Monday, Memorial Day, was relaxed. A birthday party, swimming, an impromptu poolside dinner with "The JJ Brothers", some of my children's best friends down the block. We parents sat around the table, drinking wine and laughing until dusk, when we finally fished the kids out of the pool to send them to bed where they promptly fell asleep.
The thunderstorm promised earlier in the day began to rumble in.
I went to bed lulled by the sound of pounding rain and nearly constant lightening flash, and thunder. I was concerned about our new pool flooding, and could hear odd burps and bubbles rising from the overflow drain. I checked it, head out the window, in the dark, before deciding to go to sleep and check on it in the night.
At 10:47 p.m. there was a *pop* and my neighbor in the adjoining cul-de-sac messaged that she lost power, for the SIXTH time this month! I sent my condolences. The rushing rain sounded peaceful, and I snuggled down to enjoy it, ignoring the occasional blaring *flash flood alert* that lit up my phone, as they do every time it rains in Houston.
At 12:39 p.m. I woke to see my cell phone screen glowing, and saw that I had a number of text messages from my friend in the cul-de-sac.
"Flooded!" "D" at 12:37 AM
"Whole house going! Smells kids sleeping "D" at 12:38 AM
Want to come here? Shall I send The Captain to help? 12:39 AM
I can start making beds for the boys. 12:40 AM
I don't know what to do. I'm shaking! 12:40 AM
Big time 12:40 AM
Constable on line 12:40 AM
I need help 12:41 AM
I had no idea deep water across the street 12:41
How high is the water? 12:43
The Captain is coming 12:47"
I lept out of bed reading the first text and woke The Captain. He jumped up to check to the pool and I was saying "not the pool, D and A! D and A are flooding! They need help." As he pulled on swim trunks, I went to look out the front windows and my mind scrambled to understand what I was seeing. Between our house and the neighbors, a river was flowing down the street. Rain was still pouring down.
Down the cul-de-sac, on the right, where you can see light, several vehicles' alarms' were going nonstop, as water reached their dashboards. The interior lights were on, and even as the headlights were submerged you could see them flashing. As they submerged, the alarms became muffled, but continued.
Our neighbor across the street pulled his monster truck into our higher driveway, and struggled to save his other cars in his driveway, as water rose up their hoods.
I remember my husband grabbing an umbrella and heading for the front door and me yelling "what are you doing?! we have to have a plan!" Next thing, he was gone.
I ran to my closet and switched my nightgown for swim shorts, a sport's bra, and t-shirt. Then I turned my focus to the guest room, making up Little Sister's bed, and putting a mattress down on the floor and making it up.
Small Sun woke up and came out bleary eyed. I explained that there was a flood happening, that I needed his help, and he moved into action, fetching sheets for me, and following my every instruction.
As I was doing this, I heard voices, and recognized my neighbor D, crying. They came through the front door, wet, distraught, and in shock. The Captain said the water was up to his thighs crossing the street the first time, and over his waist on the return just minutes later. On petite D, it was up to her ribs as she carried her child high.
I found dry clothes for our 6 year old neighbor first, then for his mom and dad, and finally for his 2 year old brother. D stood dripping, and crying, in absolute shock, for quite some time, and I got S, the six year old into dry things and tucked into bed under my elephant blanket from India. He dozed off quickly.
After getting dry clothes and towels to everyone, I quickly set to flood preparations. I had The Captain and Mr. A, the father of our water-logged family, bring in a queen mattress that was in the garage that was starting to flood. I also had The Captain bring in all the bottled water I had stored in the garage for such an emergency. Oddly, many jugs were empty through evaporation or slow leaks. He brought what he could, including an axe, should we need to break out of the attic.
I filled laundry baskets with non-perishable food items, our first aid kit and our toothbrushes, sleeping bags, and the children's special "softies" that they sleep with. This was all lined up between the front door and the attic steps, along with the dog's bed and leash.
We watched the water rise higher and higher up our front walk. I had Small Sun fill the bathtub with water and pack two backpacks for himself and his brother.
I think it was about 3:00 in the morning when the water reached into our front shrubbery, we woke Sprout and Finch, loaded up our baskets and our children, and struck out through calf-deep water to our neighbor's house. They have a second story and were ready to receive us. The Captain went to the front door, through deeper water, while the rest of us went to the back, which is higher, and struggled to stand under the gutter line as the rain pounded down. It seemed to take minutes for our neighbors to open the door, in their pajamas.
Their house seemed quite, calm, and was unsullied by pools of water and fear. We fell down onto the couches, wrapped in nice dry towels, to calm the scared children. The Captain dissapeared again, to our house, to ready our house for flooding.
By 4:00 AM we were all tucked into a cozy bed on the second story, kids snuggling down into sleeping bags on the carpet floors, the dog curled in his bed next to ours, and our neighbors in the second guest room across the landing. We seemed so high, so warm, and so dry, by contrast to the earlier hours.
I couldn't stop looking at my phone, as it exploded with Facebook messages from our neighborhood mother's page, texting back and forth with local friends, and thinking about two of our neighbors. One had a brand new baby in fragile health, and they were on the low end of the street with no second story. Earlier I had lost contact with the JJ family, knowing that the water was rising in their house, they couldn't escape, and their cell phone batteries had died. They also had no upstairs, and possibly no attic.
As the rain slackened after 4 am, I fell into some kind of sleep, repeating these words over and over again...
May the God of hope, fill you with you all joy and peace, as your trust in Him, and may you overflow with hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)