Photojournalist Michael Stravato, ’88, has documented destruction in disparate corners of the world, from Bosnia to Latin America. In August, devastation came to him, as Hurricane Harvey unleashed winds up to 130 mph and 40–61 inches of rain across the Texas Gulf Coast, which includes his home of 23 years, Houston.
Harvey made landfall on Friday, Aug. 25, two days after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for 30 counties — but Houston did not order its residents to evacuate, in order to keep the highways clear.
“This one, you kind of knew what was going to happen,” says Stravato, who last year teamed up with reporters at the Texas Tribune and ProPublica on a much-lauded story on the long-term flooding risks imposed on the city by short-term economic goals. “I didn’t know where it was going to be — on the bay side or reservoir side. It ended up being everywhere.”
Stravato spent the coming weeks circling the sunken metropolis. He ran into an elderly woman and a child who walked miles to find help after escaping their waterlogged car, only to be told by police that they can only call for rescue if someone is still in the water. He encountered another family that had just paid its monthly rent, only to be evicted, as many were after their leases were terminated. In all, Stravato says, he truly feels for the lower-income people who lost their jobs because their vehicles were underwater or had their homes made unlivable, with nowhere to go.
“You see how stuck people are, their panic,” Stravato says. “Stuff like that is what sticks in my mind.”
What follows are Stravato’s dispatches from Harvey, as the rain just kept falling. — Chris O’Connell
“You see how stuck people are, their panic. Stuff like that is what sticks in my mind.”
“I didn’t know where it was going to be — on the bay side or reservoir side. It ended up being everywhere.”
“I’ve lived all over the world and covered several wars. I’m sensitive to the plights of people. Running around here, I really feel sorry for poor people. They lose their car, and that’s it. They have to start over because they lose their job.”
Never miss a story from The Alcalde, when you sign up for Medium. Learn more