Devastation in Houston: Students sit in wait as their families are affected back home

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A mother and father swam away from their home with two children with Down syndrome, a dog with only three legs and their pet pig. The family was rescued and then dropped off at a gas station.

Auburn student Jordan Trammell told this story of family friends back in her hometown, Houston. Trammell is a senior in human development and family studies and is from the Memorial area of Houston, west of downtown.

Trammell’s mom and dad stayed in their family home and even still had electricity throughout the storm. While the road their house is on was not flooded, the surrounding areas were, making it impossible for her parents to venture from their street. Other Auburn families based in Houston, however, had a different experience.

Spring, Texas, where Auburn interior design sophomore, Erin Sutter, is from, was almost completely under water. As Sutter attended the second week of classes in Auburn, her parents and younger brother braved the storm. Since their house stands on the highest ground in the area, they felt the best option was to stay.

Sutter said she kept in steady contact with her parents, who opened up their home to family friends who lost everything. As her parents helped people in the community using a friend’s boat to navigate the rising water, her younger brother’s school was used as a shelter where anyone in need could go.

Schools, places of worship and convention centers in Houston, most notably the George R. Brown Convention Center, opened their doors for people displaced from their homes as the flood waters rose and entered their homes. Some evacuees left when water began to trickle in, and some left before they could see how their house would be affected.

“I’ve never been more proud to be an American,” Sutter said in response to the storm and people’s reactions. “I know it sounds cheesy, but seeing millions of people come together to help has been crazy.”

Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, set a record for the most rainfall in the continental U.S. from a single tropical storm at over 40 inches in most places and over 50 in some, according to The National Weather Service. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, called Harvey one of the largest disasters America has ever faced and said the region would not recover anytime soon.

The National Weather Service tweeted Sunday morning, “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

s of Wednesday Aug. 30, Texas officials had reported about 30 Harvey-related deaths, according to The New York Times.

Chika Asomugha, War Eagle Girl and senior in rehab services, said almost her entire family is back in Sugar Land, a suburb southwest of Houston.

“My home specifically is okay, but the area around it isn’t,” Asomugha said. “We have lakes in our neighborhood that are overflowed, so you can’t tell the difference between the street and the lake anymore.”

Asomugha’s family was well prepared for a full-on hurricane, so when Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm they were somewhat relieved, she said. Her family still has electricity and food, but a couple of days ago they didn’t.

“The actual hurricane wasn’t bad, it was what came after,” Asomugha said. “There was a tornado the next day that touched down maybe 10 or 15 minutes from my house, and then that came with the heavy rains. There are 26-ish inches of rain around my house. They’re okay, but last night a couple of people had to evacuate literally 10 minutes away from us, but my house didn’t have to.”

Regarding President Donald Trump’s reaction to the storm, Asomugha said it’s easy to point fingers in times of devastation but he may not be grasping the severity of the situation.

“I don’t think (Trump) understands the magnitude of what is going on, especially Houston being a very large city,” Asomugha said. “It’s really big, and it’s affecting all parts of Houston. ... I think he needs to do something soon or there are going to be a lot of people upset. Houston is home to a lot of oil and gas and agriculture.”

Trump signed a federal disaster proclamation over the weekend and visited Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, Aug. 29, as the storm continued. During his time there, people gathered to hear him talk about the storm and relief efforts. The New York Times, reported that during his closing statement to the Texans he said, “What a crowd! what a turnout!”

Another Auburn student, Amanda Diamond, sophomore in public relations, is from a suburb northeast of Houston called Kingwood. Her parents, who evacuated to their lake house Tuesday, Aug. 28, don’t know the state of their house or her fathers law firm. Diamond, however, maintained a positive outlook.

“Houston is devastated right now, but Trump and the government have been awesome with the relief,” Diamond said. “I just think it’s awesome that they’re so giving to Houston while we’re hurting right now.”

As water from the lake they primarily live on rose, her parents made the decision to leave when electricity went out and running water was about to go out.

“We think the water will be by our house by tomorrow morning,” she said. “We have insurance, and my family is safe. That’s all that matters.”

Diamond said her parents even got to save the tortoise that lived in their back yard.

For Auburn students looking to help in a specific way, Auburn’s chapter of Lambda Sigma is collecting slightly used and clean t-shirts for the people in shelters in Texas.

“We are being coordinated by efforts with JJ Watts,” said Kay McClain, whose working with Lambda Sigma. “We will be collecting t-shirts on and off campus starting next week. We are currently identifying drop off locations for the t-shirts.”

Students can also donate to the Red Cross by texting HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

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