Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas in August 2017. As a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey was powerful and dangerous. My sister just gave birth to my goddaughter the previous month, so she was just four weeks old when the hurricane hit. Flood waters were rising fast and all of the hospitals in the surrounding area were closed and/or evacuated. If something went wrong, they had zero options.
It was approximately 0300 here in Virginia when we got the call from my mom: "You need to get your sister and your goddaughter out of there. They are in danger."
My wife and I went into our own domestic version of an immediate action drill. We grabbed our go-bags and made a phone call because we knew we would need backup. The first phone call went to my brother. Before we could make the second call, as if via ESP itself, one of my best friends who spent his Navy career running VBSS with small boats - experience we felt might be handy in this situation - called me. Game on.
This was not my first natural disaster. I spent almost eight years as a sworn law enforcement officer in Southern California. During that time, I participated in callouts ranging from wildfires to manhunts and almost everything in between. Despite, this experience with natural disasters like wildfires, we barely got rain in Southern California, let alone hurricanes.
Below is the story of how we got my sister and her family out of Houston and the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey, told photographically.
Above: my sister sent me this picture of the Texas National Guard staging outside of Houston to affect rescues of citizens stranded by Hurricane Harvey the day before we went wheels up from Virginia.
Above: an image of the rising flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in front of my sisters home outside of Houston, TX. I believe this picture was taken just before we left for the airport.
Above: we had to fly into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and then drive down to Austin in order to rent the pick-up trucks (the last two at the airport) we would need to get my sister and her newborn baby out of Houston.
Above: Texans are a prepared and capable people, as evidenced by the vehicle choices made by some locals to help their fellow citizens in a time of need. We took this picture as we were exiting Highway 290 and beginning to make our way to my sisters house via side streets.
Above: our first encounter with flood waters. Just before this picture was taken, we watched a regular sedan float down this very road. This was a perplexing sight to behold: why would anyone want to attempt to traverse these waters in a regular sedan? It was hard enough in full size, four-wheel drive trucks.
Above: my sister took this picture from the second story of her neighbors house. They had to evacuate their single story home because the flood waters were rising quickly. This picture is deceptive because they took it during a brief respite in the storm. Rain resumed shortly after this picture was taken and the water began rising again.
Above: me meeting my goddaughter for the first time at our hotel in Austin. This moment made the whole trip worth it.