Jacqueline Woodfork drove through the rain and slept on a highway before she finally found shelter from the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey.
“I saw cars turning around because the rainfall was so heavy and because the exits were all flooded,” says Woodfork, 29. Her car battery died on an elevated portion of Interstate 45 after she left her Houston apartment on Saturday.
Spending the night on I-45 was a “foreign concept,” she adds, but roadside assistance was not an option. She took cat naps inside her sedan until police officers arrived with jumper cables the next day. She eventually arrived at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
On Sunday, Woodfork was joined by 2,500 other evacuees stranded inside the makeshift shelter after Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Gulf Coast Red Cross expects that number to rise above 3,000 for Monday night, according to the group’s spokesperson MaryJane Mudd.
Many have harrowing stories of escaping rising waters in a city largely swallowed by floodwaters.
Shawn Rosales and her two daughters walked through water up to their necks before they took refuge at the convention center on Sunday night.
“We saw a snake. We saw rodents in the water and frogs, so it was pretty tough,” she says.
The Houston Fire Department helped them evacuate from the second floor of her apartment complex. Some of Rosales’s neighbors fled into vacant units on the building’s upper level with some of their furniture. But the water kept creeping up the stairs leading to the door of her second-floor apartment.
“That’s how we knew that we were in trouble and that we needed to get out,” she says.
Rosales says the ordeal is forcing her to rethink where she will live in the future.
“Living on the bayou there, this will be my third time dealing with catastrophic … floods, so I think it’s time to move,” she says, adding that leaving Houston is “not off the table.”
Andrea Rylander, a supervisor for food service at a local hospital, has hopes of rebuilding her home after the flooding.
“I’ve been in my house for 12 years, and this is the first time for me. It’s crazy,” says Rylander, who walked onto a highway through the rain with her son Jonathan until a bus picked them up.
“My mom is clearly emotional,” says Jonathan, hugging his mom inside the convention center as her eyes become flushed with tears. “It’s OK to be emotional. You just lost your home. You lost pretty much everything you worked for. Everything you strived for, you lost.”