Over the years, America has faced its fair share of natural disasters. Heatwaves, floods and forest fires have all taken their toll at various times in history. But in August 2017 a ferocious force of nature was to rock the country, causing unprecedented damage – and it would have a devastating impact on millions of people.
Hurricanes are not a rare phenomenon; in fact, they’re fairly common. Each year, after all, a hurricane season occurs in the northern Atlantic Ocean. This period of extreme weather typically begins to build in the summer and lasts up until near the end of the year.
Naturally, then, it is not out of the ordinary for the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to monitor unusual weather patterns during the season. And on the morning of August 13, 2017, the U.S. agency was doing just that – when something ominous in the atmosphere entered the frame.
Just off the western coast of Africa, the NHC had spotted a tropical wave. Then, throughout the day, things began to escalate rapidly – with the stormy weather soon forming Hurricane Harvey, as it would come to be known.
Yet Harvey was not the first hurricane to rear its head that term. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active and destructive spells of its kind ever recorded. The region was in fact plagued by ten hurricanes – and to make matters worse, they each developed one right after the other.
Thirteen days after it had first been detected, Harvey struck Rockport, Texas. This moment marked the first time that a major hurricane had descended upon the United States in over a decade. And although Harvey was eventually reduced in category to a tropical storm, it nonetheless managed to wreak utter havoc.
Uncommonly, the residents of Texas had to battle fierce winds and incredibly heavy rain. Over the course of a few days, in fact, most of the southeastern part of the state, including Houston, received a year’s worth of rain. All told, around 13 million people were affected, with the severe flooding leaving almost 135,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
These dangerous conditions naturally caused many places to be evacuated. Indeed, according to the Chicago Tribune, the flooding displaced around 30,000 people. Despite these treacherous conditions, however, one Texan resident faced what could have potentially been an even greater danger.
Originally hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Arlene Gonzalez Kelsch had moved to a lake-facing house in Houston. There, Kelsch and her family would often observe the wildlife that visited the lake. Come springtime, they had even spotted baby alligators in the vicinity.
But even though Kelsch’s lakeside location might have seemed like something to be envied, at this point it also proved to be a great danger. After all, parts of Houston had seen more than 50 inches of rain, and Kelsch’s backyard was itself totally immersed in water.
And she was not alone. When Kelsch looked out of her window, she spotted little green frogs clinging to the glass. Perhaps they were desperate to escape the rising tide. Or were they trying to flee from a more fearsome threat?
When the Texan looked out onto her backyard, she noticed a shadowy form lurking in the water. Intrigued, she then grabbed her phone and began to record the scene that was unfolding in front of her. Yet when she realized what was floating at the water’s surface, Kelsch was left completely shocked.
What she could see, in her own yard, was an alligator – and not a baby one at that. Unsurprisingly, Kelsch couldn’t believe her eyes. But she was in for yet another troubling surprise: the alligator had a companion alongside it.
That’s right, Kelsch’s yard had been invaded not just by one alligator but two. “Gators aren’t too uncommon,” she told Inside Edition. “But the shock of seeing your backyard underwater and two alligators? Surreal!” Now, not only did the Texan have to face the dangers that Harvey had brought – but also that of two potentially deadly reptiles.
What’s more, Kelsch suspected that the gators were not the only new residents to have washed up in her backyard. She wondered if another – and just as potentially deadly – reptile had joined the party, too. Yes, thinking that snakes might have also been in her garden, she told Inside Edition, “I was prepared to throw out raw meat if I had to in order for them to leave.”
Luckily for Kelsch, no such drastic action was needed, though. Shortly after she had discovered the animal invaders in her backyard, officials announced that, as more rain was forecast, Kelsch’s home and the surrounding areas would need to be evacuated.
However, this Texan woman was not out of the woods just yet. Kelsch told Inside Edition that she had no idea where she was going to go. And with millions of other people also affected by Harvey, she was not the only one whose future remained uncertain.
Indeed, the future of Texas itself was similarly unclear. Governor Greg Abbott in fact predicted that fixing up the state could cost as much as $180 billion. And if that estimate proved to be accurate, it would make Hurricane Harvey the costliest force of nature that America had ever experienced.
Some experts even predicted that it could take Houston more than a decade to recover. And whether or not this turns out to be the case, what is certain is that more than a month after Harvey had first made landfall, some of Texas’ schools still remained closed.
That said, steps are being taken towards rebuilding the state, with organizations having been active in distributing emergency supplies to individuals such as Kelsch. And if nature can play its part by showing mercy as time moves on, hopefully Houston will soon be well on the road to recovery.