'EVERYTHING IS GONE': AMERICANS RETURN TO THEIR FLOODED HOMES...

 

Gideon Mendel photographs the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, while Oliver Laughland meets those whose lives have been upturned

Dave Eggers: ‘As the hurricane bore down, Trump tweeted his excitement’

Terrence Mckeen, 30, mechanic, Black Creek, Florida, with his mother, Gloria Mckeen, 68

Terrence Mckeen and his mother, Gloria. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

The water surged to over 28ft, completely covering our one-storey house, the home that I grew up in. There’s no way to describe the pain I felt when we returned. My mom and I just burst into tears. Everything was gone.

Climate change played a big part in this. The only time it isn’t 100 degrees round here is winter time. Donald Trump is wrong to dismiss global warming, but there is nothing he could do that would stop me from voting for him again. He’s just trying to put our country back in order, and he cares about families. Look at how he’s helped the people in Texas already.

I’m most upset about losing my ceramic eagles. They were beautiful and given to me by members of my family

I’m most upset about losing my ceramic eagles. They were beautiful and given to me by members of my family.

We’ve never been able to afford flood insurance. The last floods came up 4ft into our house. That time, we were able to rebuild. I don’t think it will be possible this time. But we will never be homeless. My family is here for me, and so are my friends. People close to us have our backs.

Torrey Mosvold, 59, senior vice-president at Scandrill, an oil and gas land drilling company, Houston

Torrey Mosvold. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

I built my house here in 2014, and it is elevated above most properties along the bayou. We saw others below us get flooded over the weekend, but thought we’d escape.

When the local authorities opened the dams on Monday, it started pouring in, first from the front door and then the back. It flooded over 2ft.

My wife has been unable to return to the house; it’s all too much for her. But we decided we are going to rebuild here. I don’t think it will happen again. This was a once-in-a-lifetime storm.

Oil and gas is our livelihood here. I know we have to take care of our environment, but I also wonder whether our climate goes round in cycles over history, from cooling to heating. What we lived through wasn’t exacerbated by global warming.

I was pleased to see that Trump came and witnessed this for himself. I voted for him, because I like his experience in business and wanted a conservative on the supreme court. But leaving the Paris climate agreement was too hasty. Will I vote for him again? I don’t think so.

Jesse Sparks (right), 27, pastor, San Marco, Jacksonville, Florida, pictured with Torin Herndon

Jesse Sparks (right), with Torrin Herndon. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

I believe it was the Bible fulfilling itself. We are told the end of days will involve fire, war and floods, and this could be the start.

I lost everything. The water got halfway up the walls in my ground-floor apartment. I fled upstairs to my neighbours and haven’t been able to return downstairs yet. I managed to rescue only my dog and some clothes.

My church was almost completely destroyed. Our bibles were damaged, the food we hand out to the homeless was ruined. We opened only four months ago and I have no insurance for the church or my apartment.

It hurts to see it all. I have never experienced losing everything, but I have ministered to people who have. It’s been eye-opening to be on the other side of it.

Larry Bates, 51, oil and gas CEO, Houston, pictured with wife Andrea Bates, homemaker, 50

We got 2ft of water inside the house. But it’s been incredible the amount of help we’ve had from volunteers in the community, the church, the school. We couldn’t have started to rebuild without them.

Yes, climate change happens, but I think the human impacts are small. Climate change has always been with us.

Andrea Herrera, 19, joint owner Vino’s pizza, San Marco, Jacksonville, Florid

Andrea Herrera. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

There was 3ft of water inside my family’s new restaurant. It looked like a tornado had hit inside. The refrigerators were tossed around the floor, and the ovens ruined.

We sold our home in Miami, dropped everything, and moved to Jacksonville three months ago to open our business. I left college to help my parents, because they don’t speak English. We didn’t take out flood insurance because we weren’t told we were at risk.

As I looked at the damage inside, after Irma passed, I thought: “Oh god, what are we going to do now?”

Later on, I felt a deep sense of anger: I had to lose everything, because we are not taking care of our planet. I had never wanted to take action against climate change before it destroyed my family business. It bothers me that Donald Trump puts big business above the environment. I feel like he doesn’t care, and he knows that it won’t be his responsibility further down the line. But this is my future.

I was born in Cuba, but my mother and I are US citizens. My father lives here on a visa and recently applied for permanent residency. The business was part of his application. It symbolised our American dream. Now we have no idea whether we’ll be able to save it.

Levi John Thomas, 24, cook, Jacksonville, Florida, pictured with girlfriend Anna Topolski, 24

Levi Thomas and Anna Topolski. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

We tried to sleep through the hurricane, but you could hear it pounding the windows. We thought they’d smash. When it was over, our house was surrounded by water.

It’s such a surreal situation to be in. It sucks, seeing your friends going through this. Some of them have had everything destroyed.

Joe Eberle, 70, retired accountant, Houston, pictured with his wife Mary Eberle, 69, retired educator and librarian

Joe and Mary Eberle. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

It happened gradually for us. The floods came into the house on Sunday evening, and then receded. But the rains persisted into Monday, and water started coming in through the weep holes in our brick walls. When they opened the floodgates, we got 2ft of water inside.

We have lived in this area for 43 years and never experienced flooding. For over 100 years, we’ve had these storms – that’s just a fact of life living on the Gulf – but the rainfall this time was different: more than 40 inches in just a few days.

But I don’t believe in climate change. The climate is always changing, and there are other forces at play other than mankind and carbon emissions.

