Southeast gets a lot of rain, but it doesn’t compare to what Harvey brought

Ruined furniture and other trash pile up on the curb in Houston's Braeburn Glen neighborhood, where Sophi Zimmerman and her family live. Flooding destroyed furnishings, floors and household items. "Here's how it looks in front of every house on our block," Zimmerman said. (Photo courtesy Sophi Zimmerman)

Ruined furniture, carpets and other trash pile up on the curb in Houston’s Braeburn Glen neighborhood, where Sophi Zimmerman and her family live. All were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey’s flooding. “Here’s how it looks in front of every house on our block,” Zimmerman said. (Photo courtesy Sophi Zimmerman)

Southeast Alaska sees an incredible amount of rain each year. Ketchikan gets close to 13 feet, Juneau about 7.5, and Sitka closer to 7.

How’s that compare with what’s been happening in Texas? Here’s one perspective from a former Southeast resident hit by the storm.

Sophi Zimmerman spent 15 years in Juneau, working for the state and later, the local bowling alley’s café.

And the weather? She got used to it.

“It was just part of your day, kind of like turning on the radio or getting up and making coffee. The rain was there every day, almost,” she said.

But eventually, she headed back to her home state of Texas with her husband, Whatley Langham, and son, Josh. They settled in Houston.

“Here, we don’t get very much rain. Mostly, we have drought conditions,” she said.

They’ve seen some storms before and even had a little flooding in the lower part of their house. But it was nothing like Hurricane Harvey brought.

Sophie Zimmerman poses with a student in 2016. The former Juneau resident is a Montessori teacher. (Photo courtesy Sophi Zimmerman)

Sophie Zimmerman poses with a student in 2016. The former Juneau resident is a Montessori teacher in Houston. (Photo courtesy Sophi Zimmerman)

“I was expecting to get water up to our baseboards, but I wasn’t expecting to get 13.25 inches of water in our house,” she said.

What were her thoughts when she realized flooding was going to be significant?

“Actually, by that time it was resignation. But really (it was) thinking about how we were going to clean up the mess,” she said.

To be clear, Zimmerman knows she and her husband came out pretty well, compared with what many other Texans and Louisianans face.

They’ll have to replace flooring and wallboard, plus things they couldn’t get high enough above the floor in time. But they’ve got their house and their family is safe.

Plus, they stocked up on canned food before the storm so they wouldn’t go hungry.

Still, it was distressing.

“This amount of rain in this short a period of time was a phenomenon because you just don’t expect it,” she said.

So, was there any point where she thought, “Gee, I wish I was back in Alaska where it doesn’t rain as much?”

“There were many times when I wished I was back in Alaska. Because of the fact that in a community like Juneau, when something like a catastrophe happens, when we had severe snowstorms and people would walk down the path to our house to see if we were OK, to see if we needed firewood, to see if we needed milk or eggs,” she said.

Zimmerman knows a lot of people in Houston and other affected communities are helping their neighbors and anyone else who needs it. She said folks are checking in with each other via social media. But it’s just not the same.

Southeast Alaska’s heavy rain can cause mudslides and rockfalls and other dangerous events. A particularly heavy recent Ketchikan storm caused flooding and locals spotted salmon swimming across a road.

Zimmerman said she and her neighbors get some more dangerous flood visitors.

“Little colonies of fire ants that float around in the water. And then critters also that usually are in the bayou. It can be gators and snakes. And we had possums running along our fence all night. They were not happy campers,” she said.

As floodwaters begin to recede, Houston is mourning its dead and looking for housing, food and other assistance.

Zimmerman knows she and her husband are lucky to still have a home, as well as jobs. She’s a public Montessori school teacher and Whatley is a postal service letter carrier. They may just have to wait a few days before they can get back to work.

Recent headlines

X