Disaster struck in August of last year when Hurricane Harvey swept across Houston, and the city still feels the effects of the storm today.
Harvey resulted in the wide-swept destruction of many towns, with the final cost of the storm being $125 billion in damages. Many shell-shocked residents, UT students among them, had to uproot their lives as their homes were decimated by the hurricane. The extent of the catastrophe was so drastic that students are still dealing with the aftermath of the storm.
Nicole Welsh, a freshman Business Honors Program student from Houston, said she felt the devastation of the hurricane when she returned home the weekend after the storm even though her house was not directly impacted.
“It looked just like a war zone,” Welsh said. “I would drive by deserted streets where some of my friends used to live and it was all furniture out, things torn apart.”
Other students and their families immediately felt the devastation. Families abandoned their homes because they were so damaged by the flooding. Lily DeCamp and her family had just moved into their new house when Harvey hit. Now her parents are forced to live in their garage apartment as they fight with their insurance company to help move along the reconstruction of their home.
“I’m just waiting for the rebuilding to progress enough so that I can get a room and come home and see my family,” said DeCamp, an environmental engineering freshman.
DeCamp isn’t the only one on campus who feels the lasting pain of the storm. Many students and faculty are from Houston or have connections to the city. Welsh said reconstruction is moving at such a slow pace that hundreds are still unable to move back home.
Welsh spoke of her frustration at how the conversation about how to help the city recover is practically over, even with the vast number of victims still recovering.
“There are some places that are still just a mess and need so much help,” Welsh said. “I feel like people have kind of moved past it now and they’re being neglected.”
Government freshman Sarah Beech, Kingwood a Kingwood native, said her family now lives entirely on the second floor of their house because the whole bottom floor was wiped out by the flooding. Her family struggles with the endless rebuilding as their house still needs to be refloored and get appliances installed.
“So many people in my town got hit that all of the contractors are in demand,” Beech said. “Everything’s going slowly.”
Welsh said the damage is still bad, and the cry for help is far from over for families hurt by the natural disaster. The organization she founded, We Are Last, intends on returning to Houston over the summer to help the remaining victims, such as by cooking meals and helping construction.
“People just kind of forget about it and assume you’re back in your house by now, but the reality is you’re not,” DeCamp said. “It’s not so simple as the water going down and everybody moving back in.”
Immediately after the storm, the UT community came together to support those impacted by Harvey. Welsh and DeCamp agree that donations have slowed as public attention has moved away from the disaster, leaving victims struggling to start reconstruction or buy new furniture.
DeCamp’s family is among these victims, and she urges people to continue aiding the victims of Harvey.
“I would just say be supportive and give what you can,” DeCamp said. “Give clothes, give food, give your help, give your time.”