Candece Beverly is a Houston native who lived in Third Ward near Brays Bayou. Before the Memorial Day flood in 2015, Beverly had never experienced a flood. During the interview, she talks about how her family recovered from the 2015 flood and how they prepared for Hurricane Harvey, even though the preparations did not work.
Beverly explains the emotional exhaustion felt by herself those in her neighborhood who had flooded in the years leading up to Hurricane Harvey, and how her family knew that they could not handle another storm after the flood in 2017 and decided to leave the neighborhood. Throughout the conversation, Beverly recalls the kindness and support she received from strangers in her community, who offered help after the water receded by removing damaged furniture from her house and providing hot meals. She notes that after the storm, she focused on the fact that her family was alive and safe, rather than focusing on what was lost.
Interviewee: Candece Beverly
Interview Date: October 11, 2018
Interview Location: Smith Library
Interviewer: Lindsay Beauregard
INTERVIEWER: Today is Thursday, October 11th. This is Lindsay Beauregard. We are going to be interviewing Ms. Candece Beverly at the Smith Library for the Harvey Memories project. We’ll begin with just a few general questions. And then we will discuss your experience during Hurricane Harvey.
LB: So will you please tell us your full name and date of birth?
CB: Okay, my name is Candece Beverly. I was born February 7, 1966.
LB: Awesome, and where were you born?
CB: Here in Houston. I’m a native Houstonian.
LB: Very nice. So growing up in Houston, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with that? Did you have any experiences with any flooding growing up in Houston?
CB: No, I lived in here in Third Ward. I’ve never had any problems with flooding. When Allison came and Alicia came, 288 was pretty much that little retention pond that saved our neighborhood from flooding.
LB: [0:01:00] Was your family from the Houston area as well?
CB: Yes, yes.
LB: So all of you were from Houston?
LB: So what were you doing in the days leading up to Harvey? Did you or your family feel that it was necessary to prepare for this storm? And if so, what did you do?
CB: Yes, my family had recently moved southwest, so we were like two blocks away from Brays Bayou. We were between Fondren and South Gessner. And so because we flooded in 2015 in Memorial Day flood, we were very concerned when the flood for Harvey was being forecast in the news. And so Wednesday, I started looking online for hotels that we could stay at. And in my mind, I was thinking, you know, we may get just a few inches of water in the house — not a lot. And we would probably need to vacate to a hotel — so evacuate to a hotel.
So that’s what we did. We went to a hotel [0:02:00]. And my first thought was we could stay there until Monday. And the prayer was everything would be okay. But we would just enjoy a nice getaway weekend, and you know, everything would be okay once we returned home. When I booked the hotel reservations on Thursday because of what they were saying on the television, my sister suggested, “Let’s just go ahead and do Tuesday.” And so I said, “Okay, okay, that’s fine.” When Friday rolled around, she said — we were listening to the weather reports again. So she said, “Let’s just push it to Wednesday.” And then she said, “And then we’re done.” And so that sounded feasible to me. And again, I was just still thinking we would enjoy a nice time at a hotel and just have fun — and never thinking that we would not be able to get back into our house or that our house would be destroyed. But that’s, unfortunately, what happened.
LB: And so through the previous flooding and storms that you’d been through, did you typically stay at hotels whenever [0:03:00] a major storm hit?
CB: No, the first time we ever, ever in life had flooded was the Memorial Day flood. So we were totally unprepared for that one. My sister had stayed up all night just kind of watching the water rise in the street. And then she saw it come in the yard. And so by the time she woke us up, the water was actually in the house. Because she had put like blankets against all of the doors and everything, thinking that would keep the water out — not realizing when you have wood floors that you have subflooring. So the water comes in through the weep holes in the brick. And so that’s what happened to us. So by the time she woke us up, when I put my feet down on the floor, I was in water. So that was pretty scary.
