I grew up in an area of Houston flood-prone during hurricane season. I never realized as a youth how lucky we were. When Allison hit and left my mother, sisters and I trapped in with no electricity for three days. The bayou behind our house overflowed the banks and into our streets, but the water only came up TO our house, and not into it.
I am also reminded of my experience in Costa Rica, when Hurricane Cesar/Douglas hit Nicaragua. Flash flooding and mudslides occurred, 26 people died, over $100 million dollars in damage, which is a lot by Tico standards. I was conducting research in the mangrove forests close to the mouth of the Sierpe River. Luckily I had travelled back up to the village of Sierpe, which is where I was when the storm hit. I think I would have been more frightened if we had been able to see television coverage, but electricity was sparse, and telephones practically non-existent. It rained for hours and hours.
By 5:30 am the next morning the men were headed out on all available boats, to evacuate folks from the fincas- small farms along the estuaries. When we began setting up a shelter for folks evacuated by helicopter and boats , we were told to expect 30 people. Seven hours later we had over 300, and we started a house to house plea for clothes and food for the displaced. I was mistaken for being with Red Cross, because I was the only gringa in the village. It was heartbreaking to meet a woman who had watched her husband, baby, and neighbors be washed away by a flash flood as they were crossing a bridge. I couldn't find words to say, so I gave her a hot cup of coffee. She thanked me as she held my hands and cried. I called my dad the next day to tell him what was happening, and he was distraught. He had been following the news closely, and was worried about my safety. Since there was only one pay phone available, and I was busy helping at the shelter, I hadn't thought to call anyone other than my sponsor- he and his field study students had to be air-vacced out of Corcovado National Park.
I barely escaped- we were running out of food in the village, and within two hours of my departure by bus, the road was washed out by Rio Grande de Terraba. As it was, I still had to get off the old Bluebird village bus to walk across two by fours set up as a makeshift bridge where one had been washed out. Luckily, two of the young men accompanied me- I was in a panic. I had called the local town to book a flight to the capital since the Centro-Americana Highway had over 30 bridges washed out. My sponsor couldn't come pick me up. I was told the flight would be over $200, which I didn't have. By the time we reached Palmar Norte, the President of Costa Rica had made an official statement that he would not tolerate price gouging by the airlines, so fares were dropped- my flight was $30 instead.
As I waited for my plane to arrive, I noticed small trucks filled with food and supplies surrounded by heavily armed military police in fatigues. A Tico noticed my curiousity and explained that because the Zona Sur (the peninsula we were on!) was cut off from the main portion of the country, aid was flown in. It turns out he was the director of the Lighting and Power Company, and was waiting for a friend to arrive so they could make deliveries and assess the damage. I met his "friend", who turned out to be the First Lady- the President was busy on the western coast surveying the destruction. As I flew back to San Jose, I was awestruck by how far the Rio Grande de Terraba had overflowed its banks. I managed to arrive home safely.
This still only allows me to relate on a minuscule scale to what must be going on in the southern states...