'It felt like we were in a war zone': Hurricane Harvey survivors share their stories

Harvey survivors discuss PTSD, anxiety, resilience after flood

KINGWOOD, Texas – The water from Hurricane Harvey has receded but the anxiety and fear born from rising the flood waters is still very real for some.

"It is common for those who have gone through a traumatic experience like Harvey to suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, fear and insecurity,” Baylor College of Medicine professor Dr. Asim Shah said.

Unfortunately, this rings true for some Kingwood residents.

Kingwood wasn’t initially flooded when the rain from Hurricane Harvey started coming down.

It was flooded when the San Jacinto River Authority made the decision to open the floodgates at Lake Conroe -- a decision that brought a wave of water traveling at 80,000-cubic-feet-per-second into the community, according to KPRC.

Full Screen
1 / 25

That’s nearly 599,000 gallons of water per second for reference and it caused an estimated 5,000 homes and more than 300 businesses to flood in the Kingwood area.

It wasn't just normal rainwater either. Much of Kingwood was submerged in Category 3 flood water.

Category 3 water is heavily contaminated water that could contain sewage, toxins and pathogens.

Anyone who comes in contact with or consumes Category 3 water risks health impacts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That also means everything that comes into contact with Category 3 flood waters has to be thrown out due to possible contamination, no exceptions.

It didn’t dampen the spirit of the community however -- the hashtag #KingwoodStrong started trending during the hurricane with residents showing compassion for strangers and neighbors alike.

Full Screen
1 / 11

KSAT reached out to residents in the Kingwood area and asked them to share how they feel after Harvey.

Below are some of their stories: Some speak of fear, others of resilience, but they are all #KingwoodStrong. 

"It’s raining now, I’m petrified. The few things I’ve started to move back downstairs (as we approach the end of our rebuild), I’ve moved back upstairs. I will never keep anything of sentimental value downstairs again."

"I thought I turned on my super mommy mode and handled everything from taking care of my kids and my husband, throwing out my beloved antiques and family pictures, dealing with making a new 'home' upstairs and handling contractors. Months after the flood I ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. My blood pressure was about 200/180 and my pulse was 140. I thought I was dying. It took the ER staff 30 minutes to convince me that I wasn’t dying, that it was a bad panic attack. They pointed out that it was raining that day. I didn’t think I noticed. My body did!"

"It's just rain. Just a little rain. It doesn't mean it'll flood. It doesn't flood every time it rains. Repeat until the rain stops! PTSD is real. Working it out with my therapist but it's lingering ever since the Harvey nightmare! Thanks for prayers and good vibes!”

"It felt like we were in a war zone, and with no power it was deathly quiet except for the boats and helicopters."

"I flooded and I teach preschool at a private school here in Kingwood. My little preschoolers love to play in the doll house and almost every week they talk about the flood and during play they have 'mommy' take the dishes upstairs so they can save them from the flood waters. 'Daddy' takes up the couch and the play goes on with all the doll house family members working to move all of their things upstairs so they won’t get ruined. This is even when it doesn’t rain."

"I think I spend more time crying than being happy and since the flood I've only left the house four or five times. I keep thinking that if I leave the house something will go wrong like a flood and I won't have time to get back and get my dogs.”

"I'm so sick of water. We lost everything and have been camping in the house while we rebuild.”

"Rain always makes me nervous now. After spending the night in our attic we left in a boat with over 5 feet of water in our home."

“Today when my kids were getting ready and Alexa said there's a flash flood flood warning, they naturally start to worry about our house flooding again. They are so worried that once we get back in that it is just going to happen again.”

"I get nervous just driving in the rain.”

"We had 2 feet from Harvey! It’s been hard but we have counted our blessings along the way! It’s a must or I would have been a basket case! We were rescued by neighbors we had never met, we took shelter under someone’s carport we had never met not knowing where we would go next b/c family and friends couldn’t get to us! The owner of the home offered to drive us to the shelter at nearby School! And then , from the shelter, we were taken in by a sweet family we had never met until my in-laws could get to us! My husband and I, two sons and a 50 pound wet dog! All of these people were so wonderful and helpful! We will forever be thankful! We are in the final stages of rebuilding and hope to be back in March! I used to love rain, now, not so much! Hope to “grow” out of it soon!"

"My two boys always ask if it is going to flood again, or 'Is this another hurricane' every time we get a driving rain like today.”

