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The Octagon

SCDS community members struggle with Hurricane Harvey; former headmaster’s uncle works with Cajun Navy

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(Photo used by permission of Paula Repsher)
Cars underwater with their headlights still shining in the floods of Hurricane Harvey.

There were over one million evacuations, 19 trillion gallons of rain and 42,399 people in shelters as of Sept. 1, according to ABC News and the Washington Post.

These are the results of Hurricane Harvey, the storm that grew into a Category 4 hurricane as it hit Texas on Aug. 25.

Over 185,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed by Harvey as of Sept. 1, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

“The reason people lost their houses in Houston is because they built the houses on flood plains,” former headmaster Stephen Repsher said.

“The problem with Houston is that they had not really put up the same level of levees that Sacramento has. Part of the reason is because Houston is so big, and as a result of the size, it makes it difficult to protect all those houses and overlying areas.”

Because he lives in Dallas, Repsher himself was not impacted by Harvey. However, his wife’s uncle, Jerry, whom Repsher has known for decades, was.

“(He and his wife) had a lot of water around their house,” Repsher said. “They didn’t get flooded, but they (were) cut off from getting to the grocery market, getting gasoline, and things like that.”

Many others were in similar situations, such as English teacher Jason Hinojosa’s sister, Jessica. Living in Houston, Jessica is a geologist who works for Shell.

“My sister is stuck right now,” Hinojosa said. “A few days ago she tried to evacuate.

“She got her little cats (Leo and Luna). put them in the car, and drove north (because) a lot of my family lives in Dallas.

“(On the freeway she saw) an 18-wheeler doing a U-turn across the freeway median, basically saying the highway is flooded. She didn’t see it, but based on the fact that everyone was turning around, she said, ‘I have to turn around.’

(Photo used by permission of Paula Repsher)
“We had to wait in line for gas due to the shortage caused by the storm,” said Paula Repsher, wife of former headmaster Stephen Repsher.

Hinojosa said that Jessica had to put herself in danger when she drove back into Houston.

“When you’re driving through a flood, one of the rules is you don’t ever drive through water where you can’t see the bottom,” Hinojosa said. “She had to do that a few times. It was like, ‘I hope my car doesn’t float away; I hope I don’t die.’” 

Jessica was stuck in Houston, Hinojosa said. A few restaurants were open, but her workplace was closed. He also said that some of her colleagues’ houses were destroyed.

Because of its higher elevation, Jessica’s apartment wasn’t damaged.

Mary Anne Whitney (parent of Richard, ’12, and former students Margaret and Jack) also did not suffer property damage. The family moved to The Woodlands, which is 30 miles north of Houston, in 2012.

“We did not have any flooding in our house, we never lost power, we never lost water, but in our area people were flooded,” Whitney said.

“We did get about 25 inches of rain, and we certainly felt the effects of the hurricane. But The Woodlands fared better than downtown Houston.

“We don’t have as much impact from the creeks and bayous that run through Houston. (We have) better drainage up here.”

However, Whitney said that some of her town was severely affected.

(Photo used by permission of Repsher)
Former headmaster Stephen Repsher’s Uncle Jerry (not pictured) helped the Cajun Navy assist victims of Hurricane Harvey.

“It was really how close you were to the different creeks that run through The Woodlands that determined how badly (you) were impacted, “ Whitney said.

“We have good friends who live about a mile from us who had about a foot of water in their house. The whole group of friends went to help them tear out the carpeting and cut out the wall boards. The damage happens pretty quickly, so you try to get in quickly. We took bedding and clothing and things to get them out of the house and  to wash them.”

Whitney said she and her friends brought food for those who helped out, and that there was a vast amount of support.

Whitney said that her company, Waste Connections, has also been greatly impacted.

“We have a number of front-line employees who live in Houston, and over 200 of them were displaced from their homes,” Whitney said.

Waste Connections CFO Worthing Jackman (parent of Cabot, ‘11, and former students Cooper and Kelsey) also moved to The Woodlands in 2012.

Waste Connections has provided housing for displaced employees, Jackman said.

Additionally, an employee relief fund that gives money directly to impacted employees for necessities such as food, housing and clothing was set up on Aug. 30, according to Jackman and Whitney. When other employees donate to the relief fund, Waste Connections matches their donation, Whitney said. About $195,000, including the company’s matches, had been donated as of Aug. 31, according to Whitney.

“There’s been a real outpour of support from around the country,” Whitney said. “I think all of us who live this close but got through it unscathed feel a sense of wanting to do something.”

Hinojosa agreed.

“I’m very grateful that my family happens to be OK,” Hinojosa said. “But it’s almost like, why us? Why do we get to not have to suffer and other people have to go through it?”

(Photo used by permission of Repsher)
Former headmaster Stephen Repsher’s Uncle Jerry had just tossed a marshmallow to this alligator that came into his yard seeking higher ground following Hurricane Harvey.

Repsher said he and most of his neighbors have donated.

He added that Louisianans were sympathetic and willing to help because of the flooding as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Through the Cajun Navy, a volunteer-based organization started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, thousands of stranded people have been saved, according to USA Today.

His wife’s Uncle Jerry has been using his boat to assist the Cajun Navy in rescuing Texans.

But what did Uncle Jerry do when he was housebound?

“(He) was getting a little bored because they’d been locked in their house for days,” Repsher said.

“Because of the rising floodwaters around the area, the alligators had come out. He was tossing giant marshmallows at them so it would give them something to do,” Repsher said, laughing.

“It was just for fun. It was like feeding the ducks.”

By Larkin Barnard-Bahn

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