P.J. Couisnard walked out of his Third Ward home on Wednesday morning and saw the sun for the first time in more than a week.
“That’s a good sign,” he said.
Houston and that part of Texas needs all the good signs it can get.
Couisnard, who played basketball at Wichita State from 2004-08, is one of several people with Shocker ties dealing with devastation from the hurricane and tropical storm over the past week. His parents run the Malachi Destiny & Purpose inner-city ministry in Houston.
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“We haven’t been able to go nowhere for four, five days,” he said. “It’s been real tough to even assist people. We really couldn’t do anything other than ride bikes to get where we needed.”
Couisnard walked and biked his neighborhood, where the waters ran strong enough to wash a car out of a driveway and down the block before coming to rest. During one of his checks, he noticed smoke seeping out of a vent at a nearby house. He knocked on the door and got no answer. When he checked again a few minutes later, his knocking woke up the resident, who had been sleeping. The fire department cut two holes in the roof to put out the electrical fire.
Couisnard, like most in Houston, spent the past few days isolated in his neighborhood by flooded roads and highways. Former basketball player Karon Bradley (2005-07) watched the rain from his third-floor apartment near Katy, Texas. Gary and Latisha Brown, parents of Shocker volleyball player Tabitha and basketball player Zach, stayed dry, but cut off from the rest of the city.
“We didn’t get any flooding, but the areas around me are flooded,” Bradley said Monday evening. “We can’t move. A lot of my friends had to be rescued.”
On Saturday, former Shocker volleyball player Amanda (Backes) Ripple (2007-10) watched the Mayweather-McGregor fight at a friend’s house in their neighborhood in League City, 30 miles north of Galveston.
“It started raining and it didn’t stop,” she said. “We were watching the rain come up farther and farther in the driveway.”
Ryan Ripple, her husband and a former Newman University volleyball player, drove their Jeep to higher ground. They walked around a half-mile through hip-high water to their home.
“The sun’s out (Wednesday), so it feels like a good day,” she said. “The last few days have been pretty scary.”
In the early days of the storm, they helped relatives and neighbors salvage what they could from the water. Her father-in-law’s house filled with two feet of water. People dropped off inflatable pools to use to ferry belongings through the flooded streets. Some used kayaks and they turned to boats when the waters rose too high for walking.
Ripple, a teacher in League City, said she is working with friends and family in her home state of Illinois to get supplies sent to Texas.
“Several of my co-workers lost everything,” she said. “We’re helping people rip out carpet, cut out dry wall. We're going to need a lot of bleach.”
The Browns live near Humble, Texas, and their house escaped most of the flooding, although Gary Brown kept an eye on a nearby lake on Monday evening. Their neighborhood, like most in the city, was cut off by flooding. By Wednesday, he also reported a drop in the water and a bit of sunshine.
“We’re just staying hopeful and hoping this can get back to normal,” he said Monday. “It’s flooded everywhere you turn.”
Couisnard said he received several messages from friends and teammates, including Shocker coach Gregg Marshall, assistant coach Kyle Lindsted and former Shocker assistant Mike Rohn.
“It is a bright spot when you get those texts,” he said. “With what’s going on, you have nothing else to look forward to. You get a text from somebody that has a lot of things to do and they took time to think about you.”
Former teammate Sean Ogirri, who is rarely heard from after transferring from Wichita State in 2007, checked in with Couisnard.
“That’s like the President texting you,” Couisnard said.
Couisnard, who runs the AAU basketball program Cooz Elite, is planning a Hoop for Harvey clothing drive and charity basketball game on Sept. 16 at the MI3 Center in Houston, an idea hatched by one of his players. Couisnard said people willing to donate money or items can call him at 281-740-3510 for information.
Wichita State’s basketball team joined relief efforts by sending boxes of gear to Houston’s basketball program. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson put out a call on social media for schools to send shirts and shoes to Houston and schools across the country responded.
The American Athletic Conference, of which Houston and WSU are members, pitched in with a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross.