VOA Special English
Houston Still Recovering from Hurricane Harvey


    The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season started two months ago, but many Texas families are still struggling to recover from the damage caused by a major storm last year.

    The storm, named Hurricane Harvey, hit Houston and areas around the city. Harvey caused flooding in many neighborhoods.

    Samantha and Justin Scott and their three children live in the Bear Creek Village neighborhood just west of Houston.

    For Samantha Scott, trying to get their life back to normal has been a frightening experience.

    “I think when my kids think back to the past year of our life, especially our oldest, I think he’s just going to remember that I cried a lot,” she said.

    The Scotts are still rebuilding their home after the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey. It was one of the wettest storm systems in the history of the United States.

    Like a slap in the face

    When Harvey hit Texas, it was a Category 4 hurricane. This was the first such storm to strike the U.S. mainland since 2005.

    For the past year, Samantha and the children temporarily moved away from their home, while Justin stayed behind to work on the house.

    Their youngest child was only a few months old when their home was flooded last August.

    “I pretty much missed out on the better half of the first year of his life,” Scott said of his youngest child, Kyle. "Missing things like watching him walk for the first time. Watching him do a lot of the stuff that kids do for the first time, I missed.”

    FILE - A car is submerged in floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in Houston, Sept. 4, 2017.
    FILE - A car is submerged in floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in Houston, Sept. 4, 2017.

    The Scotts are not alone. Storm damage can be seen in nearby homes.

    “It just hits you. It’s like a slap in the face every single time. It’s like it doesn't end, like the hurricane is just continuing,” Samantha said.

    Throughout the Bear Creek neighborhood, many homes have "for sale" signs, and building materials along the side of the street. On one street, a neighbor said only three families decided to stay and the others wanted to sell their homes.

    For the families who stayed, rebuilding has been slow. Many people do not have flood insurance.

    The Scotts' neighbor, Joe Franz, moved to Bear Creek in 1994. Five years ago, he canceled his flood insurance policy to save money. Hurricane Harvey was the first time floodwaters entered his home.

    Franz said he had to take everything out of the house and leave it by the street like the rest of the neighborhood.

    A difficult position

    Bear Creek flooded because it is next to a man-made lake, which supplies water to homes and businesses. Other homes in the Houston area flooded because they sit in low lying areas.

    Floodplains are like little valleys, and they can hold just about anything nature can throw at us, including Harvey," noted John Jacob of Texas A&M University.

    Jacobs said preventing major flooding will take time.

    “Fifty years from now, we need to be able to reclaim all these floodplains. So, part of this can be through buyout with federal money. But the other part is just going to be awareness,” he said.

    Jacobs said there will be other storms and floods in Houston, so when people are buying a home, they should study maps of land height and look for houses built on high ground. Another solution is to raise houses, Jacob said. He lives in a house that has a one-meter high space underneath the home.

    For now, many people like the Scotts are stuck in their existing home.

    “This has kind of put us in a situation where we can’t really afford just to pick up and leave,” Justin said.

    But the Scott family is thankful for even a little progress. On the day they spoke with VOA, their new bedroom furniture arrived. It was the first night the family was together in their home since the floods hit.

    I’m Phil Dierking.

    Elizabeth Lee reported this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

    Have you had to survive a natural disaster? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    afford - v. to be able to pay for (something)

    awareness - n. knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character

    furniture - n. chairs, tables, beds, etc., that are used to make a room ready for use

    hurricane - n. an extremely large, powerful, and destructive storm with very strong winds that occurs especially in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean

    insurance - n. an agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house or car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen

    slap - v. to hit (someone or something) with the front or back of your open hand

    floodplain - n. an area of low, flat land along a stream or river that may flood

    Category 4 - n. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed

    kid - n. a son or daughter