The following is a first-hand account of my brave friend Ryann Detamore’s Hurricane Harvey evacuation on Sunday, August 27. Ryann and her husband, Brett, have three children, Cash (4), Bennett aka Benny (3) and Bowen (2) and a Great Dane named Finley. Bowen has Hemimegalencephaly, a rare neurological condition which causes seizures among other things (Ryann references the seizures below).
Here’s Ryann’s story in her words…
At 3:30 AM with no power and the water rising in the street we decided to move everyone to my parents house before the water got too high and was impassable. Our phones were dying, and we didn’t want to be stranded. Knowing they never flooded and they had power at the time we thought we’d be safer (and together). I packed one change of clothes for each of us. We woke the kids up and Brett took them one by one across the street full of water to my dad who was waiting at the door. As they went back to sleep, Brett made several trips to get Finley (the dog) and to save some important documents, etc.
Around 5 AM he came in my parents front door and said “it’s coming.” I’ll never forget those words and the feeling of anxiety I had. We frantically got some supplies up in the attic and got the kids safely to the highest bed in the house along with an air mattress. It started through the carpet at first. We cut the power off and prayed for daylight to come since we thought we’d be safer then. As the water rose and things started to float around the room I started calling 911 even more frequently. I was terrified Bowen would have a seizure or the water would come so fast we wouldn’t be able to get out. I think I called at least 30 times to no avail. At 6:30 AM I started pleading with social media to have someone come rescue us. [A friend] got me in contact with another neighbor whose child has special needs and she made a call to the Coast Guard possible. After talking to them I realized a boat was probably not coming for a long time.
We had to make the decision to listen to the news and stay put or to take it in our own hands and try to escape ourselves. [A neighbor] texted me and said “we’ve got to get out of here.” That is when I knew we had to go and Brett and my dad agreed. Brett axed a hole through my parents back fence which backs up to a commercial parking lot to make a path to safety. With the good Samaritans and boogie boards, 7 of us holding hands, and grasping our kids tighter than we ever have, we crossed West Bellfort which was a river with a current at that point. I had just seen on the news not to do the exact same thing we were doing (much less with 3 kids). I can’t even describe the relief we felt when we got across safely.
We made it into Whataburger and then Kroger where we sat with our kids (with no shoes on mind you) for 8 hours. During that time, Brett walked with a sprained ankle (that he got from a hole in the ground covered by flood water) almost 2 miles on the flooded streets and back to get Finley to safety. Kroger ended up being a rescue point for Meyerland so we saw most of our block and a lot of other people being rescued by SWAT, police, fireman, civilians in boats/kayaks/paddle boards. We also saw the love people had for their animals. It was surreal. My dad helped me watch the kids and comfort them for hours until Brett could get safely back to us — for that I will be forever grateful.
They started announcing that buses would be arriving to take us all downtown. Then around 6 PM dump trucks from the City of Houston arrived to take us in groups “to the buses that would take us to GRB”. There were disabled people, small children, older men and women in wheelchairs on these trucks. I never will forget how they comforted us and made us feel safe. One lady actually had to hold Benny the whole way while sitting on a cooler since we couldn’t hang on to the sides of the truck and hold all the kids at the same time.
The dump truck took us through high water onto 610 where we could see all of Meyerland completely under water. We saw helicopters everywhere. People being rescued by rope and basket. Things we never thought we would witness and almost felt like a dream. Once we got to the Bellaire exit the National Guard (aka I guess the “buses”) were there waiting on us. These were open air convoys with no cover yet high up so we felt safe. Instead of staying on the freeway we realize we were exiting 610 straight into high water and into the parking lot of a church (which looked to be a one story and NOT somewhere we wanted to be at all).
At that point it started raining heavily again and was getting dark. We had no cover, kids with no shoes on, and no direction whatsoever. We sat at the church for a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the freezing rain while we (aka I) kept screaming to the drivers why aren’t we going to the GRB? They tried to drop us at the church but it was full. When I finally got their attention they said they had no idea we were supposed to go there or where it was. I don’t blame them but the confusion and chaos was so apparent.
After what seemed like a lifetime they finally told us we were headed downtown. Every time we got good news something else would go wrong so I was hesitant to get excited. But we got on the freeway and headed to the GRB — I remember counting down the exits. Wesleyan, Buffalo, Kirby etc. We finally got to 45 and bypassed a police barricade to attempt to go under the freeway . It was too deep, more bad news. What I didn’t know at the time was that they were planning on taking us BACK to Kroger or the church. [A friend] who was in a convoy behind us overhead them and explained to them that this was simply NOT an option. Nope nope nope. She got in the convoy and led them via the spur to downtown and got us all to safety. And also for that I will be FOREVER thankful.
I remember pulling up to the GRB and stopping in front of the Marriott where people were at the bar eating, drinking and laughing. And I promised myself never to take that for granted again. I didn’t even care about whatever was back “home,” because I was truly happy to be alive with my husband, kids, mom and dad. In the moment we had no idea how high the water was and if we could make it safely anywhere. Almost every time we thought we were in the clear something would go wrong. Besides escaping my parents house, being in the open weather in the convoy with our kids was by far the hardest part of the entire day. The longest and hardest day of my life so far.
Brett ran around with his sprained ankle to all the closest hotels trying to find a room. I rushed into the GRB screaming for dry towels and medical attention for Bowen and Cash who at that point were shaking shivering and exhausted. They were all so strong and such troopers. I was an anxious mess and Cash to this day tells us “I wasn’t even cold on that army truck, Mom.”
We finally found a hotel and realized it was too far to walk in the rain so we attempted to get a cab. Two guys stopped my mom and I and literally looked worried for our safety. We told them what happened and where we needed to go and without hesitation they took us in their car straight to the hotel. Just another example of the kindness witnessed this whole week. Around 11 PM we were finally safe. Finally safe and in a warm dry room. 3:30AM to 11PM.
I’ve never been happier to be safe with my family in my entire life. We’ve tried to be OK with what we’ve lost and what all we’re about to go through in the coming weeks and months. I told this story to some family and it felt good for me to get it out. I don’t ever want to go to that Kroger or Whataburger again though (and probably never will). Over the last week people have shown their love and support for our family tremendously.
I can’t imagine going through this and I’m sure as you’re reading Ryann’s story you can’t either. I know hearing Ryann and others stories has given me a lot of perspective about what’s important and what’s not in motherhood.
In addition to listening and comforting our Houston and Southeast Texas friends, here are a few additional ways to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.