It’s hard to watch helplessly as rain pours in sheets outside your window, and the TV is showing homes of strangers, family, friends and customers threatened by massive destruction and floods. Yet all of us in the pool industry in Texas have experienced the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, some of us personally experiencing heartbreaking loss, others blessed with little or no damage but hurting for our fellow Texans and for our neighbors in Florida and other states as well.
Most of us on the Texas Gulf Coast have coped with hurricanes before. For those of us for whom this is not the first hurricane rodeo, we know pretty much what to do, when to do it, when to evacuate and how to manage if we stay.
We are pretty much always prepared for the worst. But not this worst. This was something hard to comprehend.
Of course there were the violent, devastating winds, but Harvey was exceptional for its torrential, seemingly endless rain. Some areas received more than 40 inches in less than 48 hours! Cedar Bayou in Houston received a total of 51.88 inches of rainfall, which is a new North American record.
The storm made landfall with on the coastal towns of Rockport/Fulton, Texas. Personally, my heart broke as the absolute destruction of these special places was revealed day by day on television and the internet.
Rockport and Fulton were the happy scenes of my childhood vacations for years. Every summer we stayed at the “Air Cooled!” Fulton Family Cottages. (That meant there was a fan in the window.)
Playing on the beach and swimming in the surf was the greatest joy of being a child at the coast. I would dive over and over into the waves. My Daddy even called me “mullet” after the fish that did the same. When the big ships would come in, the waves would get bigger, and we would all grab inner tubes, run out into the surf and lock arms, floating in on the big waves and laughing — cheap thrills!
At night my sister and I slept on army cots on the screened porch of the cottage, lulled to sleep by the waves gently breaking on the beach.
We crab fished off the pier, and when we caught a bucket full, would dump them into a big pot of boiling water and cook them, then sit on the porch and pick and eat fresh crab. The men would fish and flounder, and we had great feasts from their fresh catches.
When we got older my sister and I would hang out at the bait house, hoping to meet cute boys, and go to the teen dances held in Rockport.
Now this magical place is destroyed. We were planning to have our 89th annual family reunion there in two years. I hope Rockport can be rebuilt once again for my grandchildren to enjoy.
Hurricanes destroy, but they also show the goodness, bravery, kindness and incredible spirit of the ordinary people of our region and our country. We saw it played out every day on our TV sets during this hurricane, as we watched in horror and admiration the real-life heroes of the storm taking to the water in an improvised fleet of rescue craft, saving lives with a sort of casual confidence. Even if I do say so myself, Texans and our culture and spirit exemplify some the best our country has to offer.
I’ve always believed this is the sort of character found in the small business owners, employees and support businesses of the pool and spa industry. We deal with risk and unexpected hardships and difficulty every day. I am blessed to be married to a consummate pool man, and like him, all our pool guys tend to be The Man in a crisis — and a hurricane is definitely that. So, permit me to share a few tips for both your home and your business if, God forbid, you face a crisis like Hurricane Harvey one day.
Whether you decide to evacuate or stay put, it’s important to prepare the right supplies and equipment. At the first hint of an approaching disaster, lay in water and food that can be prepared without power to your home. Have on hand a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Gas up the vehicles and have extra gas on hand, if you can. If possible, buy a generator and learn how and where to hook it up before it is necessary to do so.
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If a hurricane is within 50 miles of hitting you and it is likely the eye will head your way, evacuate inland. With your car already topped up with gas (which you took care of well ahead of time) and plenty of supplies in the car, leave at a time when everybody else isn’t. We evacuated one storm at 3 a.m. on the last day before it hit, avoiding the massive traffic jams out of Houston, heading for Austin — not Dallas — on back roads.
If you do decide to stay — as we did for this storm and a couple of others — expect your power to go out and be prepared for that with a generator. After one storm, through which we stayed to care for my husband’s 90-plus year old mother, we mounted the generator on a pickup to give us mobile power. We drove it down to our well each day, charged the well, drove it to our neighbors to charge their wells and then back to the house. And our neighbors helped us with cutting up big trees that were down.
When you can work again, you will have tons of customers needing help to recover from the storm. Try to prioritize the folks with the greatest needs, and be as generous as you can or join with others to help. After one storm I was able to get a major distributor to donate drums of chlorine, which I loaded in my car and drove around to the flooded pools and gave away to the pool owners who had been
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Michael Miller of Miller Pools, President of the local chapter of APSP, who suffered a flooded home and pool in hurricane Harvey, printed up helpful tips to share with flooded pool owners and sent them to everyone on the APSP mailing list, encouraging us to copy and share.
He included such important tips as “DON’T drain the pool right away to prevent it from floating.” This kind of generous information sharing is important at a time of crisis. In an emergency like this, it is good to be able to make money once again, but it’s just as important to make friends and exercise that great concept so well-articulated by John Mackey, founder of the very successful Whole Foods, known as “conscious capitalism.”
One of the greatest examples of this during the Houston hurricane was Mattress Mack, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, who not only fed and sheltered victims of the storm in his store, but even drove out rescuing people in his big furniture trucks. This marketing genius, already well-known in Houston for his generosity, once again went above and beyond out of the goodness of his heart.
But now there are thousands of people in Houston who will need to replace ruined furniture. I wonder where they will go to replace all those mattresses?
So, especially in a time of great crisis like Harvey, help your neighbors as you can, and realize the giving will return to you in many ways, perhaps financially, perhaps in ways important to you personally.
As the Bible says: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”
Natural disasters have always been with us, and will always be, but you can survive and thrive through them nonetheless. So take heart, all who have suffered the blows of Harvey and Irma. All of you are Texas strong!