Kathy Scott has lived in Houston, Texas since 1981. In the days leading up to Harvey, Scott was unconcerned since her neighborhood was not expecting storm damage. A day before Harvey landed in Houston Scott realized the gravity of the situation. To prepare, she bought extra water and groceries. Heavy rainfall and power outages cut Scott off from the news, but she began to move furniture higher up in the home.
At 7:30 the next morning, her home began to flood. Overall, the home received two feet of water. Scott waited on the second story of her house, supplied with food and water for her and her dog. With no power, a dying phone battery, and a steadily flooding home, Scott evacuated around 9:30 am. She stayed at a neighbor’s home for the night and called her family and friends to inform them of her safety. Her husband was in London at the time but came home upon hearing the news. Scott joined the Facebook page “Flooding Kingwood with Kindness” to receive updates. She compared the images she saw on the page to an apocalypse. Scott’s car flooded inside the garage, which flooded four feet. Post-Harvey was difficult for Scott as she was misplaced from both her home and her work. For a brief portion of the interview, Scott gets emotional recalling the flooding damage that occurred at home and her place of work. The rebuilding of her home also took an emotional toll on her. The generosity of the community stood out to Scott the most throughout her experience with Harvey. She learned the true meaning of Houston Strong and was very grateful for it.
Interviewee: Kathy Scott
Interview Date: October 27, 2018
Interview Location: Kingwood Community Center
Interviewer: Zalma Cruz
INTERVIEWER: Hello, today is October 27, 2018. My name is Zalma Cruz, and I’m here today at the Kingwood Community Center with Ms. Kathy as part of the University of Houston Center for Public History’s Resilient Houston: Documenting Hurricane Harvey project. We will be talking today about Ms. Kathy’s experience as a Hurricane Harvey first evacuee or responder.
ZC: Are you ready?
ZC: Great. Please state your name and tell me a little bit about yourself.
KS: My name is Kathy Scott. I live in Kingwood, Texas. I’m married, and I have two boys in their late 20s. And I am — I don’t know how more you want me to say.
ZC: What is your date of birth, ma’am?
KS: Okay, date of birth is April 25, 1960.
ZC: And where were you born [0:01:00]?
KS: I was born in Detroit, Michigan.
ZC: Detroit, Michigan?
ZC: When did you arrive to Houston? And what reason brought you here?
KS: Okay, came to Houston in 1981. And basically, employment brought me here. Back in Michigan, things were really dying out. The auto industry, people were laid off left and right. And things were booming down here in Texas back then. And so jobs were dime a dozen — and so came at that time, got jobs right away. A lot of my family moved here at the same time as well. So that’s what brought us here.
ZC: Was there anything different from Michigan transitioning to Texas?
KS: Obviously, the climate, the weather, huge difference. And that — where we come — Michigan’s an area where it snows a lot. And obviously, [0:02:00] Texas, you know, doesn’t. So that was huge. And just the culture a little bit — just the, you know, kind of southern, western — you know, back then cowboy hats and cowboy boots. And we weren’t used to any of that, so that was different.
ZC: When Hurricane Harvey was approaching, what were you doing in the days leading up to Harvey?
KS: In the days leading up to Harvey, life was pretty much normal, because we weren’t really expecting to get hit very hard. Because the actual hurricane was coming in much further south, like Rockport area or somewhere down there. So just pretty much going on with our life as normal, you know, up to that point until the day [0:03:00] before. And then that’s where we realized it was going to start affecting us.
ZC: What preparations did you make prior to the storm?
KS: Prior to the storm, when we realized it was — it could affect us, we had — I bought some water, you know, some extra groceries, and things like that. That’s all we really did, but until we realized we were going to flood. And then that’s when the preparations starting as far as moving furniture upstairs and things like that — realizing that’s going to probably happen.
ZC: I know you said you’re from Michigan. Prior to Michigan, I’m not sure what type of natural disasters you encountered up in the north, did any of it help you for Hurricane Harvey?
KS: [0:04:00] We don’t have, obviously, hurricanes there and never had any flooding there. But it’s more tornadoes, so I guess just being prepared, knowing when something is approaching that you need to be prepared to a certain degree. So just that — just really much that, but not in reality. Not a whole lot, because you don’t expect to ever flood, so you know.
ZC: When Hurricane Harvey made landfall here in Houston, how was the night? What was the night before Hurricane Harvey came like?
