Linda Brown-Hague lived in Bahrain for five years before heading back to the US in October 2015 to set up home in a suburb of Houston, Texas. She shares her experience of the devastating Hurricane Harvey.
What brought you to Bahrain, how did you spend your time here?
My husband, John Hague, is an SVP for Aspen Technologies, Inc. He came to set up MENA for the company. I had a weekly game of mahjong with friends and would donate to Tony the Dogfather. Otherwise, we travelled a great deal and enjoyed time with our friends.
Whereabouts in Texas did you settle?
We returned to the area we lived in prior to moving, Katy, TX, a suburb of Houston. Texas is our home state and we raised three children here.
When did you first hear that Harvey was coming and what preparations did you make?
We watched the movement of the tropical storm for a few weeks. We stocked up on water, food that doesn’t need refrigeration, ice, plenty of batteries for flashlights and radio as well as keeping the cars filled with petrol. We had previously lived through hurricanes Rita and Ike.
What was your experience of Harvey?
You start off feeling prepared and know you are as prepared as you can be. We happened to have our friends Mark and Diana Hardaker visiting from Bahrain. They were in the US for the eclipse and making stops to visit their friends that lived in the States. They arrived on Thursday and, when the rain started on Friday, Mark asked what I thought he should do. I told him I believed he should leave and go early to their next stop in Delaware. They were able to get a flight out of Houston scheduled for Saturday morning. On the way to the airport the warning came out that one of the exits to the airport was flooded but we had another route to get there. But Mark and Diana were then given notice that their flight was cancelled. We continued on to the airport and they rented a car and were able to drive to Dallas and get a flight from Dallas to their friends in Delaware.
When we arrived back to our house and turned on the television, we started seeing the devastation and the heart-breaking images of people leaving their homes in waist-high water to evacuate. People using blow-up mattresses to help the elderly and children evacuate. Seeing police boats unable to continue with evacuating people because they’d run out of gas and the community showing up with cans of gas to help.
The loss and devastation was extremely emotional and seeing the amount of people that rallied to help people they didn’t know, regardless of race, religion, economic differences…. it didn’t matter, humanity at its finest!
The loss of life, displaced animals, separated families — heart-breaking.
Then you start getting the calls from people that you know and your loved ones who are in dire situations. Our handyman, his wife and their three children, ages 10, three and two, lost everything and were living in a shelter. Our daughter had to be evacuated and it took her three attempts to get to our house. She’s still waiting to go back because in that area they’ve had to shut the power off because of the flooding. We feel extremely blessed that she had a place to come.
After the rain subsided I woke up one morning around 3am. I thought I heard it raining. I began to cry, not for myself but for those who were already dealing with devastation. I went to the window and was extremely relieved that it was not raining.
I cried several times every day and when I was able to start helping those in need, whether it be finding them housing, donating items and helping first responders, it was then that I stopped crying. But there is the guilt that lingers that my house is, as we say, high and dry.
Have you had any damage and, if so, how long will it take to repair?
None. It seems silly to mention, in light of everybody else’s dire straits, we just couldn’t get out of our house for two days due to flooded roads. And a tornado destroyed a business three miles from our home.
As the storm waters subside, what are you seeing around you now?
People trying to repair what little they have left. This is a long recovery, at least two years. Those that have the least trying to gather basic human necessities to carry on. We’re still seeing people coming together to help one another to find donations for people and to help people get their belongings out of their homes to the curbside for rubbish pick-up.
Many of your friends here in Bahrain will probably want to help. What would be your message to them, is there somewhere trusted that you are aware of for people to make donations?
There have been some great organisations helping out but the one that I know that will 100 per cent go back into the Houston community is a JJ Watt fund he set up. He is a professional football player for the Houston Texans. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Fallon, have also donated to this foundation. Here is his website.