And so as we were preparing for Harvey this time, I thought about that. And I thought about how much water that we could get if the forecast was correct. And I’m like, “I don’t want to be here. [0:04:00] I don’t want to walk around in cold water. I just — I just don’t, and I don’t want to be in water that’s going to be over a foot high.” Because it then has its own current. And I can’t swim, so I saw how my shoes just kind of went all around the house with no destination — just floating everywhere when we had the Memorial Day flood. And I’m like, “That will be me.” And so I said, “No, we’re going to go.” So yeah, so the Memorial Day flood was our first, first foray into having a flood.
And so we were out of our home for four months then. And we were able to get it repaired. It was great when we had it, because we had just moved into the house 2014 in November the day before Thanksgiving. And then six months later, we were out of the house with the Memorial Day flood. So we — when Harvey was being forecast, we were hoping against hope that it wouldn’t happen. But at the same time, we were like [0:05:00], “We’re going to be prudent. We’re going to evacuate. We are not going to shelter in place,” because that was just foolish. “And we’re going to leave.”
Not all of our neighbors headed the warning unfortunately. And I think that had a lot to do with — because you flooded before. Because some of our neighbors had flooded in 2015, ’16, and then ’17, you kind of just shut down emotionally, because you just — you can’t fathom it happening again to you. And you just — your mind just cannot go there. So you — in your mind, you think, “If I stay here, nothing will happen.” And that’s what a lot of the neighbors that stayed — that was their mentality. And so I felt so bad for them. And so when I was in the hotel that Saturday night once the rain finally did come, I was calling the Coast Guard. I was calling 911, trying to get rescues for the folks that decided to stay behind [0:06:00]. And so it was a long wait, and most of them ended up having to walk out of subdivision in order to get rescued. And the water was like chest high on them.
LB: So how did you feel the first night of the storm? Staying at the hotel, was it what you expected from the news?
CB: The first night — that Saturday night, I knew we had water in the neighborhood, because the folks that had stayed behind, we were texting them. We were calling them. And they were like, “Yeah, there’s water.” And we had a neighbor who lived like directly across the street from us. Her son had decided to stay back — he and his fianc�e and their five-month-old baby. So they had decided to stay in the neighborhood. And she was saying that he had called her and that water was indeed coming into the homes. And he was stuck unfortunately, because he waited too late to leave the neighborhood. And so we knew [0:07:00] what was going on in real time just simply because we had those folks who stayed behind. So we knew what was going on.
LB: At that point, when the news forecasts for Hurricane Harvey came out, I know your house flooded in the Memorial Day floods. Did you recover from that completely? Were all the repairs made on the house?
CB: Oh, yeah. We had a beautiful HGTV moment in getting that house back together. It was awesome. And we were really, really blessed. We felt like — you know, even though most people would say a flood is, you know, a curse. For us, it was a blessing, because we had just moved into the house. And when — we were of a mind when you move into a house, it’s not exactly the best time to start buying new furniture and doing all the renos. It’s like, “Let’s just start paying the mortgage. Let’s just try that. Let’s get used to paying the mortgage. Then let’s ease into getting some renovations done and getting new furniture and things of that nature.” So we were on a five-year [0:08:00] plan. And what happened with the first flood is that our five-year plan, we were able to advance it. And so we were able to get everything we wanted so far as with the insurance payments. So we were really, really happy, because we paid out like $2,000 in flood insurance. And for that $2,000, we were received like $100,000 in renovation from our insurance company. So I mean, we had our dream home.
And when our contractor came through our house after the Memorial Day flood, he — our house was just like in total disarray. I mean, there was stuff everywhere. It was June, so it was hot. It was muggy. We really couldn’t stand to be in the house. And our contractor is walking through what looked like a war-torn, you know, village, going, “I can see it now. You’re going to have a brand-new house. And it’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be everything you always wanted. We’re [0:09:00] going to do this. We’re going to knock down this wall. We’re going to do this and this.” And you know, my sister and I are walking behind him. And we’re just like, “You just — just put the paint back on the wall. You know, get something done with the flooring. And just get us back in here,” because at that point, we were just tired. And we were hot, and we just — we couldn’t see his vision.
