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Hurricane Harvey: A First Person Account

Hurricane Harvey: A First Person Account

And how you can help.


A friend of mine asked me to describe what is happening in our city of Houston right now, so that people could understand the impact of Hurricane Harvey. To help me give others perspective, she sent me a link to an article that described the 9 trillion gallons of water that fell across Houston and Southeast Texas as “four miles square and two miles tall” if it were to be collected in a container.

A more accurate and terrifying description of what we are experiencing is the reality of people you know coming so close to drowning in their own homes, making the news as a rescue story and grasping how poorly it could have ended. Seeing so many people lose their homes, their cars, and all their possessions from a relentless barrage of water that almost took their lives.


The Texas Medical Center in Houston, the largest in the world, battered by the hurricane and some hospitals were forced to evacuate. MD Anderson Hospital, a leader in cancer care with patients from all over the world, was flooded with three feet of water and forced to close outpatient care and postpone surgeries. Roads turned into rivers, the airports closed, and the city largely shut down and is inaccessible.

My husband Ranaan on his raft helping people.

Houston is no stranger to flash floods and hurricanes. Experience has taught us a few things and we tried to plan with the knowledge we had to act quickly. Even so, we couldn’t have imagined what was in store. In the Fondren Northfield area where the streets were flooded, my husband Ranaan used a raft Sunday to bring people who were stranded at friends Saturday night when the storm hit back to their homes. He delivered medication and food to people without power.

In Meyerland, where the flooding was more devastating, boats were utilized for lifesaving rescues. People had more than five feet of water inside their homes. At United Orthodox Synagogues, the same volunteer recovery team led by Jenelle Garner after the Memorial Day flood, joined forces again before Harvey hit, only to be challenged like never before. Her teenage sons, Yari and Akiva, and a friend Noah, rescued many people yesterday in an inflatable boat. Garner stated that they stopped counting how many people they rescued after the first 15, and continued to rescue people on airboats past midnight. Even though the veterans of previous floods of this area built raised homes to prevent future flooding, they too were severely flooded and needed to be rescued along with families who had taken shelter with them. Robert M. Beren Academy, the local day school, has been acting as a shelter for these families who have been displaced.

United Orthodox Synagogue

Hurricane Harvey turned into a tropical storm after making landfall. Its danger is in its slow course. It continues to deposit large amounts of rain, with no signs of moving on. As I write this almost 48 hours after the storm started, my phone is still alerting me to flash floods in my neighborhood. In addition to the massive amount of water accumulating with nowhere to drain, several tornadoes have passed through different areas around Houston adding to the danger. As the rain comes and goes, thousands are without power and clean water and are experiencing sewage backups which present complications and very unpleasant conditions.

During this disaster we rely on the news to stay informed, but even they were affected. The local TV news station’s studio flooded out and they evacuated on live TV. Watching the news and seeing the city completely transform under a coat of water is a helpless feeling. Watching the Red Cross and Coast Guard make rescues from helicopters and boats, and hearing that more rain is yet to come is really hard. But seeing the response, and generosity of others, individuals and large institutions, offering assistance to those in need gives us hope. Shelters have been set up, trucks with food and equipment have been delivered, neighbors and strangers are coming out and literally pulling people out of the water and getting them somewhere safe.

Jenelle Eisenstein Garner of UOS neighborhood; Yari, and Akiva Garner and a friend Noah on their way to do another rescue. We stopped counting at 15

As the city and community will come to terms with the measure of loss and the daunting task of cleaning up and rebuilding, we know that we will support each other and get through it together. We also know that we cannot do it without help from outside of Houston, and we are hopeful that people who are far away and not impacted will understand how much we need their help.

You can help by donating through one of these links:

Jewish Federation of Houston;jsessionid=00000000.app358a?df_id=3860&mfc_pref=T&3860.donation=form1

Jewish Federation Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

Chabad Lubavitch Center Texas Regional Headquarters

The OU disaster relief fund for Houston

the Houston JCC completely submerged

Coachwood Dr of Young Israel community

Brad Dennen of Meyerland: My front yard, notice the Blackhawk helicopter in the background

TORCH Centre flooded


Home of Rabbi and Mrs. Avraham Yaghobian. Rav of Torah Vachesed

home of Laura Mitzner Paletz. UOS neighborhood

August 28, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) tova weinberg, September 5, 2017 6:41 PM

Our hearts and prayers are with you.

We are praying for your safety. We lived in Houston for a year as shlichim. We now invite you to come live in Israel when things settle down for you. Begin a new life in our Home Land. Sending love and support. Tova and Gavriel Weinberg of Beit Shemesh. HaGefen Realty. Your Search Ends Here.

(2) Jorge, September 2, 2017 12:28 AM

Prayers for Wisdom

Please pray that our government leaders be galvanized into effecting change further mitigating damages from these types of disasters. Our city of Houston has experienced significant flooding events in recent years, and consequently significant damages have resulted from these events. If anything, recent history is indicating these types of events may become more frequent in the future. As such, our community can benefit from building designs strategically addressing possible flood impacts.

(1) cee, August 29, 2017 11:05 PM

Prayers with You

Hi Henny, the thoughts and prayers of all Jews are with you. Just a correction, the picture of the home with water up to the roof is not the Mitzner home, it's the Pollak sister's home. Picture taken by Mitzner son in law.

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