Every Storm has a Rainbow

My house flooded.

That’s one of the most common sentences I’ve heard lately as a South Houston native. My story is the same. My house flooded. Hurricane Harvey turned many people’s lives upside down, including my own.

I live right on a creek. It was a beautiful wooded lot, filled with raccoons and owls and snakes. We had a large backyard complete with a pool. It was our own private paradise. There was room to run around with the dog or to kick soccer balls over the fence or to tan in the summer sun. The house was an old two-story home, filled with imperfections and character. There was a door frame tracking the family’s life in inches. There was a smiley face drawn into the texture of the wall. There was memory after memory symbolized by a window or a picture.

Torrents of rain began crashing down Saturday night. We moved the cars up to high ground, just to be safe. At 9:00pm, everything seemed fine. Moving the cars was just a precautionary measure. I went to sleep expecting to wake up and go to church the next day. It would be normal. But, life was far from normal the next morning.

12:45a.m. Dad shook me awake.

“Get up. The creek’s in the backyard. We gotta move things up. Wake up Jamie and come down,” Dad’s whispers were urgent.

Pausing my story real fast, Jamie is a German foreign exchange student that we had picked up from the airport only five hours earlier. Welcome to Texas, right?

I catapulted out of bed and ran to Jamie’s room.

“Wake up. We have to move stuff upstairs. I’m sorry,” I frantically told Jamie.

I ran downstairs and flew out to the backyard. Sure thing, the creek was a fourth of the way up the yard. I went back inside and put Jamie in charge of moving pictures upstairs. Meanwhile, I took the first things I saw. There were boxes of childhood art, wooden chairs, vacuums, and computers. I emptied out cabinets, stacking things on counters. The house had never flooded more than three feet, so that was the mark. Things went on top of counters and tables and above the fireplace. I ran outside again. The water was halfway up the pool.

Frantic, I ran to the front yard. The water was over the mailbox. I looked next door and realized I didn’t hear her dog. All lights were off and her car was still in the driveway. My neighbor wasn’t awake. The next thing I knew, I was pounding on her door, willing a light to turn on. After what felt like an eternity, she finally opened the door.

“What’s going on?” she said groggily.

“Carry, the water is coming. Move the dogs upstairs. Save what you can. I have to go. Stay safe!” and then I sprinted back to the house.

Another hour passed, and we were working as smooth as gears in a clock. I was constantly checking the water. Submerged the pool. Up to the deck. The tree. Inches from the door step…

The power died at 2:30 in the morning. We grabbed an extra set of clothes, our phones, chargers, and the dog. We took one last glance around the house and then we left. We walked through cold, chest-deep water to get to the cars up the street. My mom took her SUV and my dad took his truck with Jamie. My dog and I got into my SUV and followed my parents. We drove to the next neighborhood to stay with our friends. The cars sped through the water-covered streets at a whopping five miles an hour. I prayed and prayed for my car not to stall out and, by some miracle, we made it to our temporary home with all three vehicles.

By 7:00 in the morning, the creek had reached historic levels. Dad estimated there was four to five feet of water in the house.

Days passed before we were able to make it back to the house. It took a few more for the street to be low enough to wade across. It was about a week in total before we walked inside for the first time since this “800-year flood.”

The doors stuck together, swollen with humidity. Glass was shattered all over the porch. Inside, everything was destroyed. Water had reached 4.5 feet inside, crushing the 3 foot mark. The rowing machine floated from the living room to the kitchen. Toiletries were found in the kitchen and the bedrooms. The washer was flipped. A mirror fell off the wall. Board games were destroyed. Vinyl records littered the floors. Layers of mud coated the floors.

It was awful. The house I’d grown up in was in shambles. My childhood home was destroyed. I’d lived in that house for almost seventeen years. Ghosts of giggles and tears, hugs and games,  and movies and meals haunted me at every turn.

The days that followed were a blur of the same. Toys were thrown in trash bags. Dry wall and insulation was stripped. Salvageable items were carefully dried and placed in boxes. The smell of water and mold gained strength as the small hill of garbage in the yard turned into a mountain.  People flowed in and out. Current friends and those from years past siphoned through, bearing hammers, money, food, or hugs.

Soon, the job was done and we were moving into a rent house three doors down from our storm shelter. Bleach was in hot demand as we cleaned and washed. Boxes were slowly emptied and things found a place in our temporary home. We made ourselves a new normal.

Why recount these painful events? We’re one of hundreds of thousands of similar stories. What’s the use in sharing this story when people are just trying to move on?

Have you ever felt the crushing feeling of loneliness? It presses down on your chest, leaving you tired and exhausted. Many of you may not believe it, but that’s been a huge struggle of mine. I’m the nice girl. I’m everyone’s friend. I always have a smile to share. But, all the same, it doesn’t always feel that way. My closest friends go to different schools, limiting our time to texts and the occasional Friday and Sunday.

Harvey taught me that I have incredible friends, despite when it feels like I’m on my own. Not only did they help tear my home apart, they started a fundraiser. They sold shirts, jewelry, clothes, and opened a GoFundMe. Surprising my family and I, they revealed to us that they had raised almost five thousand dollars to go towards our recovery.