But after he got finished, we had a very beautiful home. And we were so excited. And we had the new furniture. We had new beds. So we were quite pleased with it. So we were living the dream, and the Tax Day flood, we didn’t flood or anything. So that was good. But then when Harvey came, yeah, that dream ended.
LB: So on the first morning after the storm, what did you see when you looked outside of the hotel?
CB: Actually, we were in the Galleria, so really nothing. The streets were pretty much deserted. And we went to [0:10:00] — what is that? Walgreens, because we had kind of — we were kind of running out of reinforcements for our little refreshments. You know, like the water and the snacks that you need to have. So we’re kind of running out of it, because I — I don’t know. Whenever I feel like I’m going to not have food, I become food-insecure. So I just eat everything. I just get really nervous. So I kind of ate all my rations. So we went to Walgreens. And I wasn’t the only one obviously, because there was long lines of people in there, who were also replenishing their rations.
And so we did that. We watched the news to see what was going on. And we did see our subdivision, and we could see that it was indeed underwater. And the water was there for like three days, so we knew it was bad. We just didn’t know how bad. But we knew that water was in the house. We didn’t know how many feet it was, but we knew it was bad. And there was really nothing [0:11:00] you could do about it. It’s like, “It is what it is.” And most of the neighbors at that point finally got out. The last person got out like Saturday night. So we were glad about that. And you know, it was what it what. And so it’s like we were just glad no one was killed. No one was harmed. And that was the most important thing for us.
LB: Absolutely. So what was your experience like staying at the hotel during the storm? Did they provide water bottles or any kind of food or things like that for support for the people staying during Harvey?
CB: Right, like I said, we had our own rations and everything. Because we brought our own water. We brought extra water in the car, so we never — I’m sure they probably would have provided it had we asked for it. But we didn’t need it, because we had it. We had that in the car. And so we didn’t really need of that, especially since we went down to Walgreens and got some stuff. And so we were good to go.
And it was so funny. When we were in the [0:12:00] Walgreens, it was like some people just wanted like a hot meal. And so they were looking for a fast food place that had a hot meal. But there weren’t really any open. And so my sister and mom — I was in Walgreens. I was in line, and so they’re like, “We’re going to scout out and go try to find some place that’s fast food really quick.” And they found a Burger King. And so this lady was talking, and I overheard her. She wanted the same thing — just a hot meal, anything. And I said, “Well, hey, Burger King on this street is open.” And she’s like, “Really?” I was like, “Yeah,” so she calls her husband. “Honey, Burger King is open, so get over there quick.” And my sister was saying that the Burger King was cooking so many burgers and so fast that they had to turn off their machine and let it cool down and start back up again.
So yeah, it was — it was a lot, but we just — I like how we just all pulled together, because I was waiting for my family to come back from Burger King. And I was like sitting in front of the store with all the bags of stuff that we [0:13:00] bought. And I had several people come up to me and say, “Hey, do you need a ride home? Do you have a place to stay? Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” You know, I said, “I’m just waiting, you know, for my family.” Because they’re like, “I can give you a ride home. It’s no problem.” So it was really, really nice how people pulled together — and you know, just helping each other and giving each other information.
LB: So whenever you first saw your house and stepped through the door after being gone for so many days, what was your initial reaction? What did you see when you walked through your home?
CB: It was still wet. There were still puddles of water in the house even though the water had subsided. There were still puddles of water in the house. When you opened up drawers, there was water in the drawers and everything. Water all under the cabinets. The beautiful hardwood floors that I remember when the [0:14:00] contractor put them in. He did all the floors himself. He didn’t trust anybody to do it. And I can remember those floors just buckling up. And that was the first thing I thought of. I was like, “Okay, if we stay here, we’re getting tile.” I said, “Because I can’t take this.” Because they were gorgeous, and they were just — it’s like, “This is going out on the front porch.’
