Wading for Godot

Allison arrived in a flood of thoughts -- mattress rafts, murky thigh-deep water and the sudden flotsam of family life rushing out the back door

Our house, which sits west of the Heights in the Timbergrove Manor subdivision, is only a long block from White Oak Bayou, but longtime residents said even the worst rains never made it inside any homes on our street. And the TV folks were talking only about flooding problems with Greens Bayou and Cypress Creek and the San Jacinto River, so it seemed Allison would provide nothing more than a weekend's worth of interesting pictures of swamped 18-wheelers.

As the night drew on, though, and the rains continued to pour down, it looked more and more like Allison would become a Major Houston Event -- meaning one that actually directly affected me.

First one weather guy, then another mentioned that White Oak Bayou was rising dangerously high. Then an intense rain cell settled over the western half of inside-the-Loop Houston, and it refused to move. Outside the windows the rain sounded like a waterfall.

The SS Mattress, she was a good ship, and true.
Mark Poutenis
The SS Mattress, she was a good ship, and true.
The sun will come out tomorrow. And your life will be one gigantic pain in the neck.
Mark Poutenis
The sun will come out tomorrow. And your life will be one gigantic pain in the neck.

"Not good," thought I.

We had two vehicles in our driveway -- our relatively new Honda Accord and our relatively old Ford pickup, one month away from being paid off. The Honda was closest to the street and obviously has less of a ground clearance than the truck, so I wondered whether it'd be worth getting soaked in order to switch their places.

I glanced out the front window and saw it'd be fruitless -- the curbs were already overflowing, meaning we would have had to back out through water high enough to possibly ruin the Honda's engine.

It still didn't seem possible that any water would actually make it into the house: The rain had to stop soon, right?

Somehow it didn't stop. And the water that had overflowed the curbs was now reaching our carport.

Regretfully coming to the conclusion that we might just get at least a little water, I quickly took two steps of action. First, I resolved to move any low-lying Important Stuff up to higher shelves. Second, I realized that there were no higher shelves that weren't already packed with Important Stuff.

My wife and I grabbed some pictures and some papers. Almost simultaneously, the same thought occurred to each of us: "Christ, we sure do have a lot of stuff near the floor." Books, albums and piles and piles of official-looking papers that could contain either a) our flood insurance policy or b) a 1994 receipt from Blockbuster.

Still, at that point we were dry. We jammed some towels under the front door, towels that would prove incredibly important later that night when God decided we needed something floating under the murky surface ready to trip us at a moment's notice.

The TV stations, those sadistic bastards, continued to report grim news. Or at least news that was grimmer to me than previous news. White Oak Bayou was flooding upstream, and anyone living near it inside the Loop was all but guaranteed to get hit too.

Having no sandbags available to protect us -- with our faith and hopes instead firmly resolved with the ability of the towels to hold back the waters -- we waited.


The rain just kept coming. The radar showed a huge blob over our house that simply refused to budge. Outside, the water was several inches high in the carport and there was no street to be seen.

Our next strategic step was Crossing Our Fingers. Alas, this time-tested method failed to deliver on its promise.

The first trickle of water came not through the front door (let's hear it for those fightin' towels!). Instead, as I looked down, water suddenly began to seep in through the base of our front wall.

It didn't look that bad -- nice and clear over the hardwood floors, in fact, and not advancing too fast. I went to get more towels, reinforcements for the proud brigade that was battling valiantly at the door. When I came back, half the living room floor was covered in water.

With the rain continuing to pound, it was obvious things were going to get worse before they got better. So we put a little more effort into moving low-lying things and held our breath. My kid's room is also near the front of the house; the water quickly overwhelmed a rug there. Tremendously annoyed that a massive disaster such as a single spoiled rug was about to ruin our weekend, we quickly rolled up a rug that was under the dining room table.

The water was moving from the front of the house to the back, so one room after another fell victim. When everything was covered by an inch or two, all three of us went into the main bedroom, sat up on the bed and watched the TV, trying to urge the rain to stop.

Within minutes, the water was up to the wall sockets. We unplugged the TV and whatever else we could reach. A few minutes more and the water was up to our knees. And what had been nice, clear water was now a pretty disgusting brown, the provenance of which we didn't much care to think about.

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