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Texan Family Hopeful While Waiting Out Hurricane Harvey

Texas family looks for some positive amidst destructive Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey devastated Central Texas this August.  The category four hurricane has displaced more than 32,000 people and killed 44 people.  The unprecedented rainfall that pounded Texas leaves many without knowledge of when they can return home.

“I rescued this man standing in waist deep water with a kid on his shoulders, both of them crying. We then got an 84-year-old lady out who had been standing in water since 11 o’clock the night before,” Steve Clayton said to NBC News of his rescue efforts.

Harvey is now the largest rain event in continental U.S. history and is still continuing.  Reaching more than 50 inches, it falls short of the Hawaiian record of 52 inches in 1950 – a record set before Hawaii gained statehood.

Our levee district is well run and equipped, so initially we didn’t plan on leaving,” Fort Bend County resident T.J. Liebowitz said.  “[My family and I] looked at the projections for the Brazos River and saw that it would crest at 59 feet. At that point we started feeling uncomfortable and chose to leave.”

A Houston native, and colloquially referred to as Tex, Liebowitz knows how massive amounts of rain can affect his hometown.

“Houston’s a physically massive city – you can drive for over an hour at a time in one direction and still be within city limits – and this goes all the way down the coast to Corpus over into parts of Louisiana. Even with the rain stopping, there’s nowhere for the water to really go.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended the hotel occupancy tax for 14 days, something Liebowitz and his family were relieved to have during Harvey’s disaster.  Liebowitz, along with his mother, father, sister, and two dogs found refuge in a San Antonio, Texas hotel.

Some Harvey survivors weren’t as lucky to find hotels willing to take in animals, despite the dire need for refuge.

T.J. Liebowitz sits with his two dogs, Bogie and Hunter, while waiting out Hurricane Harvey.

T.J. Liebowitz sits with his two dogs, Bogie and Hunter, waiting out Hurricane Harvey.

When Liebowitz left for San Antonio, Fort Bend County was in a voluntary evacuation.  Days later, it escalated to a mandatory evacuation and has since been reversed.

Using social media, Fort Bend County has been giving updates on evacuations, the Brazos River, and relief efforts.

“Social media has been great because you can keep up with everything from local citizens to local news while out of market,” Liebowitz said, but noted that calling neighbors, vigilantly watching the National News Service, and just plain patience to wait out the storm is how everyone is managing the disaster.

Relief efforts have been pouring in from the U.S. and other countries.  Celebrities, like Tyler Perry, Beyoncé, and J.J. Watt, are fundraising or donating to relief efforts, while non-American entities like Mexico and the European Union offer resources.

Relief and rescues haven’t been only through the federal government or other countries.  Locals and organizations from other states have been providing Texans with much needed help.

“The rescue efforts have been nothing short of impressive. A group called the Cajun Navy came in from Louisiana – that’s literally a grassroots group of people with boats who drove down I-10 because they wanted to help,” Liebowitz said.  “I’m seeing friends on social media sharing every last friend of a cousin trapped on a roof. Every good ol’ boy with a pick-up truck is getting their friends to higher ground.”

Liebowitz doesn’t know what he will find when he goes home, or when that will be.

“You start thinking about people and places you haven’t thought of in ages: ex-girlfriends you never got over, estranged relatives you still don’t want to talk to, co-workers from two or three jobs ago. Bars you stopped drinking at.  You think about those people and places. You hope they’re okay, and if they’re not – unless the absolute worst has happened – that so many other people are thinking of them and want to help.”

If you want to donate to the relief efforts, here’s a list of places to consider: American Red Cross (you can also text HARVEY to 90999 and donate $10), the Salvation Army (you can text STORM to 51555), the Humane Society, UnitedWay of Greater Houston, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, as well as many others.

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