Houston church greets fam­i­lies with mat­tresses, tacos.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Sebastian Her­rera sher­rera@statesman.com Con­tact Sebastian Her­rera at 512-912-5933.

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.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

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.

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