‘It was like an ocean’




Rain from Hurricane Harvey flooded the streets of Houston shutting down communities and businesses and dislocating thousands of families, including those of UTD students.

Hurricane Harvey broke records as one of the most devastating natural disasters, according to the Harris County Flood Control District. As of Aug. 28, 30,000 people need shelter and 450,000 might relocate because of the hurricane, FEMA Director Brock Long said at a press conference.

The storm brought significant damage to several Houston-area homes, including that of speech language pathology sophomore Bella Goldvarg. When she first heard about the flood, Goldvarg said she was concerned about her family. However, her mother didn’t tell her all the information in an effort to keep Goldvarg from worrying.

“I am a very big pessimist, so the first thing I thought of was, ‘Oh my God I am four hours away from my family right now, what if something, God forbid, happens?’” Goldvarg said. “My mom was just really trying to sugarcoat everything, and I was like, ‘What do you mean? Is it that bad?’”

The floods created electrical outages throughout the city, putting Goldvarg’s grandfather at risk, as he depends on electricity for life support.

“We need to get to him,” Goldvarg said. “I have Russian grandparents and they are extremely stubborn and do not want to leave their house. Somehow, we are going to have to get my grandfather, his nine-month-old pup and two cats and my grandmother, who is also very sick at the moment, to go to my house to get oxygen. That’s the main thing I am worried about.”

Vandhana Victor, a neuroscience senior, said she felt devastated seeing her childhood home flooded.

“I felt a loss,” Victor said. “I didn’t want to focus on some of those emotions but I know that the house will never be the same again. It is weird because I was just there ten days ago and now I know that, what was there is not there anymore. You feel like that was taken away from you.”

Harvey took Victor by surprise, as she never thought the hurricane would hit near her family.

“Thinking about how far Houston and where I live, Katy, (is) I thought that there was no way that this destruction could reach there,” Victor said. “After Friday, moving into Saturday, I started to get more worried because at this point my mom couldn’t go home and the area around her was flooded. She said that when she looked at the window, it was like an ocean surrounding her.”

Victor’s mother, a manager at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston, stayed until she could find a replacement. While she was stuck inside the hospital, Victor’s father stayed at their house even though their neighbors had already evacuated.

“My dad was still there, he thought that he could just brave it out,” Victor said. “Once my neighbors left I felt like he should leave because … if something bad happened to him there would be no one that I could contact or check in on him. But later that evening, because of that reservoir problem over there, they did a mandatory evacuation.”

Due to the mandatory evacuation, Victor’s father eventually had to leave his home. Because her father had sealed the door to prevent water from coming in, the police were unable to open the door, forcing them to break it down, subsequently flooding the house.

Despite the damage to her house, Victor said her main concern was her father’s well-being.

“I was scared, not because of the furniture, I was scared because my dad was alone,” Victor said. “He had to deal with this. To be honest, I didn’t really care much about the house at that point, I just wanted him to be in a safe place.”

Alumnus Joseph Mancuso, Texas Army National Guard reservist, is with his unit in south Texas providing aid and rescue to people affected by the hurricane.

“It’s the first natural disaster I have been called to respond to,” Mancuso said. “As a Texas Army National Guard unit, we work two jobs as both citizens and soldiers. Soldiers had to find people to look after their kids and families, readied their equipment and prepared to set out. We don’t know when we’ll be coming home, but we are ready to help whoever we can.”

Mancuso received the phone call about Harvey and had to take a few weeks off from work in order to help.

“It wasn’t romantic, it was just sudden. But the exciting thing is that you get to do your job and get to help people,” Mancuso said. “But at the same time, you are scared because you don’t know how bad it is going to get for these people.”

Hurricane Harvey hit Manvel, Texas, where Mancuso lives.

“I got to be honest, the drive down here was pretty emotional,” he said. “I drove past my high school, my junior high. I saw my house, my friend’s house’s was underwater, it really hits home when the people you are helping really are your neighbors, your friends, your family.”

For Vandhana Victor, the hope of rebuilding is still strong.

“I hope that they will take it step by step, because it is going to be hard to move on from this; nobody prepared for it,” she said. “Just stay positive and rebuild everything together.”




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