Family with local ties watching city devastated by Harvey

By Marlys Good

The incessant sound of rain, day after day and night after night, has become a fact of life for Brad and Terry Nielsen Johnson, their daughter Lexi and son Blake as the family rides out Tropical Storm Harvey in their home in League City, Texas.

Brad works for MI which has its international headquarters in Houston, and they have been conducting business via email and conference calls.

“It’s crazy; I don’t know what to say,” Terry said when contacted by phone Tuesday morning. “We’ve received about 30 inches of rain so far. Dickinson, Texas, that you see on the news, is about two and a half miles south of us. Why that water is not here? We are blessed to live in a great subdivision. The large cement culverts we have is what is keeping the water away. And in this subdivision, we drive up the driveway to get to our house. That has saved us so far, plus the drainage system.”

However, Terry said, “Basically we are trapped in an area with a two-mile radius around us. The rain started Saturday night about 7 o’clock and hasn’t stopped since. We knew it was coming. We worked on Thursday, then were told Friday to stay home; they told us to ‘shelter in place.’ By Friday night all the gas stations were out of gas and markets were without food.

“The local market, about half a mile down the road, opened Monday. We didn’t need supplies, but they said it was a madhouse. People came from all over; all the market had was what was on hand; they couldn’t restock; they can’t get any supplies in.“

Schools were closed last Friday and will remain closed until after Labor Day. League City is also one of the locations under a 10 p.m. curfew.

“The odd thing,” Terry shared, “is instead of hearing cars, you hear the roaring sound of boats. You know what they sound like. People are coming from all over the United States to help; friends and neighbors who have boats take them as far as they can on the road, unload them on the road, which is now a water canal. Sixty to 75 percent of the rescuers are just ordinary people.

“Sunday Lexi and I took some supplies we had to an elementary school about three blocks away from where we live. They were bringing in families from surrounding neighborhoods any way they could, in dump trucks, personal vehicles, the League City Fire Department with their large trucks that look like army trucks. They were even bringing animals. Some of the people had been waiting to be rescued since midnight the night before — in chest-high water. Right now they are rescuing people from second stories.

“Downtown (Houston), the water is up to the top of the interstate signs as well as the overpasses and bridges on the interstate. The stoplights are the only thing sticking up out of the water – that is 18 miles north of us. It is really amazing, and also frightening. We are very blessed to live in this exact location.”

Although the entire country knew Tropical Storm Harvey was moving into Texas, Terry said, “We had no idea of how massive it would be. We didn’t know what it would do when it got inland.

“Right now the main thing we are dealing with is that the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from the reservoir. Basically they have to flood certain areas of homes to save more areas; they were trying to evacuate a lot of those areas yesterday before they released water from the reservoirs.”

According to a release from the Army Corps of Engineers, “The rationale is it is better to start with controlled releases using the outlet structure than to allow uncontrolled releases to go over the edge of the dam. So we have more capability to control the downstream effects.”

So for now, Brad, Terry, Lexi and Blake are confined to their home, whiling away the hours putting puzzles together and playing board games. But Terry admits “We’re all getting a little antsy; but we’re safe right here, even though the water is waist deep in the street at times.”

Terry said, “They predicted we would be on the ‘clean’ side of the storm by Tuesday afternoon, but right now it is still on top of us.”

According to a CNN weather report, Harvey is expected to retreat back to the Gulf of Mexico before heading back toward Houston Wednesday. Even when the rain is gone, dangers will persist. The flooding will be very slow to recede.