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From Allen, with Love

Allen residents reach out to Texans in need

Tate Peterson and Julia Zaksek

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Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25. The Category 4 hurricane was the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher), to make landfall in the United States since 2005. The storm destroyed one-third of the city and drastically changed the lives of those who fell in its path. With their homes, schools and businesses destroyed, many in Houston turned to their relatives and fellow Texans for aid.

Displaced

South Texas isn’t the place to be during storm season, as the geography of this region causes many unpredictable problems. Areas along the coast in Galveston and metropolitan centers like Houston have elevations extremely close to sea level–the source of these issues.

This amount of rainfall was to be expected, but there wasn’t much for the people of Houston to do. The process of evacuating a city is close to impossible, as major highways get backed up causing car accidents, an increased reliance on emergency services and a general frustration in evacuating millions of people out of a single location. Houston is, after all, the fourth most populous city in the United States.

The people of Houston were stuck, and they were forced to wait out one of the strongest storms in U.S. history. Harvey was the first major hurricane to make its way to Texas since hurricane Ike. The aftereffects of Harvey were unimaginable.

The Aftermath

English teacher Julie Byers said it would take years for Houston to return to normal. Byer’s parents and step-siblings live in Houston, and they were subjected to the problems that Harvey caused for millions of residents.

“They lost their home,” Byers said. “They lost their vehicles. They had to be evacuated by FEMA.”

Byers’ parents and step-siblings lived in Kingwood, the community Allen raised funds for. Kingwood’s high school was destroyed during the storm and could not open for the school year, due to massive flooding. The building must undergo intensive repairs before it can be safe for students.*

“I have friends whose kids are going to school in Kingwood, so now they’re attending other campuses,” Byers said.

Harvey has already been predicted to cost more than Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, and it’s apparent in the damage caused to the houses, shopping centers, corporate offices and lives of those living in Houston. Those with connections to Houston, whether it be through family or friendship, know how devastating Harvey has been to those in the city.

“Their entire downstairs level of their two-story house has to be renovated, and all of their kitchen appliances have to be replaced,” senior Nicole Kim said about her aunt and uncle’s home.

The impact on the businesses, apartments and schools that serve Houston only add to the struggles the city will have to overcome. Business and shopping centers had roofs torn off and  products were displaced by high water levels. General destruction forced many places to close, terminating operation until the government or business finds the money to solve the problem.

“A lot of the apartment complexes have waiting lists,” Byers said. “[My family] chose [an apartment] that was available. The places that they looked at, the earliest they were available was November.”

Byers also said her family found that some apartment complexes didn’t have availability until early next year. Her family went with what they could get into the quickest. In addition to housing woes, Houston’s businesses were forced to close, contributing to the heavy cost of damages.

“My dad is a chemical engineer, so his plant had to be shut down for a couple of days,” senior Zach Huseth said.

Houston’s school districts felt the same effects. Harvey happened to hit at a time in which school was just starting for students. Most students had to wait at least two weeks, while others had their buildings destroyed enough to delay school for months.

“Water came into [their] school so [they] didn’t start until Sept. 13,” Huseth said when discussing how his family in Houston was affected.

Coming together

In the tumultuous 21st century, disasters, both man-made and natural, seem to parade across our TV screens and Twitter feeds. The overexposure can sometimes render the unaffected unable to comprehend the scope and effect of events such as Harvey. How homes and whole neighborhoods can be completely destroyed, leaving many with nothing, is difficult to imagine.

“People down in the Houston area have lost if not everything, almost everything,” senior Daniel Garrett said.

Garrett and his family are aiding those impacted by Harvey by helping them recover some of what they’ve lost through Trusted World, a donation-based charity that Garrett’s father, Michael, created.

“Their motto is ‘They help people help people,’” Garrett said.

Trusted World collects donations to distribute to larger non-profits which often run short on vital supplies during times of crisis. Those supplies include foodstuffs, diapers and baby formula.

“A lot of people are just very grateful because without the donations, they wouldn’t have anything,” Garrett said.

Texas communities have played an important role in the city’s recovery through donations, volunteering and providing support for those impacted.

“It’s important for organizations and other people to help out because without their support, it’s going to be extremely hard not just to live after the hurricane, but to build toward some sense of normalcy,” Garrett said.

Foodstuffs, clothing, games, baby formula, diapers, shampoo, soaps–a variety of goods–have poured in from across the state. Several students in Allen held drives for needed items.

“[People] are not just getting the things that they necessarily need, but that are extremely helpful to have,” Garrett said. “Trusted World is currently working with churches in the Houston area to distribute the donations.”

Families and friends across the state also opened their homes to uprooted Texans. After Byers’ family home in Kingwood was ruined, her family was forced to leave Houston and stay with other relatives.

“[My parents] had four feet of water in their home; everything was destroyed, even the sheetrock and the flooring. The house’s insides were literally outside,” Byers said.  “[When] they were able to get into their home, there were 40 to 50 people there, helping them [remove] everything from the house.”

Although her family was eventually evacuated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Byers said the impact of the hurricane, both tangible and intangible, is immense. She said that often, the best way to help those affected is simply to listen to their stories and be patient as they recover from loss.

Many people in Allen have family members, friends and colleagues in Houston. To help them get back on their feet, many are making personal sacrifices.

“My grandparents were saving their money to take a trip for their anniversary but gave it to my uncle and aunt’s family,” Kim said. “My parents gave what they could give left from their savings and are trying to help them find replacements for their cars and kitchen appliances.”

The sheer amount of support, prayers and thoughts from around the world highlight the more positive parts of human nature.

“Everyone [came] together and [helped] each other regardless of their race, beliefs, or political views,” Huseth said.

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