Letter from Houston: Mumbai, we have a solution

Harvey may have been the worst storm in 12 years, but good civic systems eased the ordeal of citizens.

Published: 30th August 2017 05:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th August 2017 05:32 PM   |  A+A-

Rescue boats fill a flooded street as flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise. (AP)

The US government started preparing for Hurricane Harvey days before it actually hit. That helped us personally and a lot of other people we know.

The University of Texas Medical Branch, where I am a PhD student and my husband is a cardiologist, was sending us updates twice a day. Our apartment complex put out flyers, giving us a checklist of what we needed to take if we were leaving. There were government broadcasts too telling us what to do. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has an app that keeps updating us about what’s happening. This place has seen a lot of floods, some that have been very bad and some less severe. They were constantly informing us even before it hit that it is going to be a big storm.

We live on Galveston Island, which is 50 miles south-east of Houston. That’s where Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. There is one main highway connecting us to the mainland. We were living in Houston initially and we moved to Galveston Island a couple of months ago.

The hurricane hit Rockfort in Texas a little south of us, but we experienced heavy rains. Once they knew that was happening, the government evacuated a lot of people, mainly those in need of medical care and infants. They issued a lot of information on the evacuations, where they expected it to rain heavily, etc. Some places on our island witnessed mandatory evacuation, because they did not have protection.

We were also keeping track of the situation and made a last-minute decision to move to mainland Houston Friday. It was predicted that the winds would be strong and we did not know how our apartment would hold in the wind. The night we went to the mainland, there was thunder, wind and extremely heavy rain. Saturday, we moved back before the roads started flooding. The rain stopped for a while early Saturday and we knew there was going to be more rain and less wind. We knew the roads were going to be blocked. There was one main road back home and if that got flooded, we would be stranded. We knew Houston was going to get pounded the most. The government kept posting Facebook and Twitter updates. Even as we were going back home, we knew which roads were flooded. That proved to be a good decision. Our old apartment in Houston was flooded.

What struck me was we were more aware of what was going to happen and had a chance to do something about it. Everyone — right from the government to our university — issued warnings way ahead of time and their predictions were more or less accurate. We were all prepared mentally and that really helped. (The author is doing her PhD in Houston)

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