Houston church greets families with mattresses, tacos.
As Hurricane Harvey began making its way to Houston this past weekend, 42-year-old Sonia Alfar saw parts of Memorial Drive around her home in West Houston swell with water.
By Monday night, the water had crept up to her home. Then it seeped inside. By Tuesday afternoon, Alfar knew she and her two children, Antonio and Isabel, had to leave.
“Our street is about knee deep,” Alfar said. “It’s shocking.”
Volunteers on a fishing boat picked up Alfar, Antonio and Isabel on Tuesday and dropped them off at St. Thomas Presbyterian nearby, one of the dozens of shelters that have popped up as many areas of Houston continue to flood.
Thousands of flood victims have found temporary homes at shelters. St. Thomas opened its doors mainly to flood victims who live along Memorial Drive. Parts of the street near the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs remained covered with feet of water Tuesday afternoon.
“This is kind of scary, being a mom and going through this,” Alfar said. She pulled her glasses off, sat them on the mattress in front of her and wiped away tears with both of her hands.
“It was very scary just having to tell them,” she continued. “I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.”
Most of the church’s main room, which is no bigger than a basketball court, was covered with mattresses. Tacos from a nearby restaurant were laid out in containers. Volunteers organized toiletries on tables and folded clothes in a back hallway. Dozens of people stood around, sat near tables or laid on the mattresses. Multicolored crosses hung on a back wall.
Feet away from Alfar, 35-year-old Morgan Tuck and her husband, 36-year-old Jeremiah Tuck, sat on a mattress while chewing on chips.
The couple woke up on Saturday morning to car alarms blaring outside of their Memorial Drive apartment.
“We looked outside our window, and it was like a river was going through the parking lot,” Jeremiah Tuck said. “Water was waist high Saturday morning. We lost four vehicles.”
The Tucks were stranded inside their second floor apartment. Finally, a volunteer on a boat arrived to rescue them Tuesday afternoon and took them to the church. Flood waters stretch at least half a mile in every direction from their apartment, Jeremiah Tuck said.
“There are still more people back there,” he said.
The Tucks have lived in Houston for more than 15 years. They’re used to Houston floods, but not like this — “the worst it’s ever been,” Jeremiah Tuck said.
Others at the church were unaware Houston could flood like this.
Candice Meitland, 44, and her husband, Andrew, moved from Scotland in July after Andrew received a job offer from a energy company.
By Tuesday, their townhome had several inches of water in it.
“It’s bizarre that we got here and then something this major happens. We didn’t know about Houston’s flooding,” Candice Meitland said. “At the same time, I feel like we’re one of the lucky ones.”
People kept arriving at the church on Tuesday, slowly trickling in at some times, and at other times forming a line out the door. Boy Scouts and other volunteers also arrived.
By the end of the afternoon, the church was filling up.
The rain was still falling outside as new arrivals showed up and looked around, trying to spot which bed could be theirs for the night.
A displaced family hugs upon their arrival at the shelter at St. Thomas Presbyterian Church in West Houston on Tuesday. Thousands of flood victims have found temporary homes at shelters. St. Thomas opened its doors mainly to flood victims who live along Memorial Drive in Houston.