The following is a part of a series of profiles of U of R students who were in someway affected by the Hurricanes that hit the United States at the end of the summer. For more background on the devastating hurricanes and their consequential damage across our nation, please read “A Summer of Hurricanes: Context for Stories of Those Affected.”
While most freshmen were settling in and getting a feel for the culture of the University of Redlands campus, Emily Fleming was watching the news as a hurricane destroyed her hometown.
She grew up in Houston, which was heavily affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“Houston is the best city ever, I don’t really know how to describe it,” Fleming said. “There’s something to do all of the time. I was at boarding school for the last two years of high school so I wasn’t living there for two years and when I came back to visit after a little while it was really different. When I grew up it wasn’t a super nice city, but when I came back they had redone the city. It’s really nice now, there’s a lot of oil money there.”
The city has transformed after the storm as well.
“Most of the hurricanes in Houston aren’t that bad so everyone was prepared for a lot of rain. No one was prepared for a huge flood,” she continued. “It was more of a surprise to people, they were shocked. A lot of people stayed because they weren’t expecting that it was going to be that bad. People were trying to get out afterwards, but the airport got shut down pretty quickly so they couldn’t get out.”
The closed airports struck close to home as many of her friends were also attempting to start their freshman year, and needed to fly. Some were even forced to stay in Houston during the beginning of the school year, arriving two weeks late. Luckily for Fleming, she was able to leave two weeks before the storm struck.
She has been corresponding with family and friends back home to keep tabs on their well being. Her mom may possibly have PTSD because of the shock of the violent storm that no one was expecting. This diagnosis is understandable as Fleming explained, having been in a hurricane before herself.
“There’s been a few hurricanes, the last two I was there for weren’t that bad, it was just scary being in it,” Fleming said. “It’s shocking to hear the storm and watch the water come up it’s so anxiety producing, but they weren’t anywhere as bad as this one.”
Her family home is on a hill, so it did not have as much damage as her neighbors’ houses, which were flooded. Although her house was not destroyed, her parents decided to move farther away from the storm.
“My parents were going to stay with a friend, so they had to walk through the flood with a bunch of our stuff,” she explained.
Fleming recalled a time when her family had travelled to another city to escape a storm.
“I think it’s just hard having personally been in a hurricane and knowing where my family stands on it, and a lot of people don’t want to leave their homes if there’s no reason to,” she continued. “I remember we went to Dallas for one hurricane because it’s so hard to get out and evacuate before the storm because everyone is trying to, so there’s a ton of traffic. It’s not worth it if you don’t need to do it. It’s just hard to predict how bad things are going to be.”
Although, normally people can evacuate to other major cities like Dallas or Austin to find safety, Fleming explained that because of the short notice and severe flooding, that wasn’t an option for everyone.
The traffic before the storm was unbearable in the rush to flee, but even at the time of the interview, traveling in and around Houston remained difficult.
“The floods have gone down a lot, but now it’s more just buildings that were damaged and the water damage on the part of our highway, the I-10, [has] a sinkhole in it, so it’s crushed,” Fleming explained. “My friends said that it’s hard to get places now because of the traffic.”
Here at the University of Redlands, Fleming despite her distance from home, an overwhelming support system. The University of Redlands has reached out to the students affected by the storm, but Fleming also felt support from the community at large.
“I don’t need too much support, but when I say I’m from Houston, everyone that I’ve said that to is like are you okay? Is your family okay? Which is nice because I didn’t expect that,” she said.
The community of Redlands has made sure of the well being of those affected, but Fleming’s community in Houston has offered support as well.
“I think the biggest thing is seeing how people have come together and it’s awesome because a lot of people from Texas have a lot of Texas pride,” Fleming said. “Especially in Houston, people are really proud of where they’re from and I think that’s reaffirms that throughout this whole process everyone has been coming together and supporting each other. Not only just the people from Houston, but everyone has been really supportive of it nationally.”
As the storm waters drain and the damage is dealt with, Fleming remains on campus, thinking of those still in her city.
photo contributed by subject, Emily Fleming