KS: Well, we had — in Kingwood, we — in our house, we had lost power right around noon the day before. And so — and it was just gushing rain all day, all day, all day. And so we were kind of disconnected from the news and what [0:05:00] was kind of going on without a TV. And so you really — and you didn’t want to go out anywhere, because at that point, you’d already heard streets were flooding. So you didn’t want to really leave the house. Hopefully, at that point, you had everything you needed to sustain, you know, the storm. And we did. And so I just was staying put. I was busy doing all kinds of busy stuff in my house, like cleaning. I cleaned my house from head to toe that day — the day before, because there wasn’t anything else to do. And I couldn’t go anywhere, and I had — I had no electricity in the house. And so basically, that sounds silly, but that’s what I did the day before. My husband was out of town. My husband works for the airlines, and he was out of town. So I was home by myself. And so — and then at that point, I realized that [0:06:00] the streets — the corner was starting to flood like a few houses down from my house — that the water was starting to get built up in the streets. And that’s when it — and that was like 6 o’clock in the evening when I realized, “Oh, my gosh. It’s flooding on my neighborhood, yeah.”
ZC: I know you said you were cleaning the day before Hurricane Harvey. At that point, did you really think, from the news you were seeing, it was going to pass quickly or it was going to take its time?
KS: Well, at that point, we kind of — you know, I had — they had already been emphasizing on the news that it was going to move slowly and that we were going to get a lot of rain, you know. And that was evident, because it was just raining nonstop, you know, all day and all night. And so I knew that. We were going to get a lot of rain, but I didn’t have any clue [0:07:00] that we were — we were going to flood, you know, at that point.
ZC: How was your home impacted?
KS: We ended up getting flooding at 7:30 — no, about 7:00 A.M. the next morning. And we had two feet of water in our house — in the whole first floor. And I was there by myself the day — so the evening before, when I realized it was going to flood, I had started moving things upstairs — things that I could lift myself. Because it was just me, so it was just smaller things. So I tried to, you know, put as much upstairs as I could. And then I was also elevating furniture, putting blocks and bricks and whatever I could find in the garage with a flashlight, because it was starting to get dark at that point [0:08:00]. So all I had was my flashlight.
And my phone — my battery on my phone was starting to get low, and I was worried about that. So the only place I could charge it was in my car. So every several hours — few hours, I’d go out to my car and charge my phone, because I was worried about not having any communication — any ability for communication. At that point, I was pretty certain we were going to flood, because I kept watching the water on the street, going out of the house every hour and a half. And I was measuring how far it was coming up on the street. And I said, “Well, if this keeps coming up at this rate, we’re going to flood sometime between 7:30 — 6:30 A.M. and 7:30 A.M. So sure enough, around 7 o’clock in the morning is when the water starting gushing in the house.
So I could only do so much by myself as far as putting stuff upstairs, so we got — ended up getting two feet of water. But about — I stayed in the house. I was all prepared [0:09:00] to ride it out upstairs on the second floor. We have a two-story house, so I had everything I needed up there, canned food, can opener, and I had my — I have a dog. So I had dog food and water. The main thing I was worried about was my phone and not having communication and not knowing how long the power was going to be out. And I had taken some other food up there and stuff. So I was perfectly prepared to ride it out upstairs, but then my phone was like almost dead.
So about — when I realized water was going to come in that morning, my — people were coming down the street and taking pictures of the flood waters on the block. But they could only get so far, and so then I yelled out to a guy that was nearby. And I asked him if he could charge my phone. And [0:10:00] he said he had a generator and that he could charge it. So put my phone in a little Ziploc bag. And I threw it to him, so he could charge it. And that was before water was coming in the house. And then he came back about 25 minutes later and said he didn’t have the right cord to charge it. So then I gave him the cord — tossed him the cord, because it was water between us. And the water was about four inches still from coming into the house. So anyway, he came back another about 25 minutes later and said my had — was saying it couldn’t get charged because of the — it was detecting moisture. And I was like, “Oh, great. Now, what am I going to do?”
At that point, he couldn’t even talk to me from the distance anymore. He had to go up into the neighbor’s [0:11:00] side driveway and yell at me like through a window in the bathroom. And then he said — he goes, “You really need to leave.” He goes, “This is my last opportunity to come back this close to your house.” He said, “After this, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He goes, “You really need to leave.” And I said, “No, no, I’ll be fine.” I said, “I’ve got food and the dog. I’m going to be — I’m just going to go upstairs.” He goes, “Are you sure?” He goes, “Because I’m not going to be able to come back.” And I said — and that scared me at that point, especially because I wasn’t going to have my phone.
