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Book Review: Houston After Harvey: Stories from Inside the Hurricane by Jacqueline Havelka and Jill Bullard Almaguer

Houston After Harvey: Stories from Inside the Hurricane is an encyclopedic, almost kaleidoscopic collection of interviews with flood victims about their Hurricane Harvey experiences. The new Amazon eBook by two Houston authors, Jacqueline Havelka and Jill Bullard Almaguer, has a “you are there” quality to it. The interviews fall into roughly three categories: before, during and after the storm. 

WhataBurger in Kingwood’s new HEB shopping center during flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Story of a Natural Disaster Told Through Victims’ Eyes

They recount the stories of people watching in terror as water crept inexorably toward their homes and businesses, praying it would not reach their front doors. They speak of the chaos of emergency evacuations, when people suddenly realized they had waited too long. And finally, they reveal the shock and sadness of returning to often uninsured homes and the struggle to repair them without the financial means to do so. 

Floods like Harvey affect every nook and cranny of the community and local economy. 

Entire Range of Human Emotions

Readers of this book will experience the entire range of the human emotions. Helplessness in the face of nature’s rage. Numbness in shelters. Kindness of strangers. Tears of loss. Rage at looters. Bewilderment when navigating the government bureaucracy. The struggle to return to normalcy. And more. Much more.

The book is not all seen through the eyes of flood victims. A narrative section for the statistically inclined puts Harvey in historical perspective. The storm dumped more rain on the continental US than any other storm in history. Including a whopping 4 feet on Houston, a metropolitan area of seven million people. 

One of the untold stories of Harvey, until now, is how Houston, a sprawling metropolis of diverse interests, came together in one of its darkest moments.

Half the community needed help. And the other half gave it.

Parts of this book will make you smile. Parts will make you cry. 

A Cautionary Tale for the World

If you read the book in one sitting, it feels like a time-lapse video, as if you’re reliving the whole Harvey experience in fast forward. It literally took me back to those terrible days in August and September of 2017.

You never forget an experience, such as Harvey. And you shouldn’t. Even if you want to. Harvey is a cautionary tale for the world about the need to prepare for flooding. Even if you think you live on high ground. Most of Harvey’s victims lived and worked outside of any recognized flood zone.

Recommended For…

I recommend this book to anyone who thinks s/he is immune to flooding. I also recommend it to Harvey victims who want to learn about others who shared their plight. 

Many flood victims may also want to give the book to friends and family in other parts of the country. It will help them understand what it was really like to go through a major flood. And more importantly, what it takes to come out whole on the other side. 

Ms. Havelka and Ms. Bullard have made a huge contribution to the understanding of America’s most common natural disaster – flooding.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/14/2020

989 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Note: I have known Jacque Havelka for many years and respect her contributions to the community. She is a talented writer/reporter. Even though I consulted with her when she was planning the book, I have no financial interest in it and will not profit from it.