As the continuing effects of Hurricane Harvey played out Sunday in Texas, a Wichita woman hoped for the best for her sister, who was trapped in her home in Houston.
Leslie Kirkman said she and other family members were “freaking out” for her sister, Jennifer Kirkman, who was trapped with her fiance and her dog in her townhouse.
Since late last week, the storm had dumped more than 2 feet of rain in the Houston area, according to the National Weather Service. Before the storm tapers off, the weather service predicts it could pummel some places in Texas with as much as 50 inches of rain.
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Just before 11 a.m. on Sunday, the weather service said in a Tweet that the storm was unprecedented and that its impacts are “unknown and beyond anything experienced.”
At about 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jennifer Kirkman, 41, said “We’re surrounded by water. We don’t have water in the house yet, but that could change. We prepared a lot for the storm, but we didn’t think it would be this bad. None of us thought it would be. We’re not prepared if it lasts longer than the next couple of days.”
We’re surrounded by water.
Jennifer Kirkman, Houston resident originally from Kansas
As of early Sunday afternoon, Jennifer, who is from Great Bend, said she still had power, though her friend who lives a few blocks away did not.
“It’s a little scary,” she said. “I’ve been telling my family half-jokingly that if they see me on my rooftop, send a helicopter. I was joking at first, but now I see that’s actually happening in some places.”
Helicopters, boats and high-water vehicles swarmed around inundated Houston neighborhoods on Sunday, pulling people from their homes or from the turbid water, which was high enough in some places to gush into second floors.
The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said the government expected to conduct a “mass care mission” and predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.
Shortly before 5 p.m., Kirkman said the rain had subsided.
“But another storm is coming and we are just bracing ourselves for what is to come. We still can’t leave. The governor and mayor has said nobody needs to leave their home. We are locked in our home.”
There have been dozens of tornado warnings issued in the Houston area since the hurricane hit.
“I never understood the tornado drills we had at school in Kansas, the ones where you put your heads between your knees. Here, we don’t have basements. (My fiancee) asked what do we do? I told him we’d go into the closet, grab some cushions on the couch and do what we did in elementary school.
“Everything is changing all the time,” she said, and the water “is slowly climbing.”
Their plan is to stay in the townhome and gradually climb higher, as needed.
“We don’t have a plan,” she said. “We don’t have kids or elderly people. 911 is overloaded they are not able to take in all the calls. For me to call 911 may not be an option.”
Kansas assistance groups
As of Sunday afternoon, Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the regional Red Cross office for south-central Kansas, said 23 volunteers from Kansas were either in the Houston area or on their way to help in the relief and recovery effort. Ten of those were from Wichita, she said.
“This will have a large-scale, devastating impact,” Sanders said. “The Red Cross will have about 1,500 volunteers and staff by mid-week and could have a workforce of several thousand volunteers and staff in Texas by the end of the week.”
This will have a large-scale, devastating impact.
Jennifer Sanders, Red Cross
Sanders said Red Cross trucks had left for Texas from Garden City, Hays and Topeka and that a fourth truck was scheduled to leave Wichita on Monday.
Craig Davis of The Salvation Army in Wichita said donations for those in need in Texas can be taken to any local Salvation Army thrift store. Those who want to help financially can also do so by through the Red Cross website or by texting “Harvey” to 90999 (this will donate $10 to the relief effort by adding the cost to the user’s phone bill).
For Jennifer Kirkman and her two companions, there was nothing to do Sunday but wait.
“We really have nowhere to go,” she said. “We just have to pray and hope we make it through. You’re just waiting – you’re absolutely helpless.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.