"Driving in the rain through Kingwood today, I cried thinking of the aftermath and devastation from Harvey. My oldest daughter was 3 when Harvey hit and is 4 now. Whenever it rains, she asks if a 'big, mean storm' is coming again, and looks for reassurance that our house will still be safe if one does. It breaks my heart, but she almost always follows up with 'but that’s okay if it does mommy, my muscles are getting stronger, so if there’s another big mean storm I can help my friends fix their houses, and we can take them food and make them crafts,' and then my heart breaks all over again at the kindness and humility of our community, and how in the midst of that devastation, people of all beliefs and walks of like became child-like for a time in their compassion and generosity.”

"The city was doing rescues via dump truck all day after the flood. They were going to the edge of the water one street over, taking elderly from boats, and loading them into the trucks. Then the trucks pulled in front of our house and my husband and father-in-law and some other neighbors helped unload the people. They were soaked, carrying their pets, and as many belongings as they could fit in trash bags and being dropped on our curb. All day, truck after truck would pull in, slightly raise it’s bed to assist the people in sliding out, and then drop the bed to pull out for another rescue. A few weeks ago I was outside when the trash truck came. After they loaded our trash they shut the back end to crunch everything. The loud closing rang through my ears and I burst into tears. It was an uncontrollable sobbing and I couldn't figure out how to stop. My heart was racing and I came inside to sit down. It was then that I had the flashback of the poor souls sliding out of the dump trucks."

"When there is severe thunder and hard rain my chest gets heavy and my mind goes crazy. It's hard, when the kids are home it's easier because I stay strong for them. Today I was alone and it didn't go well. I ended up closing all the curtains, lighting candles for aroma therapy and cranking the TV very loud. I hoped it would be better by now, but it wasn't. One sound I can't stomach right now would be the sound of boats, it may be a while before I can handle that."

"The sound of a helicopter is not the same for me. Never want to hear another one after listening to them for so long."

"Paralyzed with fear. We lost our home and are in the beginning of our rebuild. As I reflect on the past 5 almost 6 months many feelings come to mind. Fear, devastation, sadness, anxiety, depression....then gratitude, Love, human kindness, support, and overwhelmed how triumph the human spirit is."

"I didn't flood but the sight of my home town under water forever changed me. I will never be the same as before Harvey. I appreciate where I came from, and what Kingwood made me into. That day the water came into town I had to help my neighbors. When I saw a Blackhawk landing at the Park and Ride it hit me. This was a disaster. This is my home not a war zone. Then my upbringing took over and I begun helping unload evacuees eventually being asked to hop on an airboat with a crew from California and Louisiana. Those images are forever in my mind. I think of the amount of water everyday, and every time I drive down Kingwood Drive. Since that day I often say the last line of the Kingwood High fight song. Through life’s struggles we recall. Kingwood's Blue and White. I now understand what that means."

"My heart races every time we get a heavy rain. My 16 year old dog - who also was rescued with me by boat - starts to pace around the rental house when the rain stars to pour. Twice since the flood, I’ve run outside at the rental house to sweep away all the leaves which gather in front of this house because the water rushes up over the curb. Everyone blows their leaves into the street and our rental is at the end- where the sewer grates are - in the culdesac. It’s still terrifying."

"I used to sleep so well when it rained... now the slightest drizzle wakes me up and fills me with dread."

"I go to bed with my clothes on."

"My dog is old & short. Now she hates to go outside to walk or potty when it is raining. She wont sleep if it is raining. She never had issues before the storm."

"I think most people who have severely flooded have some level of PTSD. I have not slept well, do not have a kitchen so do not eat well, have lost and gained weight, my husband and I struggle to remain strong together as we try to survive this and move forward. We are living in a partially finished bedroom and bathroom. I can’t seem to find time to exercise as I work full time. It is difficult to relax knowing there is so much to be done that seems out of our control. Even though we had flood insurance there is still financial pressure. Will the money we receive be enough. How do we know we aren’t being over charged? Our remediation bill is 10k more than we were originally quoted. Our contractor does not share his costs with us but is charging us by the job. Will the quality be good? Will our home flood again? Will we ever be able to sell it? Who is helping to prevent future flooring? I want to know which politicians support us getting funding to make needed changes. I could go on and on. The stress is overwhelming."

"The one thing that has been the hardest is feeling like we are at the mercy of countless other people. It has been a lesson of patience, grace, trust, and faith."

**All names have been removed to protect anonymity

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.