And so I decided to leave at that point. And that was when water was already — that was like 9:30 in the morning, so I already had about two to three inches of water in the house. And so I said, “Just give me a minute. Let me get my stuff together.” So I had all my stuff from — you know, important papers and everything, and then the dog food and water [0:12:00] and my tablet and clothes and clothes just for a couple days and stuff. And I had it already packed in bags, so I had to open the front door. And I opened the front door. Just water gushed in the house. I was like, “Oh, my god.” And then he was waiting in his car like further out like in the road where — and so I had — we had to walk through like probably about a foot of water to get to where his car was. And I had to do it twice, because I had to come back and get the dog.
So anyway, and that was about 9:30 in the morning, so then I left the house. And at that point, like I said, there was about three to four inches in the house. And you know, I had no idea at that point we were going to get two feet of water. And so then I went to the neighbor’s house that I’d never even met before. And then we were there for — they offered me to, you know [0:13:00], stay overnight if I wanted to. And another neighbor with me, also, evacuated at the same time, with the same family that we didn’t know. I mean, they live on our street but further down. Our street’s really long. So we didn’t — we’d never met them before. But they were very sweet and offered their home and food and water and stuff like that. So yeah — and so all my — everything on the first floor was ruined — like all furniture, anything that was in cabinets that was — you know, anything two feet got damaged and had to get thrown out.
ZC: You mentioned you were at the house alone with just your dog. And you had to go to your neighbor’s house. How did you communicate with your husband?
KS: And then he was in London at the time, so that made it even more [0:14:00] difficult. But finally, you know, he wasn’t in the air anymore. And he was at a hotel in London. And so then I could contact him on my cell phone. I was finally able to get a charge enough on it that I could call him on my cell phone. And then I have family that lives in this area. Like my mom lives out in Conroe. And then I have a sister that lives here in Kingwood, but they weren’t affected by the flood at all. So at that point, I finally was able to call when we got to the people’s house that we evacuated to and made some calls and told everybody that I was okay.
And my husband was like — I actually talked to him that morning, because I had enough charge on my phone. And he was still in London, and I said, “Water.” I said, “This is about to happen.” And he still was like in denial. Like he really didn’t believe me. And I’m like, “It’s two inches from the front door [0:15:00]. We are going to flood.” And he’s like, “Oh, wow.” Finally, finally believed me, but — because I had talked to him the night before and told him it was going to happen. And he still kind of didn’t believe me — like I was overreacting.
But anyway, I did get ahold of him. And he was so frustrated. He felt really bad that he couldn’t — wasn’t with me. And his flights — because of the airport — all the airports, you know, being shut down and flights being delayed and everything, the rest of his trip that he was supposed to be on with the airlines got cancelled. So then they were able to get him home. They like arranged for a plane just for the staff members that were — homes were affected by the flooding to get on a plane. There were no passengers on the plane, only flight attendants and airline staff [0:16:00] — and got them back to Houston. And it was real touch and go, because they didn’t — at one point, the airport wasn’t even open and stuff like that. And then he had to — once he did land at the airport in Houston, he couldn’t get to Kingwood. He had to go like way out almost to The Woodlands and come around on 99 and come in the back way. And then he still couldn’t get to our house, because our street was still flooded at that point, but you know.
ZC: Again, going back to your neighbor’s and having gotten in touch with your husband, how were you updated about the news? Did you use any type of social media?
KS: Oh, yeah. We just were — my husband actually — when he was — I don’t know where he was. He wasn’t home yet. At some point, he signed me up for the Facebook [0:17:00] page for Flooding Kingwood with Kindness. And so that was good, because I could see what was going on right in the neighborhood. Because we didn’t know what streets were open, what streets were closed, you know, if any — we had no idea what was going on anywhere, because we still had no power. All we had was our phones for communication and to see what was going on. So yeah, we used social media to connect with family and also connect with news, you know, websites — community websites, as well, to see what was happening, where to go, where not to go, who was — you know, rescue places if you need help or food or water or things like that.
ZC: With the social media and the Facebook page, did you see [0:18:00] how bad the impact to your neighborhood was? And if so, what did you see?
KS: Yeah, we were — we saw — oh, my god, just amazing videos of people in boats being rescued. And that morning, there was just helicopters everywhere. It sounded like something from a movie, like Apocalypse Now, like the helicopters so close. And so, yeah, what we saw on social media was basically people being rescued by helicopter, by boat — and people videoing, you know, them on a boat or even a jet ski like going up Kingwood Drive and neighborhood streets with the jet ski and just filming. And it looked like it was a lake — like they were on a lake. Then you’d see a store — you’d see a [0:19:00] — right next to them. It was very — it was kind of shocking. It was really shocking.