And a lot of the stuff had shifted. Even though we had most of our furniture on — what do you call it? Cinder blocks. A lot of stuff had just shifted because of just the current and everything. And everything was wet. A lot of stuff had mildewed. The mold and the mildew set in really, really fast. And it just — you know, while it was our home, it didn’t look like our home, you know. And so everything had just — was forever changed. And we just — like I said, some things we just [0:15:00] — we did not bank on the water being that high. So we didn’t put our stuff up high enough. We felt like, “Well, if we do a foot and a half, we’re good.” And we had three to four feet of water like all through the house. So that was more than a little disconcerting.
But again, you have to look at the bigger picture. We were alive. We were safe, and it’s like it’s just stuff. It can be replaced. But one of the decisions that we did make as we were going through the clean-up process is that we were going to sell our home, because we had talked about this at the first flood — at the Memorial Day flood — that we could do two floods. And after that, we would have to just call it a loss.
And so that’s what we did. This was the second flood, and we decided to put the home for sale. Our family and friends that came over to help us were with that program, because as they were helping us, they were like, “You’re going to sell, right [0:16:00]? You’re not going to go through this again.” They were picking up stuff. “You’re not going to do this again, right? Right?” You know, it was like they didn’t want to force it on us, but they were like, “Please tell us you are not going to stay here.” And we’re like, “No, we’re not going to stay here.” So we ended up selling the home. It actually sold back in May of this year.
LB: Your family and friends came and helped. Was there anyone else in the community that maybe you didn’t know? Just native Houstonians?
CB: Oh, yeah.
LB: What was your experience with that?
CB: It was awesome. The first day we had the neighbor right next door to us, the Chows. His son had come over, and he had like 14 of his friends with him. And he had more work than — he didn’t have enough work for everybody to do. So he came over and asked my sister, “Hey, do you guys need any help?” My sister, to me, was still in a little state of shock, because she was like, “No, we’ve got it.” And so when [0:17:00] she later told me what she’d done, I said, “Sarah.” I said, “It’s just the two of us. We don’t have this. We need help.” I said, “So the next people that come, let me — let me handle it.” And so she did.
So the next group that came was some U of H students. You had the football team, girls volleyball, girls softball, and then just support — some folks that just were around — but all U of H students, so they came over. And they helped clean out our garage. Because again, when the water is three to four feet, it has its own current. So a lot of stuff it just knocked over. And so our garage looked a wreck. It was — because I always made sure that the garage was — could fit at least two cars in there. So everything was like against the wall and just really, really neat. So you know, you would go to a shelf, and you could find stuff versus it just being thrown in there like [0:18:00] — you know, like a garbage — I mean, a garage sale or something. So that was really helpful that they came along.
And then I texted and emailed family and friends and said, “Hey, if you have some time, please come over.” So my family and friends came over. Also, we had another group that came through there. What is it? All Hands Volunteers, so they came. And we had another group that came. Oh, a church group that came over to give us some assistance. So we had enough volunteers. And every day, we had just the right number of volunteers. Because one particular day, our contractor was there. And he had a whole crew that was there. And so we really couldn’t have a lot of volunteers. And on that particular day, we had like three volunteers and my sister and myself. But that’s all we could have handled on that day [0:19:00]. Because any more, we would have been tripping over the contractor.
So every day, it’s like the Lord provided exactly what we needed. And then in addition to people coming to work and help us work, we also had people driving up and down the street. They provided breakfast. They provided lunch. They provided a hot meal at the end of the day. And so that was just awesome. And I mean, they provided for everybody, including like the contractors. And the contractors were like, “Okay, well, we are like the contractors. We actually work for, you know, a living. We’re not volunteering.” And they’re like, “That’s okay. That’s okay.” And I really appreciate that, because I really didn’t want them going to Home Depot and getting poached.
LB: Absolutely. So what would you say are the biggest lessons that you took away from Hurricane Harvey? Is there any way that you will prepare differently when future storms hit?
CB: No, I really think we did like the best job [0:20:00] that we could have considering it. Because it’s like even though there are some things I wish we had put up higher, there was a lot of stuff that was still going to get wet just simply because we kept thinking. And you just never know. About the only thing we would have changed different would have been like just stop with the cinder blocks. Don’t even bother, because it didn’t work. And it’s like if I — if we had really thought about it — how many inches were going to be in the house or how many inches of rain that we were going to be getting, it would have been a no-brainer to know that 18 inches of a cinder block is not going to stop it. So that — we would have saved that 500 bucks. That was a waste of money.
