Some Houstonians Still Haven't Seen Their Homes

Sep 4, 2017
Originally published on September 4, 2017 8:43 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's return now to Houston, where there are still areas of that city where the water is so high, people can't get back into their homes. NPR's Rebecca Davis visited one neighborhood where people are hoping they can finally figure out how much they've lost.

REBECCA DAVIS, BYLINE: On the edge of a parking lot, a small group of people stand around. At first, it looks like they could be waiting for a bus, but, actually, they're waiting for a boat. Over the past few days, volunteers have been showing up here to ferry people to their homes so they can survey the damage. Sergeant Ron Rayburn, Harris County Precinct 5, watches from his patrol car. This is a quiet neighborhood - brick homes, nice lawns. He says it had just recovered from a major flood last year, and now many of those fixed up homes are ruined again.

RON RAYBURN: Just in this section back here, we have about 2,000 homes. And I would estimate probably 1,500 of them or a little more have been flooded. Some of them - at least seven foot of water in them.

DAVIS: A few minutes later, a couple of boats return with passengers. People get off. Others get in. Sergeant Rayburn wishes they wouldn't. The water is just too dangerous.

RAYBURN: There are alligators in here. There's still electricity in there, which we've had - someone had gotten electrocuted on Tuesday, walking in the water.

DAVIS: And, sometimes, the water is a weird green. Today, it's brown.

JANET CARIJUANA: I mean, I've been here a little while. And I'll just wait as long as it takes.

DAVIS: Janet Carijuana hopes she'll be next.

CARIJUANA: Not going home without Cupcake.

DAVIS: The family cat. Janet promised her daughter she would find Cupcake. Like everyone here, Janet's not only dying to get back home, she's nervous like crazy about what she'll find.

CARIJUANA: Well, I think once I see that house, once I see the inside, it's going to be like - I'm going to realize how much devastation I'm facing.

DAVIS: A guy named Steve comes up in his boat. Janet gets in. And off we go.

CARIJUANA: So it's the next street after this.

DAVIS: Everywhere is water. It's peaceful, but Janet's garage door is open.

CARIJUANA: That's weird.

DAVIS: Steve pulls his boat up to her house, and Janet looks down at the water. She worries she'll get electrocuted.

CARIJUANA: That's what I'm afraid of. Oh, well. One way of getting out of paying all my bills that I owe.

DAVIS: She sticks her finger in the water, and Steve chuckles. If that were electric, you'd be dead by now. She steps into the water and walks into the garage.

CARIJUANA: Oh, Jesus.

DAVIS: She nearly slips on the muck. There's a water line 2 feet up the wall but no standing water.

CARIJUANA: Kitty girl. Man, it stinks in here. It's very musty.

DAVIS: She buzzes around the house, looking everywhere for Cupcake.

CARIJUANA: She's not here. I don't see her.

DAVIS: Janet calms herself. OK. She's somewhere. Cats are resilient. As for the house - it's soggy, yes, but not a total loss. Janet was preparing herself to say goodbye to her home, but now...

CARIJUANA: I'm thinking now, you know, as soon as I get that water out, maybe we can just go back to my home and just, you know, start to rebuild. You know, just getting some semblance of normalcy again.

DAVIS: Back at the street corner, others still wait. It's late afternoon, and the boat captains are getting tired. I'll be back tomorrow, one of them says, and the day after that. Rebecca Davis, NPR News, Houston.

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