Brad Byrd In-Depth: What it's like in Houston

The storm named Harvey is impacting millions of people in Texas and beyond, including journalists who are covering it.

Among them a former team member here at Eyewitness News, Ryan Braschler who is now reporting for KTUL, our ABC affiliate in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Brad: “Ryan it is good to hear your voice, the first question I have – are you safe?”

Ryan: “Brad it’s good to be here. I am perfectly safe. I am in Katy, TX, it’s a suburb on the west side of Houston, sort of higher ground. We’re getting a lot of rain, it’s all washing down, fortunately, it’s still all washing down into Houston.”

Brad: “Ryan, when you’re reporting on something like this, we always have an idea of what we might see, but when you got down there in Houston, were you prepared for what you saw? Were you surprised at the magnitude of this disaster?”

Ryan: ”I was absolutely not prepared for what I saw. You know, we cover things in Evansville, I’ve covered the Harrisburg tornado, the tornado, it’s a significant disaster. I’ve covered flooding in north eastern Oklahoma that was significant, but this is something you can’t wrap your mind around. Think about this for a second: three trillion gallons of water has fallen on south eastern Texas. You don’t use the word trillion unless you’re talking about the national debt. It’s an amount of water that you can’t understand. Even when you see it, you don’t understand it. There are streets that are just rivers in a major metropolitan area. There are 4.5 million people in the city, the fourth largest city in America and it’s absolutely paralyzed by this flood.”

Brad: “The faces of the people you have seen, tell me about them. What are these folks feeling? I know we’ve been hearing the positive side of this, Texans coming together, perfect strangers helping perfect strangers, but how these people really handling that and how has that affected you?”

Ryan: “It’s actual devastation. This is a natural disaster the likes of which this area has never seen. Houston is a low city. The highest point is 70 feet above sea level so they’re used to flooding, but they’ve never seen anything like this. They’re calling it an 800 year flood. The people around here can’t wrap their minds around it just like I can’t wrap my mind around it. First of all, you can’t travel here. All the freeways, all the roads, everything is under water. You can’t get to where you want to get to. The people you meet are stranded, they can’t go anywhere. They’re stuck wherever they are just to wait this thing out as Harvey just churns itself right over top this community. It’s heartbreaking, it’s an emotional feeling. I have wept seeing images of these people that you can’t understand what they’re going through. There’s a picture that’s been circulating on social media from Galveston, TX, just a little bit south east of Houston. It’s of a nursing home and these elderly people, they couldn’t go anywhere, they couldn’t escape. These are people on oxygen tanks and in wheelchairs, and the photo is elderly women knitting with water up to their chest and up to their neck. They had to be rescued. It’s actually an emotional experience to be here.”

Brad: “Ryan, you started, from what I understand, you began some of your live reporting early this morning, around 3 a.m. and you’ve been going at this all day, from that point in time, to the way it is tonight, it’s still raining there, so this is going to become worse before it gets better.”

Ryan: “This storm hit Houston late Friday night into Saturday morning and they got 20 to 30 inches of rain depending on where your gauges were. The official number is 24 inches of rain. The city of Houston, on average, over the course of a full year, gets 34 inches of rain. They got 24 in 48 hours. On top of that, throughout the week, because of the nature of this storm, it’s grinding over top of us right now, they’re expecting upwards of 50 more inches of rain on top of that 24. It’s unfathomable. If you get 8 to 9 inches of rain in one sitting in Evansville, you flood. We’re talking about 2 feet, and then we’re talking about 4 feet on top of that. More than 6 feet of rain. It’s something that you can’t wrap your mind around.”

Brad: “Obviously from what you’re telling us, and some of the images that we’re showing on the air right now, it is very easy to understand why this is not a question of how many weeks, even how many months but how many years this may take for the people of Houston to totally rebound and recover, and in many cases, many heartbreaking cases, that closure may never come.”

 

(This story was originally published on Aug. 28, 2017)


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