For many Santa Clarita residents, Hurricane Harvey strikes close to home

Hurricane Harvey strikes the Texas Gulf Coast. Photo Courtesy of NASA.

Sunday afternoon in the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s over 100 degrees, and although the sun’s harsh rays scald the valley below, the sky remains a constant shade of blue and the breeze blows gently through the foothills.

Rockport, Texas. Here, in the wealthy vacation spot along the Gulf Coast, the weather tells a vastly different story.

Friday evening Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm that formed off the eastern coast of South America, found its way into American waters, making landfall in Rockport and bringing winds of over 130 miles per hour and deadly storm surges along with it.

This torrential storm currently lies 1, 545 miles from the City of Santa Clarita; and it is over 21 hours down Interstate 10 into the thick of the windshear and the rain; but for four Santa Clarita residents, the storm is breathing down their necks.

The Trucker

On Saturday morning Heather Jones of Canyon Country was supposed to be on the road to Portland, Oregon.

But instead of heading up the coast, the truck driver found herself barreling through the desert towards Houston.

“I’m heading into the middle of nowhere right now,” she said.

Although she’s driven her truck to dispatches all across the country, this trip is particularly unconventional. Her destination is nondescript, all she knows is that it’s located somewhere in the vast state of Texas.

“No address. No Location.” said Jones.

While Jones has always volunteered in the local community, this is the first wide scale relief effort to which she is contributing. Her specific destination will be determined as she nears the Houston area, as officials plan on sending her to one of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane and, at this time, the extent of the damage still remains unknown.

But wherever she is headed, Jones will surely be a relief.

“I have enough supplies in my trailer to feed and clothe a few thousand people” she said of her 18-wheeler.

Having driven hundreds of thousands of miles, she feels prepared to handle the dangerous weather she may encounter. She cites driving through 60 mile per hour winds and whiteout conditions in Wyoming as good practice.

By providing much needed relief to the people of Houston, Jones hopes to dispel popular misconceptions about truckers. There are countless other truckers risking their lives to drive the same mission, she said.

“People assume that we’re greasy, gritty, all around rude people. But we’re quite the opposite.  We love helping out others.This is what we do.”

As she rushes down the highway into the unknown, with emergency food in her trailer, she has a message for those over whom the hurricane currently looms:

“Never give up hope for what your fellow man is capable of doing. We might have our differences, but in the long run we’re here for each other. We have each other.”

The Transplant

“We moved out here in April” said Christine Korenthal.

Korenthal, a former Santa Clarita resident who now resides in Dallas, has been keeping her eye on the storm just a few hours to her south.

And to her avail, Dallas has been relatively quiet.

“There’s not a whole lot going on,” she said. “But we’re expecting more rain.”

Korenthal emphasized the vastness of the State of Texas and explained that even though a hurricane has made landfall on the coast, the citizens of Dallas have gotten off lucky.

Although not directly affected, Korenthal and many of her neighbors have felt it their responsibility to help out people of Houston and the other affected Gulf Coast cities.

“We’re trying to take people and animals up here,” she said.

She further explained that many in the city are trying to help by offering free Airbnb, a house-sharing service akin to Uber, to displaced Houston residents.

“I just wish I had the room to help” said Korenthal.

The Native

From her home in Santa Clarita, local resident Kelly Fassino could not possibly be closer to the storm.

A native of Kingwood, Texas – a suburb just a few miles outside of Houston – she still has many family and friends who live in the Greater Houston area.

Most urgently is the issue of Fassino’s brother who lives with his family in The Woodlands, another Houston suburb that is facing evacuations and recommending emergency precautions.

Fassino said that from what she has heard the storm has not struck too severely yet.

“But I’m worried about him tonight and tomorrow” she said.

For Fassino and many other Santa Clarita residents who have family and friends in the areas affected by the hurricane, social media has become a useful way to remain updated on loved ones’ whereabouts.

She expressed relief that one of her close high school friends who just moved to Rockport, the city where the hurricane first made landfall and struck with the greatest intensity, has safely found refuge in Dallas.

The storm, however, brings more than just worry to Fassino. It brings flashbacks.

“I was 17, it was 1983, and I’d just come back [to Kingwood] from working a summer job in Colorado.”

Just days after Fassino’s return home Hurricane Alicia, a Category 3 storm, made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast.

While she states that being in the lower-density suburbs saved her home from severe damage, she vividly remembers the boarded up high rises and the inundated streets near the city’s center.

“We were left without power for eight days” she said. “And Houston in the summertime without AC, it’s hot.”

The Soldier

As Chris Murray sits in his Canyon Country home watching news coverage of the hurricane, he can not help but get flashbacks.

While serving in the US Coast Guard, Murray was stationed in Houston during Tropical Storm Allison, which ravaged the region in June 2001.

“It stayed in the [Houston] area for days. There was lots of flooding and rain all over the place,” he said.

He recalled the damage and devastation caused by the storm, which was not even upgraded to hurricane status, and the Coast Guard’s efforts to help the relief effort.

“We sent in skiffs to the flooded parts of Houston to rescue people,” he said.

The lifelong Canyon Country resident, where rain is a rarity, could not believe the amount of precipitation the storm dumped on the area.

“Parts of Interstate 10 were completely flooded. There were 18-wheelers and cars floating,” he remembered.

While he has a son in Tyler, Texas, directly due north of Houston, and close friends in Corpus Christi, he was relieved to find they were all safe.

“They’ve all evacuated to safer areas. I know that they heeded warnings and got out.”


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