But the main thing is making sure that we would go to a hotel. And so — just like we did — just make sure that we make those arrangements. And then just bring more clothes with us. Because we bought five days’ worth of clothes, so bringing more [0:21:00] clothes would have been something I would have changed. But other than that, there’s really nothing you can really do, you know. It’s only so much stuff is going to fit in that hotel room, but that’s it. But just us being alive is the most important thing.
LB: Absolutely, and what piece of advice would you give someone who is going through the same thing, walking through their door the first day and seeing their home flooded. What kind of emotional advice would you give someone going through that?
CB: Just keep your eyes on the most important thing — if your family is okay, if everybody’s okay. I remember from the Memorial Day flood when the FEMA representative came out, one of the questions they asked is, “Do you have all your medications? Are there any medical bills we need to assist you with? Are there any funeral bills we need to assist you with?” When they asked, “Are there any funeral bills that you need to be assisted with,” that hit [0:22:00] me like just in the gut. And from that moment on, I had no complaints. Because the answer to that question was no. And so, for me, that was the question. If we didn’t have any funeral bills, we are good. I have nothing to complain about even if our contractor, Patrick, was not able to get the house in the beautiful state that he put it back in, I wouldn’t have cared. Because we were alive. We were fine. And that’s the most important thing.
So keeping your eye on what’s important — stuff can be replaced. And Memorial Day proved that to us. And I knew Harvey — we could replace stuff again. And so it’s just stuff. And it doesn’t matter. And so when we put our stuff on the front yard, a lot of people were — a lot of neighbors were upset, because you had scavengers out there. And they were taking the — your furniture [0:23:00] away. And I’m like, “Hey, that’s less for heavy trash to pick up. I don’t care. You know, just let them take it.” It’s like, “Do you want it?” No, so it’s just like let them have it and be done. So I just would remind people — just life is so much more important than stuff.
And always be safe. You can’t stop water coming in your house. So if you know that we’re going to have a storm and evacuation is something that’s recommended, please evacuate. And also, we took our cars to like my sister’s job. They have a garage, so we parked it on the highest floor, my car. And then we took the other two cars to the hotel. And so I would recommend that you do that, because in the Memorial Day flood, two of our cars received water — had water damage. So I would recommend that you get your cars up as high as possible. And definitely evacuate.
LB: Absolutely. [0:24:00] And is there anything else? Any other stories or additional experiences that you had during Hurricane Harvey that we haven’t touch on that you’d like to share?
CB: Yeah, just the giving Houston spirit. And then I appreciate the volunteers that came from not only Houston but from around the state and then from around the nation, who descended upon Houston and came down here just to help us and just to kind of just love on us. And I just felt really, really blessed to have total strangers just come in and — and I heard like the horror stories of people coming in your house, stealing stuff from you. And I was joking with my sister. I said, “At this point, what do we have that they could steal or what?” I said, “If they stole it, it’s going to be wet. And they’re going to have to wait until it dries out.” So but we never had that problem. All of the volunteers that came in were just very gracious and just very, very helpful [0:25:00]. And so I’m just — I’m blessed to have family and friends who not only offered help. They offered money. They offered a place to stay. And we had friends who’d bring dinners to the hotel. We had friends who would come to the hotel and wash our clothes. And so we just — you know, it was just — it was a blessing, you know, in disguise again.
LB: Well, thank you so much for being so open and sharing your story with us today, Ms. Beverly.
LB: We’re hoping with these oral histories that future generations can look back on this even if they never even heard of Hurricane Harvey and see how the City of Houston came together during this time and what they can do and learn from everyone.
LB: So thank you again for taking the time out of your day to talk with us about your experience.
CB: Oh, I’m glad to do it. Thank you.
LB: Thank you so much. That was wonderful. Thank you. [0:25:53]