I had no idea what my friends had been planning. They loved my family and I unconditionally, doing whatever they could to help.

If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope it is this. During periods of dark, when you think no one is there, I promise you someone is. They may not vocalize it all of the time. They may not raise you five thousand dollars. But, someone is there. Sometimes, you just have to turn around and look. Those near and far are waiting for you. Whether you need to laugh for twenty minutes or hug while you cry, someone is there. You’re never alone.

 

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14 thoughts on “Every Storm has a Rainbow

  1. Jenny holcomb

    Beautifully written. I am Rick Jarosz ‘s oldest daughter in Chicago.
    My husband and I have followed your story and gave what we could. Please know that we haven’t stopped thinking about you.
    Family is always first even if you are states away and couldn’t pick me out of a line up. We are here when you need us.

    Like

  2. Jess Krueger

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’m not going to pretend that my eyes were dry while reading it. I’m so sorry for all that you lost but so happy for what you’ve gained. Mike and I are thinking and praying for you all daily. ❤️

    Like

  3. kyates68

    Chloe, I am your mom’s cousin. I was so heartbroken to read and see how much devastation has happened to you, your family and so many in and around Houston. I also donated to your friends fund to somehow try to help in a small way. I have been praying for all of you during this time. As difficult as it probably was for you to write this blog, it is well written and conveys what all of you have experienced.
    My thoughts and prayers are continually with all of you!
    Love, Karen Yates

    Like

  4. Phyllis Martin

    Chloe, I’m not connected to your family at all except through similar circumstances. Our God is a good and gracious God. He has help me, as he did you, to see that those casual friends and fellow church members and people you’ve never met are His angels. He is using them to show us how much we are loved. The rainbow is glorious, isn’t it?

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  5. Reblogged this on Michelle Andrea Williams and commented:
    Chloe Yelovich is a junior at Clear Brook High School and part of Kingdom Student Ministry at Friendswood United Methodist Church in Friendswood, TX. Read her story of the night her house flooded during Hurricane Harvey….”If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope it is this. During periods of dark, when you think no one is there, I promise you someone is. “

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  6. Suzanne Pilsner

    Chloe, such beautiful words! (So not surprised by your writing talents!) Thank you for sharing your story and your feelings. I’m so sorry you and your family are going through the struggle but I’m happy to know that you and your family are safe and finding your way to a new normal. Keep your spirits strong!

    Like

  7. Lisa Frase

    Chloe, this is so beautifully written! You’re truly talented. I am so sorry that you’re going through this but I am glad that you’re safe. Stay strong! Mrs. Frase

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  8. Hi Chloe- My mom, Mary Alison Prihoda, saw this post of FB. She replied to it, meaning to reply to you, but I don’t think you were able to see it. I thought you’d find it interesting so wanted to share it with you.

    “I knew this house looked very familiar to me although the house had a different exterior than I remembered. We built this house in 1975 after finding this beautiful wooded lot bordering the creek but out of the 100 year flood plain. It was the most beautiful back yard full of trees, flowers and every kind of bird. During our stay this little house rocked with shouts of the laughter from young children and was the gathering place of the neighborhood. In July 1979 we went to the YMCA camp as we did every summer in Estes Park, Colorado. There we were incommunicado- without TV and radio for a full week! Mountains, lakes, children – what could be more perfect? Then came the day we returned to a note on the our cabin door. “Your house in Friendswood has been flooded.” We jumped in the car, drove 24 hours straight with our 3 year old and 5 year old in tow to find the three feet of water that had been in our in our “forever house.” We were heart broken! Then we found much the same thing you did. We kept telling ourselves it was “just stuff” as we found treasured baby books and washed out photos. We endured sifting through hundreds of drenched memories, molded and smelly. We remember the months of sleeping on mattresses on the floor next to our kids with no walls. The smell of mildew, Clorox and Lysol never leaves you. But the silver lining was always there. Friends and neighbors came from every where offering food, offering to do our laundry and inviting us over to eat. Two neighborhood teenage boys even swam across a raging river of a street to save our artwork. It made us stronger to know how many cared . The 500 year flood was not supposed to happen and definitely not the 800 year flood! I’m so sorry you went through this too, but I’m so glad you too found the rainbow at the end of the storm! God bless you all!”

    A note from me…it was interesting to read your post as well. I lived in this house until I was 10 years old. Your story was beautifully written. Blessings as you all rebuild your life. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Nichole Toalson

    Wow. This is as amazing as you are Chloe! I still have your inspirational quotes you wrote on my cabinet doors in the classroom!

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  10. Gwen Pauloski

    Thank you so much, Chloe. In your very personal, poignant recounting, you managed to tell a shared story that resonates and helps heal all of us who suffered. I have wrestled with grief and even moments of despair. I know He holds us all and is straightening the path to recovery. I pray every good thing for you.

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  11. Singzprayz

    It was like reading the exact thing me and my family experienced and are now seeing in our family, church, friends, work . Even community. We will rebuild and be stronger. In many ways 🙏🏻❤️

    Like

  12. Gayle

    Your story was so touching! It even helped me because my son commited suicide! God bless you in living such a positive life! Wish I could meet you! I live in va.

    Like

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