Hurricane, flooding impacts students, faculty, staff here

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The roof of a gas station sits in flood waters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Aransas Pass, Texas. Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them. AccuNet/AP

Concern for family members outweighs inconveniences of empty store shelves and gas lines.

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Hurricane Harvey is nothing if not overtly far-reaching, with widespread disruptions in the average American’s day-to-day life.

Harvey’s reach extends as far as southern Oklahoma, having struck every county, city and town from Houston to Tulsa with varying levels of severity.

Gas and supply shortages, power outages and potential flooding were among issues San Antonio residents had to overcome in the destructive wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Students, faculty and staff at this college have been impacted in various ways.

Political science sophomore Daniel Garcia said getting gas amid “rumors of local gas stations running out” has been rendered nearly impossible, a sentiment that was confirmed by kinesiology freshman Mikayla Hall.

Hall said she nearly ran out of gas on State Highway 151 because every gas station was packed from entrance to entrance with distressed drivers rushing to fill up their vehicles.

Setting aside the recent developments in the gas supply, Hurricane Harvey hit San Antonio as early as last week, when social media was plagued with rumors of potential water and food shortages, prompting many San Antonio residents to visit their local grocery stores in response.

“My mother waited for an hour just to get into the parking lot at H-E-B,” Garcia continued as he described long lines of cars backing up traffic. He said many stores ran out of products as common as bread and water.

But despite these minor inconveniences, the real concerns lie within with family members living in or around Houston.

“I have family that lives about 45 minutes away from downtown Houston,” Hall said, noting her uncle, Michael Hall, his wife, Elizabeth, and their adolescent daughter, Angela, reside in Cypress Falls.

Mayor Sylvester Turner did not initiate mandatory evacuation of the city of Houston. The flatlands on which Houston is built are susceptible to mass flooding, a threat that has only been intensified over the past few decades because of increased urbanization, according to an interview with Sam Brody, professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University-Galveston on National Public Radio.

Hall said her family is fine despite being unprepared, but nearby neighborhoods were evacuated by public officials in accordance with county safety procedures.

Hall insisted more evacuations should have happened and that perhaps the death toll, estimated on Thursday night by Harris County Institute spokeswoman Tricia Bentley to be 39, would be lower.

Fire science sophomore Juccine Valvered was safe at her home in San Antonio during Hurricane Harvey, but her sister, an EMT agent in Katy, was another story.

When she thought about her sister answering emergency calls all throughout the hurricane, she feared for her safety.

Rescue teams from all around the state have traveled to Houston and the affected areas to provide any form of help needed.

“First we joked about it saying that it wouldn’t be that bad, but once it hit we got pretty serious about it.” Valvered said. “It was a whole new experience for me and specially for my sister as an EMT agent. She got to do a lot of things that she wouldn’t have the chance to do here in San Antonio.”

Discussing the other effects the hurricane had in her life, she laughed and jokingly said, “The gas.”

“Luckily, I got gas on Tuesday so I’m good, but I feel like the fear of people is what made this so crazy,” Valvered said. “There was never anything wrong, but people just got so scared that it got out of hand.”

Biology freshman Nicolette Estrada said her boyfriend who attends Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Texas was affected by the hurricane.

“They shut down the school due to major flooding. And at night the winds were bad,” she said.

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has shown a lot of destruction and damage, but she believes the community has stepped up.

“The response is good. People are donating their time to go and help out. It’s good that there is a silver lining with everything that’s going on of people coming together,” Estrada said.

Fine arts freshman Kristian Villarreal has heard stories of people who have gone through the devastation of a hurricane.

“I think in a way many people have suffered because it is something that happened in their state. It must be hard for the community having to deal with something like that,” Villarreal said.

Housekeeper Trini Berez described the difficulties faced by her sister, Rosemary, who lives in Houston, thanks to Hurricane Harvey.

Berez said she provides custodial services for campus radio station KSYM 90.1.

Because of the massive amount of flooding in Houston, her sister has had to temporarily vacate her home and stay in a hotel in Houston.

“She tells me she doesn’t even want to see water no more,” Berez said.

While Berez’s sister’s home is unlivable at the moment, her main concern is for her elderly father-in-law, a blind man in his 70s.

“She tells me that she feels bad because he just wants to sleep in his own bed,” she said.

Berez also feels stressed because her sister is too far away and there is little she can do aside from listen.

Hurricane Harvey did not personally affect biology sophomore Tanya Martinez and her family, although it still took an emotional toll on them, Martinez said.

They kept updated on the situation by watching news reports in hopes of seeing good news.

She said they were proud of people in Texas for coming together to help victims.

“It made me very emotional to find out about all the thousands of displaced evacuees who were without a home, and the unfortunate ones who lost their lives,” Martinez said.

Biology sophomore Sandra Chavez said her father, a truck driver for Whole Foods that delivers to Houston, was without work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Steve Ochoa, director of the math lab and math instructor, said the city of Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey was the best that it could have been.

“There was some doubt cast upon the mayor of Houston that he didn’t order an immediate evacuation,” Ochoa said. “He probably made the best decision based on the information that he had.”

Ochoa said he was pleased with the University Interscholastic League allowing student athletes displaced by Harvey to compete in their new locations.

The UIL announced a waiver process for those student athletes Aug 31.

Ochoa said, “I credit the UIL with not having such a hard-stance approach on athletics that they do some times.”

Ann Weesner, education program coordinator, said she was pleased with the responses from individuals and with the coordination of the Texas response by Gov. Greg Abbott.

On Aug. 28 the governor activated the Texas National Guard, totaling 12,000 guardsmen. Then on Aug. 31 that force was increased to 24,000 deployed guardsmen.

“If I had one of those great big trucks, I’d go myself,” Weesner said, referring to the many individuals who contributed to search and rescue operations in personal vehicles and boats.

Medical sonography freshman Kathryn Torre’s husband, Will Torre, is a member of the Texas National Guard.

Will Torre has now been gone for a week, after being activated and sent to the Houston area to search for and provide aid for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Kathryn Torre, now in charge of taking care of their 1-year-old daughter, Kamry, along with other duties and starting school this week, is worried about her husband’s well-being.

Retelling his account of his first night in Houston, she said that after running a successful rescue mission, his unit was brought back to the gym at Katy High School.

At the high school there was no running water or power, and he and the other members of his squad slept in their clothes that were soaked from the rain and flood water.

Despite her worries, she said she knows the importance of what he is doing.

“The fact that Will is out there helping and saving people makes all of my problems seem small, as he is doing something bigger than us,” she said.

People can get information on how to donate money, clothing and food or volunteer by logging onto www.safoodbank.org

Bryan Aguinaga, Karla Sanchez Hernandez, Dillon Holloway, Collin Quezada, Alberto Ramirez, Jose Tijerino and Alan Torres contributed to this story.

 

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