Life turned upside down for Milaca native devastated by Hurricane Harvey

Photo provided
Michael and Karen Meyers, with the help of about 50 volunteers, put household belongings, and carpet, drywall and Sheetrock from home demolition out on the curb in front of their house following landfall by Hurricane Harvey.

WOODLANDS, TEXAS – On June 15, 2017, Michael Meyers and his wife Karen realized their dream of owning a home.
The husband-wife teachers had recently made their first mortgage payment and boxes were finally unpacked to a point that invitations had been mailed out for a Sept. 9 housewarming party.
But those dreams came crashing down Friday, Aug. 25 when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the Houston area, decimating the Meyers’ home and leaving the Milaca native and his wife devastated.
“We felt so broken. We couldn’t believe this happened to us,” Michael Meyers said.
Michael and Karen’s home has been reduced to a structure held together by nothing but studs. Now two weeks after the landfall, Sheetrock and dry wall have been torn off the walls of their cherished home. Carpeting and carpet pads have pulled up from the floor. Furniture and personal belongings have been hauled to the curb in front of their home by 50-60 volunteers who labored for a day to try and save the structure the Meyers hope will someday call home again. Michael and Karen are staying with friends in Conroe, Texas.
The storm rolled into the Houston area on Wednesday, Aug. 23, recalled Michael Meyers, a 2008 Milaca High School graduate who moved to the Texas after graduating from Bemidji State University to take a teaching job in Aldine, Texas, about 30 miles north of Houston.
“We had become aware that day that the tropical depression had become a tropical storm,” Meyers said.
On the evening of Thursday, Aug. 24, the storm was declared a Category 1 hurricane.
The couple made the decision that night to prepare their house for the wrath of the storm and get out of the home the belongings that they could, he said.
Michael and Karen were either going to ride out the storm at home, or go three hours north to Tyler, Texas and the home of Karen’s mother.
The decision to go north was made Friday, Aug. 25, when news reports showed the hurricane growing from a Category 2 to a Category 3 with a prediction it would be a Category 4 hurricane later that day.
“Based on the forecast Friday morning, we decided to evacuate,” Michael Meyers said.
But not before Michael and Karen went to Lowes and Home Depot to buy sandbags and cinder blocks to build a 2-foot protective wall in front of their garage.
“We did all we could do. We needed to get out while we could,” he said.
With some of their belongings loaded into their two vehicles, and the two dogs ready for a ride, the Meyers headed north to Tyler.
In Tyler, the two kept an eye on the weather forecasts. They watched as the storm developed further. They saw reports of the rising waters of Spring Creek, which flows a half mile from their house.
Reports weren’t good. According to Karen, the creek is at “action stage” at 88 feet, minor flooding stage at 91 feet and major flooding stage at 100 feet.
“Anything above 100 feet, you’re going to get water – and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Karen Meyers said.
“As we watched the levels, it was forecast to crest at 112 feet. It eventually crested at 111.3 feet,” she said.
When they closed on their home on June 15, the Meyers had purchased flood insurance. Many of the 60-70 people in their neighborhood who were devastated by the storm had not, Karen Mayers said.
So even though the couple was in Tyler, they began the process of filing an insurance claim after their agent called them and made the suggestion after he saw their neighborhood pictured on a TV news report.
“Even if your damage is minor, lets get it started,” Karen recalled her agent saying.
But the damage to their home wasn’t minor.
The Meyers learned through a call Aug. 30 to their volunteer fire department that the water in their neighborhood had receded. The streets were now passable and they could get to their home, fire department officials told them. The fire department also gave them a warning of what to expect in terms of damage.
“They said we were flooded up to our roof of our one-story home,” Karen said. At the vacant two-story home of their neighbors, water was up to the second level, they were told.
They headed from Tyler to their home in the Woodlands. They were met by a firefighter, who accompanied them into the home to make sure they were safe.
“The first thing I saw was the waterline on the outside of the house,” Michael said.
“It just guts you,” Karen said.
Because of the swelling of wood from the high water, the firefighter made way into the home first. The firefighter had to bust through the door.
