Far From Her Hometown, A Texas Teen Struggles To Process The Storm

After days of torrential rainfall and devastating flooding, residents of Houston and its surrounding areas are still assessing the full impact of the Tropical Storm Harvey, which has been associated with at least 40 deaths. Harvey touched down in southeast Texas as a hurricane last week, moving inland as a tropical storm.

Over the weekend, many young people outside of Texas scrambled to get word from their family members who still lived in the region. Youth Radio talked to Ashula Mujawashema, 19, a student at San Francisco State, who said she’d been able to get a hold of her friends and family in Houston and the surrounding area via text.

The images and messages they sent her, shocked her.

(Left) Ashula got this photo from her friend, Anisa, who lives in Houston. It was taken Saturday night around 10:30pm the first night Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. “This is right in front of my house on the 3rd floor located in Midtown”-Anisa Kheir. (Right) A text message conversation with Ashula and her family. Photo and text courtesy of Ashula Mujawashema, 19.
Flooding in Houston right on the first night Harvey hit the area. Photo by Anisa Kheir.

On Saturday, the rains kept coming. Ashula’s family in Texas said the waters had risen as high as the top of their mailbox.

“Messages filled with updates and prayers were all I had to keep in touch with my family [in Texas] in a time where I wasn’t there with them,” Ashula Mujawashema, 19, San Francisco State Student

(Left) A phone conversation between Ashula and her loved ones in Texas. (Right) A neighborhood in Sugar Land, Ashula’s home town. Photo courtesy of Ashula Mujawashema
Screen caption courtesy of Ashula Mujawashema

Scientists estimate that Harvey caused approximately 21 trillion gallons of water to fall on the coast of Texas in a manner of days. Many communities experienced more rainfall over a matter of hours than they average over the course of an entire year.

But it wasn’t all negative. Ashula says she also saw signs of hope in her community.

“One of the most touching photos I received was of my old high school, Kempner High School [in Sugar Land, Texas] opening up as a shelter for those who escaped their flooded homes,” she said. “Tweets were sent out in hopes of volunteers and donations showing up. Luckily the Houston community did not disappoint and [people brought] bags of supplies and food.


On Tuesday August 29th, Kempner High School opened up shelter for anyone who was in need of a place to go. Bags of clothes, food, and drinks, were donated to the school in preparation for the evacuated residents. Photo courtesy of Ashula Mujawashema

As the storm begins to weaken (it was recently downgraded to a tropical depression), Texans hit by Harvey will continue to take stock of the damage.

Ashula says being so far away makes her feel helpless. “It’s tough because I’m getting all these updates but I can’t really do much. I guess that’s worse than people who aren’t from Texas, because they don’t have family there. For me, it’s more personal to see these photos. This is my family and my friends and I’m so far away from them and can’t do much about it.”

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