Thursday, August 31, 2017

Houston Shows Solidarity With Harvey Evacuees

Harvey, the largest tropical storm in continental U.S. history, has dumped a record 127 centimeters of rain on this sprawling metropolis in just four days. The massive flooding in the city also can be measured in anguish.

“Texas is always going to be my home, so to see it like this — it hurts,” said Carolina Morales, who moved to New York in January with her husband and had returned for a visit to an unexpectedly watery place.

Morales remains deeply connected to Houston, especially because her 4-year-old daughter lives there much of the year. The girl’s father, Morales’ ex-husband, is a police officer working on the streets, collaborating with rescuers and patrolling so criminals don’t compound the losses to property or life.

“I worry about him because of my daughter. She knows what’s going on as well and she asks about her dad,” Morales said in an interview at the Holiday Garden Inn in north Houston, where the family is sheltering after Morales’ mother’s home flooded.

Morales added that the public safety officers deployed in the storm “are out 12 hours a day, sometimes longer” facing hazards themselves while finding people to rescue.

“l also asked him about … people that are robbing people that need help, and I asked him how they are going to deal with it,” Morales said.

As of Wednesday morning, Houston police had arrested at least 14 armed robbers and looters. City officials imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in an attempt to deter crime.

The flooding has also brought out a wave of generosity and compassion. Community members have donated water, blankets, clothing and other items needed by evacuees.

“We are only being [open for] 24 hours and we have more supplies than we will need for weeks,” said Cheryl Meissner, a volunteer and refugee coordinator at a local shelter. “It’s amazing — the community response.”

On Tuesday, city officials opened the Houston Toyota Center sports arena as an emergency shelter to relieve overflow crowds at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The center had double its 5,000-person capacity.

Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander allowed use of the basketball facility and donated $10 million for relief efforts, the Associated Press reported.

The unity in the community’s response has heartened college student Lesbia Torres. She’s volunteering at Westfield High School, a temporary feeding site where people also can get medical aid for themselves and find shelter for pets. The school lies just north of Houston in unincorporated Harris County.

Torres said she sees the volunteer response as proof her city will recover.

“Houston is coming out of this,” Torres said. “… And also the state of Texas: We are very great not only in land [mass] but also in heart.”

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