Even though they were somewhat prepared, what the Meyers saw behind the front door shocked them as they did just a minimal walk-through of the house that Wednesday.
Firefighters came to the house to turn off the power at the breaker box. They turned off the gas at the meter.
“The first thing that hits you is the smell,” said Karen, who compared the odor to that of laundry that has been left in a washing machine for days without being put in the dryer.
Then they observed how the Sheetrock and drywall soaked up water and the paint was peeling.
“And then there’s the grime,” Michael said.
As Michael and Karen looked around the house, they say that some of their belongings were untouched, while other items were tipped over.
“There was no rhyme or reason,” he said.
“We left the house organized, and when we came back, in one room, the bed was still made and the pillows were where we left them,” Michael said. “The remotes still sat where we left them on a coffee table.”
However, a few feet away in the master bedroom, the headboard of their king bed was cracked from the force of the water, and the footboard was tipped. In the kitchen, the refrigerator was turned over on its back. A brand new riding lawnmower in the garage was upright.
“The magnitude and power of the water was unbelievable. The destruction was like a tornado went through our house,” Karen said.
There were times that Michael and Karen asked themselves how something could be moved so far, but realized that their belongings were moving around in water for two to three days.
On Wednesday, Aug. 30, Michael and Karen had broken spirits.
But a turnaround in spirit began to evolve come Thursday, Aug. 31.
“When we got to the house Thursday, we found a friend in our driveway. We stood and hugged each other and cried,” Karen said.
“It’s all we could do,” she said.
The couple’s number one priority that day was to get things out of the house.
“The reality was, we only had a limited amount of time to get things out to the curb so we wouldn’t get mold,” Michael said.
They pulled out carpet, sheet rock and dry wall.
It wasn’t long before our neighborhood was completely inundated by volunteers, Karen said.
“There were scores of people. They came from church groups and school groups,” Michael said. “People were looking to help, and were willing to help.”
About 50 to 60 people rotated through the Meyers house that first day, Karen said. They were successful in getting everything out.
The second stage of clean-up was the demolition of the dry wall.
“We were able to do that mostly with the help of volunteers, Michael said. “By the end of day one, all you could see were studs throughout our whole house.”
At the end of day one, Michael and Karen came to an important realization.
“We are incredibly blessed,” Karen said.
“We started the day broken, but with the outpouring of love from the schools and volunteers we appreciated how people were ‘loving on us’,” she said.
“It’s sad that something like this brings people together – but at the same time, it’s incredible,” Michael said.
As people stopped by to volunteer, even for the smallest or simplist of tasks, the Meyers also realized that the smallest of things mean the most.
“We were new to the neighborhood, and didn’t know lots of people, but they came to offer themselves,” Karen said.
Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the Meyers are in the recovery process.
“We look at the enormity of this, and truly believe we went from broken to blessed,” Michael said.
In two days Michael and Karen had eveything out of their home and the demolition complete.
“On the third day, we went to serve at other homes with removal and demolition, like had been done for us,” Michael said.
“We saw it as an opportunity to give back,” he said.
Karen Meyers said she and Michael are lucky. They are safe and staying with friends.
She worries about how others are doing.
As for the future, what does it holds for Michael and Karen Meyers.
“The best answer I have, is ‘I don’t know’,” Michael said.
The couple is thankful that they have a place to stay for as long as they need it. It appears that their personal property will be covered by insurance. They hope to have the funds necessary to renovate their home if it can be saved, or to buy something ewlse it that’s what the situation calls for.
“Things can go down so many avenues,” Michael said. “We’re thankful we have avenues and options.”
“We will stay positive. We will work to stay on top of the game,” he said.
The Meyers say they will reflect and pray on their situation. They will lean on their faith to see them to finality.
“We know we will face challenges and obstacles. It will be a minimum of 2-3 months before we have things squared away. It could extend to 4-6 months down the road,” Michael said.
They say they can only hope that their future will bring them back to the way life was before Hurricane Harvey hit.
They know one thing for sure.
“We’re only two steps into a journey that’s a thousand steps long,” Michael said.