Right now, Paris is seeing the tail end of Hurricane Harvey.
Forecasters have predicted between 5-9 inches of rain between Thursday and Saturday. That’s a lot of water.
However, 5-9 inches is just a drop in the bucket compared to the truly incomprehensible amount of water that Harvey dumped on the Houston area, which in some places exceeded 50 inches, according to The Washington Post.
Fifty inches. For the Paris area, that’s a year’s worth — a wet year. Imagine a year’s worth of rain falling in just two to three days.
As of Wednesday, Harvey had dumped 24.5 trillion gallons of water on Houston — so much water that the National Weather Service had to expand their color pallet in order to accurately track how much rain had fallen.
It’s really hard for people who aren’t there to truly understand how devastating Harvey has been. But one former Parisian knows exactly how it is.
Dee Maner of Jacinto City, Texas, knew before the storm even hit that it would be catastrophic, so she left home Aug. 24 and came to Paris to stay with her brother, Neely Owens.
“I had been watching the news and tracking the storm long before it ever hit, and I knew I wouldn’t be of much help if I stayed behind,” she said.
Instead, Maner let her home be turned into a makeshift base of operations for rescue personnel.
“My house is high. When we built it, my husband was an attorney, and he had a law office on that corner. He was becoming city manager, so we had to live in Jacinto City,” she said.
WHY HOUSTON IS FLOODING
“Houston is called ‘The Bayou City’ for a reason, and this is something that hasn’t been stated in anything I’ve read,” Maner said.
Houston has 3,000 miles of bayous that act as the drainage system for the city, according to Maner.
“Bayous are not creeks. They are extensions of the bay, meaning that when the tide is in, the bayous don’t drain. When the tide is out, the bayous drain,” she said. “So, you think about a storm out here pushing in a storm surge.”
Jacinto City, where Maner lives, lies along Hunting Bayou.
“Hunting Bayou is not a big bayou, but man alive, it floods,” Maner said. “The water from Hunting Bayou goes from up north in Houston, so the closer to the ship channel you get, it starts accumulating water as it comes from all the different water sheds.”
Houston is also on flat land.
“When you see our streets are flooded,” she continued, “they’re designed to flood. Our freeways are designed to flood, and you can see why — they’re holding tremendous amounts of water.
“We have underpasses that are thirty-feet deep in water. Well, if that water was pulled off those streets and into the neighborhoods, they’d flood even more.”
With a population of about 10,000, Jacinto City sits just 8 miles east of downtown Houston along I-10. It’s surrounded on three sides by Houston. To the east is Hunting Bayou, and Galena Park is to the south.
“Galena Park is right on the ship channel, so you’d think it would flood. The good news is that when they were digging the Houston ship channel, they pumped the dirt into Galena Park, so it’s high and dry, and they can see the ship channel,” Maner said. “And it’s still dry because it’s so high.”
Maner explained that with Hunting Bayou being flooded, all of the ways to exit the city are blocked.
“All of our major bridges have been wiped out,” she said.
Maner also said that Jacinto City has a major problem right now with its sewage system.
“The sewage system is totally overwhelmed everywhere, so right now, the sewage system is pumping raw sewage into the bayous. It’s just going untreated into the bayous, and you see these people in this water,” she said.
Fortunately, the city’s water supply is on higher ground.
“We’re so lucky our water supply is on the high side, so Jacinto City still has water,” Maner said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the water in Jacinto City was starting to recede.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Currently in Jacinto City, there are two churches and a community building housing about 800 people, Maner said.
“There are about eight hundred people there that have no food, so we’re trying to get help for them.”
“The thing that people need to know is that there’s going to be a lot of help coming in, but these people need help now,” Maner said. “There are people in these three little locations that need food.”
Anyone interested in donating to the First Baptist Church in Jacinto City may do so at youcaring.com/hurricaneharveyreliefefforts-917781.
In addition, NPR recently published a list of websites to donate to Harvey victims which can be found at npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/28/546745827/looking-to-help-those-affected-by-harvey-here-s-a-list.
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