Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2017

Fairfield teacher stranded in Texas after Harvey shares firsthand account

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Sep 01, 2017
Source: Reuters Houses and cars are seen partially submerged by flood waters in east Houston, Texas.

Fairfield High School Spanish teacher Nohema Graber had no idea that her recent trip to Mexico would thrust her and her son Jared into the throes of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The hurricane produced the most catastrophic floods to hit the state of Texas.

“I am safe; thanks be to God,” Graber said Thursday. “But it was very scary.”

On their way back from Mexico, Nohema and Jared stopped in Houston, Texas, to visit family and friends.

They had originally planned to stay in Houston until Tuesday, but found themselves stuck there for several more days after the rains began to fall.

“[Friday], I will have been here for a complete two weeks,” Graber said, adding that she and her son stayed safe and dry at her nephew’s Houston home near NASA. “The flooding started heavy on Saturday, and it rained Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — heavy, constant rain — nothing but rain without stopping — that was impressive. All I could do was pray and rely on God ... I understood how Noah must have felt.”

Graber admitted that there were nights during the incessant flooding that she didn’t sleep. She worried that the water would rise enough to flow inside of her nephew, Omar Castillo’s home.

“One night I was very afraid, and I was thinking of a plan,” she said. “Thanks be to God, we are all fine.”

Graber said Omar’s neighborhood didn’t flood too bad, but other nearby areas were not so fortunate.

“Heading toward Galveston, those people are underwater all the way,” she said. “I hear a lot of ambulances and helicopters all over the place trying to save and help others; and I hear horrible stories. One of my nephew’s neighbors is also a teacher, and he told us about three children and one of their grandparents or uncles who drowned in a car. They were from his school district ... I have heard about a lot of people who have lost their possessions.”

Graber said that, during the flood, Houston’s business as usual was at a standstill.

“Everything was closed, churches, grocery stores, schools,” she said, explaining that people were warned not to leave their homes.

“The airport was flooded ... we were told not to walk in the floodwaters,” she said, telling of emergency rescuers going out in boats and kayaks to save those in distress.

After the rain subsided some, she was finally able to go to the grocery store.

“We went to the supermarket [Tuesday]. One was closed, because it was all out of food,” she said, explaining that when she did find a store with food, it was limited.

“We had to be in a huge line for an hour and a half,” she said. “People were friendly; they were blessed that they were able to buy food.”

Graber said food was rationed out by only one loaf of bread, one gallon of milk and one dozen eggs per family.

“[Wednesday] was the first day that it was pretty. We finally saw the sun,” she said. “Everything is finally becoming normal.”

Graber said the Houston community recently began patronizing local restaurants and stores.

“Stores are beginning to open now. A lot of restaurants are damaged. But the ones that are OK, are crowded. There are lines to go into those places,” she said.

Graber’s flight left for Fairfield this morning.

“I’m ready to come home and see my family,” she said.

Her husband, Paul, said he’s ready to see his wife and son, too.

“I’m sure she was unaware of the timing of all of this. This caught her by surprise,” Paul said of the storm.

Nohema agreed, and said she wasn’t aware that she’d be caught in the throes of Harvey.

“I would never have imagined living through something like this,” she said. “There are a lot of families here who need help.”

Fairfield resident Lee Singh, who owns Green Gourmet, intends to do just that.

Singh is actively seeking anyone who might interested in traveling to the Houston area to help with hot food for those who were displaced by the storm.

“I think from just watching the news and listening to what’s going on, a lot of people are saying they still need additional help, particularly hot food delivered to them,” Singh said. “I notice that they were giving out a lot of dry food and breakfast bars. But if we have enough manpower, we can manage to do a couple of days if we can find a big ‘legal’ kitchen.” Singh said she plans to reach out to organizations such as The American Red Cross and FEMA to secure help delivering the food via high-water vehicles.

“Please contact me at 451-7009 if you are interested in helping,” Singh said.

Castillo said his ministry had already begun the work of helping those in need, and he hopes that others will reach out to offer assistance.

“One hundred percent of proceeds go to helping Houstonians get back on their feet,” Castillo said. “At the moment ,we are mobilized throughout the city helping our neighbors.” Rodrigo Vargas, in charge of mobilization efforts in Houston, can be reached at 281-924-1264.

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