It was a chilling and bizarre sight for 22-year-old Texas resident Renz Michael Alisasis in late August 2017. He spotted a toddler wading through cold, murky floodwaters as if she was paddling at the beach. Hurricane Harvey had recently devastated the area, with the flood coming immediately in its wake. Along with it came headlines of countless people being missing or dead. Alarm bells began to ring for Alisasis – he didn’t want the infant to become a statistic, so he splashed into the street.
In an online video posted by Alisasis on 27 August 2017, the red-haired toddler is shown up to her thighs in filthy water. The suburban streets of Pearwater near Houston in Texas have been transformed following Harvey. The infant is filmed wearing just a diaper and thin vest, despite the chill water. Ironically, she is holding a water bottle. It seems that no-one else has spotted the tot, but Alisasis rushes to her side in a bid to coax her out of danger.
No responsible adults were to be seen. Alisasis suspected the curly haired little girl had slipped out of her home without a parent or carer noticing. It may have been an exciting adventure for the toddler, but Alisasis realized that she was in peril. She needed to get back to her family and out of the dangerous and dirty waters. But Alisasis had no idea where she had come from, or how to get her safely back there.
Hurricane Harvey ripped through southeast Texas during August, leaving a trail of flash flooding and devastation. The setting of this unorthodox film was captured in a street in Pearland, Texas, after the area was ravaged by the unceasing winds of the tropical storm turned hurricane. The little girl had already seen enough disaster to last her a lifetime, and now she was all alone.
Hurricane Harvey ripped through southeast Texas during late August 2017, leaving a trail of flash flooding and devastation. The small city of Pearland, Texas, was ravaged by the unmerciful winds of the tropical storm turned hurricane. The little girl’s community had already seen enough heart-breaking drama, without her disappearance or death adding to the toll.
It was all started with a tropical wave which originated from the coast of Africa at the beginning of August 2017. By August 17 it had reached the Lesser Antilles and was given the infamous name Tropical Storm Harvey as it inflicted heavy rain and wind on the island’s population. A short-lived sense of relief followed when the storm encountered drier air in the East Caribbean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded the risk on August 19, thinking the worst was over. Unfortunately for the states, however, the situation very rapidly took a turn for the worse.
The weather in the U.S. became fiercer, clouds gathered and it became clear that a serious storm was brewing. By August 23 the remnants of Harvey had reformed into a tropical depression which was growing into something calamitous. Residents of the southern states listened anxiously as weather forecasters confirmed that Harvey was by now a category-four hurricane, and it was heading towards the Texas Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25 in the U.S. It smashed all previous records for the longest landfall hurricane in Texan history. Wind speeds hit a peak of about 140 miles per hour. However, those living in the areas Harvey hit were not so concerned by statistics as they were in adjusting to the new reality. Thousands were face with the loss of life, homes and businesses to the hurricane and flash flooding. Indeed, it can be said that the images of the tiny girl splashing along represented the spirit of determination to carry on.
In fact, the infant seems unaffected by the dangerous situation in the video. But Alisasis, having spotted the toddler from his window and then caught up with her, is concerned. He can be heard anxiously asking her “where are you parents” and “where are you going,” while the tot points ambiguously.
Carefree in a way that only a small child can be, the girl says that she has been allowed out on her own. Realizing that there was a family missing the young girl, Alisasis pleads with the tot to show him her home. No matter how relaxed she seems, there must be a family close by who are not so relaxed about the cold and wet little girl’s absence.
The pair can be heard talking throughout the video, and soon the soothing tone of Alisasis’ voice persuades the girl to walk toward a house. The young man slowly realizes that the tot believes she is returning home. The toddler thinks she knows where her parents are and Alisasis is hopeful to see them safely reunited.
But the house the little girl approaches seems empty and there is no movement from inside. Does the toddler have the right address, or has she become confused while wandering around in the wet? The front lawn of the house is awash, with floodwater over the curbside. Cars on the driveway are dry but there appears to be no-one around.
The shaky footage, shot by Alisasis as he continued to chat to the girl about her home and family, slowly pans on to the front door of the house. Thankfully, we see the door open and a man stepping out. Indeed, it proves to be the toddler’s father and the parent is completely bewildered by what he sees.
The stricken dad repeats to camera that he had no idea his daughter had slipped out on his watch. We see the dad make his way out to greet the child. It is mission accomplished for Alisasis. The young man has done his job, but he warns the father of the dangers his young child has gotten into. This film has a happy ending but it could have been a very different story.
Tragically, 82 Americans died and at least 3,600 people had to be rescued by police and emergency services following Harvey and the intense flooding. More than 17,000 people had to be evacuated in Texas alone. Recordings of almost 40 inches of rainfall over four days shocked the nation, as unprecedented turbulent weather hit southeast Texas.
Luckily the toddler in Alisasis’ video had a home to return to, unlike the tens of thousands of evacuees who were put up in Red Cross shelters. Harvey is only the second hurricane to have hit mainland Texas, following a hurricane in 1961. Widespread news reports catalogued the destruction caused as cars were swept away in flash flooding.
Following the toddler’s happy reunion with her father, Alisasis took to social media to talk about his unusual encounter and rescue mission. His subsequent tweet was retweeted by more than 5,000 users and in excess of 8,000 people liked it. The online community appreciated the young man’s compassion and quick thinking.
However, some Twitter fans criticized the parents’ lack of attention. Their daughter had slipped away from under their noses, and some people questioned how that was possible. One user congratulated Alisasis, “Well done! But WHAT were the parents thinking letting a three-year-old sneak out before/during/after #HurricaneHarvey? I mean she wandered far.”
Understanding the daily trials of parenting, combined with the upset and upheaval caused by natural disasters, made some people more sympathetic to the situation. Responding to the critical comments, one user said, “Have you considered there’s no electricity and the parents may be exhausted after several sleepless days of rain, winds and heat?” Another added, “Kids do sneak out when parents are distracted.”
Hopefully, the toddler’s parents will keep a closer eye on the infant in future. Thankfully, Alisasis was in the right place at the right time to help their little girl. Thanks to his positive actions that day, all the tot suffered was the wetness and chill of dirty flood water. It may have been one of the less serious consequences of Harvey, but as we have seen it could have been a lot worse.