ZC: Aside from your home, was your workplace impacted?
KS: Oh, yes. My car was flooded, because it was in the garage. So my car was flooded. Garage got four feet of water just because our garage sits lower than the house. So my car was flooded, and then I work very close near — in the same neighborhood near my house. And so my workplace was also flooded. And they got something like — in that building — the building is elevated and quite high. You have to walk up, I don’t know, eight steps to get to the front door of the building. And they still got like four or feet in the building. It’s closer to the lake — to the river that — you know, where the [0:20:00] flood waters came in from.
ZC: How did that schedule change when you came back to work? How was it prior to Hurricane Harvey? And how was it after Hurricane Harvey?
KS: Well, it was different, because we were — I was not only displaced, you know, from my house. But now, I’m displaced from work. And then I don’t have a car. You know, so — but with — the schedule was very different, because my work was trying — you know, knew, you know, my house was flooded. So they were being understanding and giving me time to take care of things that I needed to take care of. But I still had work to do, so we were temporarily housed in another building. So I work for the school district here in Kingwood. So we — not at a school, I work at the administrative offices. So we [0:21:00] were — it was another administrative office that didn’t flood.
So I had to drive further — I mean, a little further every day in the morning to get to work. And we were — people were very generous and let us work in their workspaces. And we had desks — you know, or tables. Some people didn’t even have desks or tables. We had no file cabinets. All of our files were — the office I worked in is on the second floor, so my actual workspace in the building that flooded didn’t get affected. But the whole first floor did in that building. So obviously, it was closed. It actually just opened up like a month ago. We just got back into the building a month ago. So it was — it was a year, you know, before we could get back in that building.
So my schedule was different in that way. They were [0:22:00] flexible with me as far as being able to, you know, take time off to meet contractors and — but I really didn’t. My husband, he works for the airlines. So he was flexible. His schedule’s way more flexible than mine. So he was able to take more time off where I kind of had to be at work more than he did. So we just worked it out that way, where he did a lot of meeting with contractors and things like that. So — and we just had to make it work. We didn’t have a choice — just made it work.
ZC: You mentioned your displacement from work and having to take shelter at your neighbor’s home. What was the most difficult part overall from this experience?
KS: Oh, my gosh, so many things were so difficult. I think just the — oh, god, I’m going to get emotional.
ZC: That’s okay. If you want, we can [0:23:00] always stop recording.
KS: That’s alright. I think just the shock of that happening and not realizing it. And I think just the impact that it has on your life — it changes your life in a way that you don’t expect. And so the hardest part — I mean, you’re thankful for so many things. Perfect strangers were helping us. And then it could have been worse. I mean, it could have been so much worse. People had it, you know, much worse than we did. But I just think — there’s so many things. It’s hard to say what the hardest is, because I think emotionally [0:24:00] it’s hard. But then it’s also financially — I mean, we didn’t have flood insurance. So all of that repairs, you know, we had to pay — we’ve had to pay for. So we had to take a loan out for $100,000 to help pay for it. So you’re just — it’s emotional, you know. That’s the hardest part — losing everything you worked so hard for, you know, over the years. And then the financial impact and just the stress that the whole thing — everything combined has caused, you know, over time — not — but just for that time, like when it was happening, I think it was just you — just the [0:25:00] shock, the disbelief, and just kind of not being able to do stuff for yourself. You just felt — you felt so kind of helpless, you know, that you had to rely on other people to help you, so you know.
ZC: Hurricane Harvey was emotional. And my question is how did you relieve the stress and the shock?
KS: Uh-huh, crying. I think crying and sometimes being angry about, “Why did this happen?” Talking with people helps a lot — you know, good support that way. Family and all that have been helping us out — mostly that, I think — just talking with people, especially other people that have gone — are going through the same [0:26:00] thing — went through the same thing, you know. You know you’re not alone, because you’re — they’re in the same situation you are in — some even worse, you know. So I think that is — helps the stress.
But I mean, there’s so many more stresses that you can’t — you wouldn’t even imagine, especially when you start getting repairs done and you’re working with contractors. I mean, we’ve had some problems with every phase of the repair with our contractor. We’re still not done. We still — I’m still living upstairs. I still have no furniture in my house. My kitchen’s not done. My bathroom’s not done. My floors aren’t done. And it’s been over a year, so the stress is still there. It’s still ongoing. So to relieve it, you just — I think just, you know, talking with [0:27:00] people is — communicating with people and knowing that there’s other people going through the same stuff that you are helps.
