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'It's So Surprising When It Happens': Houston Resident On Leaving Flooded Home


A few days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Sara Cress wrote a poem titled "Hurricane Prayer." She referenced some of the other storms she's seen hit Houston over the years. She's lived there since she was 6.

SARA CRESS: (Reading) I'd point my body to the sea the night before landfall and remember every unsettled dusk I've lived before, all named after kids down the street I never liked - Ike, Rita, Alicia, the redhead. Each one steals a little piece, a marble from the set, leaving me incomplete.

MCEVERS: The poem goes on, asking the hurricane to spare her friends and family. She ends saying, if you must take anything, just take me.


Harvey ended up taking her home. She told us her story starting with Sunday.

CRESS: It's so surprising when it happens. I saw the water that night start to pond in the street in a new way. Like, I knew that it wasn't moving. And I was like, I have to sleep sometime. So around 2 a.m., I tried to go to sleep and I got a couple of hours sleep. And then I just woke up and the water was in the yard. And I was like, this is it. And then immediately it was on the front step. And then immediately it was in our closet. And then immediately it was everywhere else.

And by the time we actually got everything together we had about a foot in the house in a matter of 20 minutes. And my husband, Chad (ph), remembered that we were supposed to go down the street to a neighbor's house, to Josh's (ph) house. And we don't know Josh, but we know he has a house that has two stories and it's high up off the ground. And so we put together as much as we could, we got the two dogs secured and abandoned.

SHAPIRO: Sara Cress says there are many things she wishes she had done differently, so she's urging others to do what she did not.

CRESS: We did a few things by putting just some important things up higher. But we didn't put together a kit of any kind. We didn't put together a bag of essential items. That was something that I'm very upset with myself that I didn't do. We should have had pet carriers out. We should have had a to-go kit, you know, for them too. We didn't have our phones in plastic bags, so they were in our pockets when we were walking through the water. And I didn't realize how deep the water is, so our phones were dead by the time we got to a safe space.

I don't think anyone can be prepared. There's not so much you can do, really. But you can at least have things just ready to go. And we've learned so much. We're never going to be without a bag just ready to go and pet things ready to go. I've learned my lesson. Houston is a great place. I'm still going to live here. I love this city. But it scares me a little now.

MCEVERS: Houston resident and poet Sara Cress talking to us on Skype from a friend's house, where she and her husband are now staying.

(SOUNDBITE OF BATHS SONG, "AMINALS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.