Scenes from Houston After Hurricane Harvey

Photography by Michael Stravato

Interstate 45 on Sunday, Aug. 27, after heavy rains from Hurricane Harvey buried downtown Houston.

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

Carlos Vasquez runs through the rain with his daughter Madeline, 3, who has Down syndrome, from a city truck that evacuated them from their flooded neighborhood in north Houston on Monday, Aug. 28, to the convention center.
Faida Furaha, an immigrant from Congo, carries her possessions on her head while waiting to get picked up from downtown Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, converted to an evacuation center, on Monday, Aug. 28, after spending the day there with her son.
Evacuees arrive on a city bus from flooded parts of Houston on Monday, Aug. 28, to the convention center where they will join other evacuees at a Red Cross shelter.
“You see how stuck people are, their panic. Stuff like that is what sticks in my mind.”
The Theater District in downtown Houston on Sunday, Aug. 27, is flooded by rising water from Buffalo Bayou.
A sunken car in a flooded strip mall on Eldridge Parkway near the Barker Reservoir and Buffalo Bayou on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
A load of evacuees in the back of Chris Ginter’s monster truck after he volunteered to evacuate people from their flooded neighborhood near Buffalo Bayou on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
“I didn’t know where it was going to be — on the bay side or reservoir side. It ended up being everywhere.”
Sightseers climb to the top of the Barker Reservoir to see the water on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
A truck with relief supplies in a neighborhood along Eldridge Parkway flooded by waters released from the Addicks Reservoir, Wednesday, Aug. 30.
A volunteer dressed in a Spider-Man costume entertains kids lined up at the convention center, Thursday, Aug. 31.
Evacuees on a high-water truck fleeing a neighborhood along Eldridge Parkway that was flooded by waters released from the Addicks Reservoir, Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Debris piled everywhere at the Pines Condominiums near Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Memorial Area on Sept. 13.
Shannon DeLeon helps clear the flooded home of her work colleague, Sandra Henry, on Friday, Sept. 1, in Dickinson, Texas, 30 miles south of Houston. Henry floated out of her house with her wheelchair-bound husband.
“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.”
Jesus del Carmen tears up while packing up her apartment of many years to move her family from a complex near Greens Bayou in the Greenspoint area of Houston on Wednesday, Sept. 6, which flooded last year and again during Harvey.
Red Stewart salvages useful items from a flood pile at a trailer park on the north side of Houston along Gulf Bank Road, on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The park has flooded multiple times, including during Harvey.
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