Trump’s got more done than Obama did in eight years. The fact he’s donating $1m of his money shows how generous he is

We’re big supporters of Trump and like the way he’s handling the federal support for hurricane victims here. He’s a humanistic and thoughtful president. He’s got more done than Obama did in eight years. The fact he’s donating $1m of his own money to help shows how generous he is.

Here in Texas, we have a can-do attitude you won’t find in other states. You don’t sit around and say, “Woe is me.” We’re independent thinkers. We’re the type of state that isn’t looking for government reliance.

We’re rebuilding our home right now, and our flood insurance should cover it all. Why would we walk away from such a desirable neighbourhood?

David Lim, 45, managing director at Exmar, an offshore oil and gas company, Houston

David Lim. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

As the water poured in, I tried to sweep it away. It might sound crazy, but it was all so chaotic, such a blur. I remembered my childhood in the Philippines: when the monsoons came, my grandparents and I would pick up brooms and sweep the rain out of the house. But this was different. The water kept coming. It had crept up to the powerpoints by the time I realised it was too dangerous and we needed to abandon our home.

It was 7am on Saturday. I’d been up all night, watching the weather on TV. You grab the essentials first: batteries, food, water and torches. But by this point, the water was so deep, so dark, I couldn’t see what I was trying to salvage.

I keep my photo albums in the garage, the only record of my family’s migration from Manila to Canada when I was five, and half of them were completely destroyed. Before we evacuated, I moved my mother’s books – old Filipino encyclopedias and housekeeping guides – to high shelves where I thought they’d stay dry, but when I returned to the house 48 hours later, they were destroyed as well.

The water rose to almost 5ft after the dams opened. When the flooding first began, I thought I was still in control. But by this point, as raw sewage flowed into the house from the reservoir, I just thought: “What’s the point?”

My wife, two children [aged 12 and 9] and I are now living in a rented, unfurnished apartment in the city. We’ve leased it out for a year, because I know we won’t be returning home any time in the near future. We managed to rescue two beds and a sofa from upstairs. I bundled three bin liners of clothing into the car on my first visit back. Now, we’re focused on getting the kids ready for school, to restore some continuity to their lives.

Jonathan Lollar (right), 23, oil and gas refineries labourer, Deweyville, Texas, with friends (from left) Chase Phillips, Dustin Braquet and Darren Bland

Jonathan Lollar with Chase Phillips, Dustin Braquet and Darren Bland. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

We had only just rebuilt. In March last year, flooding here destroyed my house and we had to bulldoze it to the ground.

We built on top of the rubble and elevated the new house over 7ft higher. We were promised that it would never happen again in our lifetime. But I was convinced we’d lose it all again after Harvey. This time, I just felt numb.

It crippled me last time. I lost everything, from my trucks to the cutlery in my drawers. I had no insurance and lost my job because I couldn’t drive to work. It was tough to provide for my wife and two-year-old, but my family always helped us.

We left the new house before the flooding got really bad this time. My wife bawled as she left. “I can’t believe this is happening again,” she said. I just hugged her and said we’d get through it. We slung together some groceries and some clothes for my son. I picked up my two rifles, and abandoned the home.

Later, I went out on a boat and helped other people evacuate. As I jumped out to rescue people, my wedding ring fell off in the flood. My father spent three days dragging a magnet around the floor until he found it.

When we returned to our home, the water had crept up to just below the bottom. It will cost us around $4,000 (£3,000) in damages, but the house was saved.

I put out a call on Facebook to ask for help with the rescues, and Darren, Justin and Chase turned up. The last time I saw Chase was three years ago in a fistfight we had. I was astounded to see him there, but I guess this was all about growing up.

I’ve managed to keep hold of my new job this time, but have been spending time helping my mother-in-law demolish her house. It’s the second time for her in two years.

Lois Hochhauser, 58, small business owner (selling leather hides), pictured with husband Greg Hochhauser, 57, Houston.

Lois and Greg Hochhauser. Photograph: Gideon Mendel

I grew up in Houston and hurricanes are a way of life here – Camille, Alicia, Allison, Ike, Katrina – but they didn’t hit us like Harvey.

We realised we needed to get out after 7am, the morning of my birthday. I stuffed my cellphone and my driver’s licence into my bra, picked up our cat and left everything else behind. We waded towards Greg’s car, which he’d parked on higher ground. He carried our dog on his shoulders. My mouth was so dry that my lips stuck to my teeth. I couldn’t talk. I was terrified.

By the time we returned a few days later, the water had risen to 6ft. It felt oddly comforting; it was still, quiet. But, as it receded, it revealed a war zone. The leather furniture was covered in mould. I lost the DVD of my mother’s funeral last year. Our beautiful home of 15 years stank like a septic tank.

No matter what we do next, we’re going to have a much simpler life, with fewer material things

No matter what we do going forward, we’re going to have a much simpler life, with fewer material things. I’m scared of having to do this all again and I realise now how quickly it can all get swept away.

I grew up in a family of scientists and engineers and I hate that science has become politicised. I think the climate is changing, but I don’t really know if we’re causing a whole lot of global warming. The earth is a living, breathing thing. It changes. And we’re not ready to quit selling leather because our cows are farting.

It doesn’t bother us that Trump denies climate change. We voted for him. Politics shouldn’t be brought into this. Most people are decent at heart, and when something like this happens, we come together.

Saturday 23 September 2017

source: https://www.theguardian.com/us

original story HERE

 

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