ZC: From this experience, what did you learn?
KS: What did I learn? Well, what did I learn? Let’s see. I learned a lot of things.
ZC: And it could be many things, anything.
KS: Well, I learned you — even though you don’t live in a flood zone, you can flood. I learned that there’s so many people that want to help — you know, even people you don’t — strangers, you know, really want to help. And there’s resources out there to help you. You know, you just have to go after it. Like right away, I got busy and started, you know, trying to find resources [0:28:00] for financial help and things like that.
And then I learned that you have to — you can’t always trust the people that — contractors that are coming in your house that, you know, tell you stuff. And then you find out later that it’s not — they weren’t telling you — they weren’t telling you the truth. Or you should check, you know, out their background and get references and all that. I mean, you kind of learn all this stuff as you go when you’ve never been through this, so everything is a learning experience really — so a lot of things.
ZC: How do you feel your community and the City of Houston in general dealt with Hurricane Harvey?
KS: I think my community did great, because there were so many people lending [0:29:00] support — churches that were coming out that would offer to help, you know, demo your house and bring you food. And we had — that first week was phenomenal. We had people coming, you know, to our door — complete strangers bringing us food. And so the community, I think, was outstanding. The City of Houston, I don’t know, not so much. I didn’t really feel — other than that the trash removal — when we had the big piles — we had big piles of all of our trash and belongings sitting out on our front yard. They came through and really did a great job. You know, they hired the City of San Antonio to come out and, you know, got them to — that was really good. So in that regard, I felt like the city really stepped up, you know.
ZC: Do you think [0:30:00] there’s a certain area they should improve on?
KS: Well, yeah, I think the flood control and the whole — because I truly believe that our area flooded because of the water that was being released from Lake Conroe. You know, I feel like, you know, we would have had a certain amount of street flooding normally with all that amount of rain. But when they released that water from Lake Conroe and they waited so long before they did it, that that’s really — and that’s not City of Houston so much. But I’m sure they, you know, have a say in some of that. So flood control, I think they need to work on that as far as so this doesn’t ever happen again. You know, and when they’re anticipating a huge storm that’s going to stop and park on the city and rain for days and days and days, that they need to be — have that — you know, start [0:31:00] preparing much more ahead of time than they did as far as the flood control and release of water, you know, from dams that are going to affect people downstream. And that’s what happened to us.
ZC: As big as Hurricane Harvey was, do you think the City of Houston is prepared for any future storms?
KS: I don’t think they’re quite there. I hope they’re working on it. I read stories and — you know, and I know they’re having a lot of community meetings and, you know town halls and things like that. And there is some legislation out there, I think, that’s happening to — and funding that’s been approved for certain things. So I think they’ll get there. Like if — like if it happens six months from now, I’m not sure they’re there yet. I think they’re probably working on it. At least, I hope so. But you know, I’ve been so consumed with everything else I haven’t really [0:32:00] honestly kept up with where they’re at in that stage. But you know, I hope they’re going to be more prepared.
ZC: Before we actually wrap up this interview, I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add on or cover or something that stood out for you during the whole experience?
KS: Uh-huh, no, I think — I can’t think of anything — just the generosity and kindness of people, you know, when things were at its worst, you know, in the beginning. I think that took — you know, was — it’s overwhelming enough as it is. But then to have people be so kind and giving, you know, like that. It took me by surprise a little [0:33:00] bit. You know, so that’s what I remember. Like I want to remember that the most more than everything else that happened, the tragedy, and the frustration, and all that.
ZC: One more question, because you bring up generosity. Do you think, whether you live in Kingwood or Katy – because the City of Houston is big – how would you define Houston Strong? And how did it impact you?
KS: I define Houston Strong as just people pulling together. I mean, I know that — because you know, our area, obviously, wasn’t the only area hit. There were so many other areas in Houston. And so people came together and some celebrities and things like that. And they donated money and went to shelters and so that’s [0:34:00] what I — how I think of Houston Strong. It’s all these people — all the community members coming together and providing support for people that were affected by that. And that, you know, makes you proud to be part of that community. But I think — I don’t think we were treated — Kingwood was treated any differently than any other community. I mean, we were — I think it was equal as far as help and support that was provided.
ZC: Alright, thank you for sharing your story today.
ZC: In the future, researchers may look back at this recording and get a sense of what happened that day of Hurricane Harvey. And we appreciate your participation today in our project.
KS: Okay. Alright, thank you.
ZC: [0:35:00] Thank you. [0:35:01]