because he lived close by and has a high enough truck. I'm not one to ask for help ever, but I immediately said. "YES."

The parking lot and lobby of hotel BEFORE the mandatory evacuation


So our friend came and picked up the kids and me (Arnaud, my husband, felt he had to stay behind to help, and I agreed. I would have stayed too if it weren't for the children) and brought us to his home not five minutes away, where we have been for the last 24 hours. Last night the recommended evacuation of the hotel became a MANDATORY evacuation so Arnaud and everyone else in the hotel was taken on a boat to a dry parking lot where city buses were ready to take them to the newest shelter at Toyota Center (where the Rockets play). My friend, Mike, got back in his truck, went and picked up Arnaud from the parking lot and brought him back here. Thank goodness.

Today we woke up to something none of us have seen in so many days that I've lost count: sunshine! We walked across the street to a very soggy park to let the kids run around, and our hosts have made us the most amazing meals we've had in so long. I've received, literally, THOUSANDS of messages of love and support from friends, which has kept me in just the best mood through all of this. It really does help!

So now what. A friend with a key went into my house today and it's bad, but it looks like we only got about 2 1/2 feet instead of the 4-5 as expected, so that's something! All of my daughters things are ruined, but she's 3: she won't notice they're gone and would have grown out of those toys and clothes soon enough anyway. My son will miss his things more (and his clothes don't look as though they'll be able to survive without at least some serious stains), but he's smart enough (and wise enough) to realize that it really doesn't matter. The art, with the exception of about 10 pieces, appears dry, and I can't wait to get it out of the house so it can stay that way.

The good news in all of this is that we've done this before so we know we can do it again. I texted my contractor from the last time around (who I'm lucky to have because most people won't be able to find one) that I didn't like the color we had picked for the kids' bathroom and wanted new doors anyway. He said, "Well, then thank goodness this happened again so we can fix that!"

We're going to be A-OK. I've always been a fairly resilient sort, and this time won't be any different. While I wait for the flooding between here and there to subside so I can get to my house and start working, I've been able to walk so many friends (and friends of friends) who haven't flooded before through the process because I'm a pro at this point, and that has made me feel so good.

Right after the last flood, someone asked me how I seemed to be handing things so well, and I pointed at my kids and husband and counted us off. "1, 2, 3, 4: we're all here," and that's become our go-to line ever since, whenever we want to be sure we see what's important. It's true now like it was true then: 1234, we're all here.

 

Catherine Couturier

August 30, 2017 

 


Comments (7)

  1. Ardis Bartle:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 03:14 PM

    I read the whole thing and you were remarkable in face of horrific conditions. My heart was out to you since Meyerland took a beating. The hotel going underwater is also incredible. Thank you for telling your story. I think people need to know what is going on here in Houston

  2. Betsy Pinover Schiff:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 03:39 PM

    I've read tons here in New York and watched Harvey on TV, but your personal story made it come alive in a new, more visceral way. And of course, photos always tell a big story. Thank you for sharing yours.

  3. Monika Half:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 03:42 PM

    Catherine & Co.

    Wow, you are such a trooper-a real inspiration. Good luck with the clean-up.
    Hugs, Monika

  4. Margaret McCarth;y:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 04:51 PM

    Catherine, I'm so glad to hear you and your family are safe. My heart goes out to you for all you've been through. Do you have a recommended link for donations to help?

  5. John L:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 05:40 PM

    It's funny how the physical things you think are so important seem trivial when something like this comes along. Let us know when you and the gallery are up and running normally. That you and yours are safe is the important thing.

    regards,
    John

  6. Daphne Scarbrough:
    Sep 07, 2017 at 06:03 PM

    A true Catherine & Arnaud story! So glad you are all okay & thank goodness for friends with BIG trucks. And you have your contractor! You are going to be fine, eventually! Loved the story and look forward to seeing you soon. The poor Omni, it is just so close to the Bayou, glad everyone got out. I noticed they found the Spa director's body today, very sad. I heard she had been helping people get out.
    Keep us posted on your needs. xoxo

  7. Michael Martone:
    Sep 19, 2017 at 01:56 PM

    Catherine,
    So very happy y'all survived ,sounds as if all will be well again also great that you have a Seinfeld TV episode type of a great contractor that is trusted.
    My wife recovering after surgery was treated at the hospital by a nurse from Houston during the Harvey we just watched it all with sadness , his family were also flooded.
    May the new storm Maria be good and leave us all alone.


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