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I Survived The Houston Flood, But Many More Still Need Your Help

I feel lucky to be alive, but there's so much more to be done

This week, the country has watched as the streets of our fourth-most populous city have been overtaken by floodwaters. Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Friday night, has since caused "unprecedented" and "catastrophic" levels of flooding.

Jacquelyn Toman, a Houston resident and second-year student at South Texas College of Law, agreed to share with MTV News her experience of being displaced from her home, her three-day struggle to escape the rising waters when it seemed that help was stopped at every turn, and eventually, her safe route out of the storm. "Flooding is a really common threat in Houston," she said. "But this time was a little bit different. From the very beginning when they started reporting about Harvey, I just had a bad feeling in my gut."

Friday, August 25, 2017

I had school on Thursday, so my boyfriend Rodney and I started preparing on Friday. We went to two different grocery stores that were absolutely bare, so we couldn’t get groceries. My parents came from Sealy, which is about 50 miles outside of Houston, and they brought us groceries and helped us block the doors with almost 2,000 pounds of sandbags and raised the furniture at least eight inches off the floor. We sent our dog, Blu, home with my parents because I told my mom if it got bad enough that we had to be rescued, I wouldn’t leave if they wouldn’t take Blu.

Late Saturday night, August 26, 2017

On Saturday night, the water started coming up to our yard. Cars were stranded in our yard too, and we tried to tell people just to stay there because we live right next to a bayou and all that water comes right into our neighborhood when the banks overflow — there’s just no way to drive through it. One guy was in an SUV parked right next to our house on the grass. At around midnight, the water rose high enough that he was stranded in the car.

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Naomi Coto carries Simba on her shoulders as they evacuate their home after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep with people out in the yard, so I stayed up and watched the news. It was still raining and I soon noticed that water was coming into the house under the front and back doors, under the cabinets in the kitchen, and from the door to the garage. My foot sunk into the carpet and water came up over it. We tried to throw towels on the ground but they were soon floating in water. Within a very, very short period of time, the entire house was submerged in at least a couple of inches of water. It just rose from there.

1 a.m. on Sunday, August 27, 2017

The water soon rose high enough to reach the electrical outlets, and we had to cut the electricity. We had luckily bought fishing waders and with those on, we were able to walk through the house to stack our things even higher. ... I was just sick to my stomach. My nerves were so bad that at times I had to sit down and couldn’t do anything.

I think the hardest part was it all happened in the middle of the night. We had shut all the power off, and while we had flashlights we didn’t want to waste the batteries, so it was completely dark. So we just laid on the couch, listening to the floorboards coming up and knocking against each other and a really loud scraping noise that sounded as though a car had been washed up against our house. I’m still not sure what that sound was.

When the water reached the base of the couch, we knew we had to do something. We couldn’t get to the roof and didn’t have a way to bust through our attic. ... We called [911] around eight times and nobody ever answered. We got a hold of a local fire department, but we were on hold for about 45 minutes and nobody answered. My phone was about to die, without any electricity to recharge it. That’s when a real state of panic set in. None of the people you would normally call when you’re in danger, the people you rely on, were answering.

I was so overwhelmed at that point that I actually threw up. It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.


Families evacuate by boat in Houston, Texas on August 30, 2017.

6 a.m. on Sunday, August 27, 2017

I was really thankful when the sun rose. It stopped raining at that point but the water was still rising. My boyfriend called his co-worker who lives about three-quarters of a mile away from us and said his apartment had not flooded. It started to rain again and we decided that was our last chance to leave. We each took a backpack and bag of food and walked there.

The water right outside the door was above my waist and I was terrified. The SUV was still in our yard; the water was up to its windows. ... A neighbor later told us that he checked on the car and it was empty, but we still don’t know what happened to those people.

The current was strong on our side street, so we used a nearby fence to help us walk. Going against the current made my legs so sore and the water was so deep that at one point I almost went all the way underwater. At one point, Rodney had to carry me a few hundred feet because I couldn’t touch the ground anymore.

8 a.m. Sunday, August 27, 2017

We finally made it to the apartment and the first thing I did was call my mom. When I told her we were safe, she started hysterically crying. I think she really thought we were going to drown in there. It was really hard to listen to her be so upset. Later, she told me about a guy from San Antonio she found on Facebook who had come to Houston with a big truck to rescue people. We contacted him, and he said he would come and help us get to Sealy. When he was close, he found that our highway exit was completely underwater. He said he would get a rescue boat to get us and take us to him, but there weren’t enough rescue boats available.

He eventually took another highway and made it to us, but once in his truck ... we had to turn around so many times because the floodwater was too high. ... Some of the water we went through was so deep that the truck shut down two times on our way. We ended up making it to one of my good friend’s parents' house, where we slept for the first time since Friday night.

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Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas.

Monday morning, August 28, 2017

The highway was still closed when we left that house, so we took back roads to Katy, Texas. All of the hotels there were booked, but a friend of mine let us stay with him and his father there. We were going to stay the night, but Katy was soon subjected to a mandatory evacuation because they were expecting four to five feet of flooding there.

The guy who rescued us ... ended up dropping us off at our fourth house — my extended family — and about 15 minutes after, he called to say his truck had sank in high water and he was stranded in a church.

Tuesday morning, August 28, 2017

The entire time Rodney and I had been traveling, my mom and her best friend were trying to find a way to get to us and bring us to Sealy since Hurricane Harvey was expected to hit Houston again on Wednesday. Despite road closures, they made it to us and we barely made it out. All of the highway lanes were flooded but police allowed some people to drive in the far left lane through shallow water. They probably had to close it again soon after we passed.

And here we are. Now we’re at my parents’ house in Sealy.

I have a looming feeling of dealing with the aftermath of this. We’re a young couple. We don’t have a lot of savings. I don’t even have a job because I’m in school. But we’re going to have to get cars, rebuild our house, and stay somewhere else in the meantime. It’s very stressful and overwhelming to think about how we’re going to do that.

But I also feel so lucky just to be alive. Houston is such a tight-knit community. So many people have reached out to help us and we’re willing to help each other. Especially after going through something like this, I know people will really band together.

This story has been edited and condensed for clarity.