By Monique Knight and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers
Ranging in age from 1 to 50 years old, 57 members of the Smith* family are eating lunch, playing video games, shooting basketball, playing musical instruments and creating structures out of building blocks – all at a local Red Cross shelter. The family has been here since May 26 and has found comfort in being together in the face of disaster.
It was 10pm when a deputy Sheriff knocked on the door and warned Lydia* of rising flood waters in her neighborhood. “The deputy left and barely reached the end of the road when he came back with his emergency lights on. He told us that evacuation was now mandatory and that we had to leave immediately,” Lydia said. “I put some clothes into a plastic bag and got everyone to the front door, but the water had risen so fast it was already coming in under the door. By the time we reached the road in our car, it was almost up to the top of the hood.”
The extended Smith family lives in the same neighborhood, so all were able to escape the flood together. “We were the first ones to leave and I could see a line of cars behind us,” Lydia said. “Some vehicles were left behind and are still under water.” But at least the family is safe.
“I put some clothes into a plastic bag and got everyone to the front door, but the water had risen so fast it was already coming in under the door,” Lydia said, as a deputy Sheriff warned her family to evacuate her home immediately.
Sheriffs informed the family about the Red Cross shelter in Giddings and the clan headed there. “The Red Cross gave us someplace to go when there wasn’t any other place,” Lydia said. “Thanks to the Red Cross, we all have a place to sleep and plenty to eat. The Red Cross workers entertain the children but they also sit with the grown-ups and comfort us too.”
The family is not letting their temporary living situation hamper joyful events — they have celebrated two birthdays, a kindergarten graduation, and a high school graduation in the shelter.
Lydia and her husband recently visited their home site by boat to assess the damage and said the house has shifted on its foundation, with major cracks in the roof and sides. Water on the inside of the home remains about 3 feet high and they cannot get inside to salvage any of their belongings. Officials have estimated that it may be more than a month before electricity is restored in the area.
It will be a long road to recovery, and The Red Cross will be here with resources for the Smith family and others long after they leave the shelter and make their way through the recovery process.
*Names have been changed in respect of client privacy.
If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance please direct them to the American Red Cross serving Central Texas, 1-800-928-4271. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit www.redcross.org