A reporter’s tale: Harvey plus one year
A year after Tropical Storm Harvey flooded our community I flinch whenever it rains hard or thunders or when lightning flashes. I wonder if other people do, too.
It’s not because I had to be rescued or my house or vehicle flooded. But let me start my story earlier.
As Harvey approached I heard endless forecasts of doom and part of me didn’t believe it. It would be like other storm forecasts that never materialized.
I worked that day and got photos of a family boarding up their house. It was raining but not badly. Ho hum.
Still, weather alerts came fast and furious. By the time I left the office for the short drive home, streets were flooding and I was worried by my little Hyundai Accent might not make it.
Reality set in soon enough. Overnight, I watched reports as Houston turned into a lake and boats traversed streets and highways. And the rain would not stop.
My leaky roof got worse and through the night our family dumped 5-gallon buckets of water at a time — upwards of 55 gallons at some point. I kept checking to see if my yard was underwater and it wasn’t.
Others didn’t fare as well. People begged for help on social media. It was gut wrenching to know I could not help.
Being a reporter comes with an adrenaline rush. I was eager to see what Harvey did to my city so I could accurately recount what was going on. I knew the story of Harvey needed to be told. But roads were impassable and I didn’t believe it. My street was OK.
Later, I traveled down 25th Street and parked, then waded to the office on Memorial Boulevard to salvage work supplies. My co-workers had been scattered, some rescued, and some were not available to work.
I tried to be the newsroom hero and failed, in my “I’m-tough-on-myself” opinion. I waded twice to the office to get the cameras and my laptop and other essentials.
I met, interviewed and photographed people setting out in boats, including some first responders, to rescue those in need.
I was given advice to hitch a ride with rescuers but was reluctant to take space set aside for someone in need.
The importance of chronicling this event was always on my mind as hours passed and I still look back at missed opportunities. There was a precarious nighttime drive down Twin City Highway, where I passed by Jimmy Johnson Boulevard and saw trucks and trailers lined up on high parts of an overpass and spotlights and people in boats.
But I kept going, either unsure of what I was seeing firsthand or for fear of drowning my car’s engine — maybe both.
Other media were in the midst of the floodwater or on the boats. I was elsewhere, doing what I could to tell the Harvey story. There were many areas of the city that were islands, I later learned.
I never stopped nor did the stories and photos. I was constantly on the phone or in the car or checking emails or writing. I walked in near waist-deep water and have photos to prove it. I am proud of the work I did.
The reporter in me still holds uncertainty and self-doubt that will always haunt me for not being everywhere at once.
Maybe that’s where that flinch comes from when a big storm hits and the anxiety sets in.
Mary Meaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News.
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