In Texas, Heartbreak, Resiliency and a Monster Storm Far from Over

Posted By: Mary Westbrook on: August 30, 2017In: Floral Industry News

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Local officials in Texas said at least 30 deaths were believed to have been caused by the storm through Tuesday, up from eight a day earlier, according to The New York Times. “I expect that number to be significantly higher once the roads become passable,” said Erin Barnhart, the chief medical examiner for Galveston County. (Photo of a flooded neighborhood, as documented by The Houston Chronicle.)

Nearly a week after its initial impact, Tropical Storm Harvey has left an unimaginable trail of destruction along 300 miles of the Gulf Coast — and, while the sun finally reemerged in Houston, the storm is far from over.

The storm — which has delivered devastation on a scale meteorologists, community members and journalists can hardly describe — made its second landfall early this morning in Louisiana. In its aftermath, tens of thousands of Texans are reeling, with many people still survival mode as search and rescue operations continue.

Throughout the storm, floral industry members have come together, frequently via social media, to spread information, share updates and offer support.

In Houston, Fawn Dellit and her family came under mandatory evacuation on Monday morning.

 

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In Houston, Fawn Dellit and her family came under mandatory evacuation on Monday morning. “We tried to go to one of the shelters and it was completely full, so we went to my flower studio,” said Dellit, the owner of F. Dellit Designs. “My two kids, dog, husband and I set up camp there for two days.”

“We tried to go to one of the shelters and it was completely full, so we went to my flower studio,” said Dellit, the owner of F. Dellit Designs. “My two kids, dog, husband and I set up camp there for two days.”

They returned home Tuesday to a dry house and Dellit, who has been collecting goods for harder hit victims at her studio, took to Facebook to update friends and customers.

“The sun is out, the storm is gone but unfortunately it’s not over for a lot of people,” she wrote. “All the water we got has to go somewhere so the bayous and rivers are flooding. Continue to keep Houston in your thoughts. Don’t let your guard down yet friends! “

Wallace Bennett said he hasn’t yet been able to fully assess damage at his two locations of Va Va Bloom.

“Our flagship shop in Kingwood is currently under about 3 feet of water,” he said on Tuesday. “The second store [in the Cleveland area] is questionable but inaccessible due to flooded roads. Prayers please.”

Tina Smith, a floral designer with HEB grocery stores, reported Tuesday being trapped in her apartment for days. “I haven’t been able to get to my floral shop. I have no idea what’s happened there,” she said. “I keep looking at the TranStar cameras on the myfoxhouston.com website. It looks like the roads are starting to clear out and I’m going to try to get there tomorrow.”

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Beth O’Reilly, AIFD, TMF, manager of Mayesh Wholesale’s Houston location has been helping to coordinate local communication among industry members, with a Facebook page (“Florists Of Houston-Hurricane Harvey Recovery”).

Dianna Nordman AAF, executive director of the Texas State Florists’ Association said that, for now, many industry members remain in a gut-wrenching state of wait-and-see.

“People’s homes and businesses have taken in water and they have evacuated,” she said on Tuesday. “The southern area of Texas is devastated, [we] just do not know the extent yet…This is still not over.”

Beth O’Reilly, AIFD, TMF, manager of Mayesh Wholesale’s Houston locationhas been helping to coordinate local communication among industry members, with a Facebook page and untold texts, calls and emails. (The private page is named “Florists Of Houston-Hurricane Harvey Recovery” and searchable on Facebook.) She’s been in frequent communication with the company’s customers all week — hearing stories of bravery and heartache.

“There are going to be some florists who lost everything,” she said, adding that her own home had not been flooded — though houses in her neighborhood, just a few streets down, were underwater. “It’s unbelievable.”

The Mayesh branch itself has been “mostly unaffected by the rain and flooding,” said Ben Powell, Mayesh’s chief operating and chief financial officer, and the branch could re-open as early as today.

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In Victoria, Texas, located on the coastal plains of Texas about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Clay Atchison said the damage had been minor, compared to other places. “The usual trees and fences down, and some water got in the house from a rain pounding on our chimney — again, minor,” said Atchison, the owner of McAdams Floral.

“Thankfully, I can report that our employees and their families are safe and unharmed,” said Powell. “We know, however, that Houston and much of southeast Texas will be struggling with the aftermath of this terrible disaster for a long time.  We pray that all our customers and the many floral industry colleagues in the area are and will remain safe in the days ahead.”

Greenleaf Wholesale Florist also reported that its Houston facility escaped the storm unharmed — the company re-opened its facility this morning with “employees that were safely able to come into work,” said Rob Spikol, president.

“We have several employees that were evacuated and lost their home to flood waters and have already been advised that we have a number of our florist customers that their flower shops are completely underwater,” he said, adding that Greenleaf will make its space available to any florists affected by Harvey. “We will give them access to our facility and cooler as well as design space to keep their business going for no charge … We will allow them to use this space for as long as they need.”

Industry members outside of Houston also are beginning to assess damage from the storm.

Pamela Arnosky of Arnosky Family Farms and Texas Specialty Cut Flowers in Wimberley and Blanco experienced the outer bands of the tropical force wind and rain.

“We had four days of wind, and six inches of rain,” she said on Tuesday. “The production we expected to harvest for the next several weeks is flat to the ground.  We expect to pick a fraction of our normal harvest.  It could have been worse, and who can really complain when one sees how others’ lives have been completely upended. We do have small plants coming along, already in the ground, for the fall production.”

“Honestly,” she added, “this is Texas, and this is farming, and we have survived other catastrophes. We just have to rally our energy ’round to get it all going again.”

In Victoria, Texas, located on the coastal plains of Texas about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Clay Atchison said the damage had been minor, compared to other places.

“The usual trees and fences down, and some water got in the house from a rain pounding on our chimney — again, minor,” said Atchison, the owner of McAdams Floral, who was still without electricity on Tuesday. “The shop might need some cooler compressor work. HEB is open, operating on generators.”

While the situation across the Gulf Coast and especially in Houston remains a rescue operation, business owners inside and outside of the industry have noted serious shortcomings in the National Flood Insurance Program — and unresolved questions that could prove challenging as businesses try to rebuild. Founded 50 years ago, the program is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30 and has just $5.8 billion left it can borrow from the Treasury to meet new claims, according to January figures reported to Congress, as reported this week by The Wall Street Journal.

Some floral industry members already are organizing to help fund relief for victims of the historic storm. In Sacramento, California, Relles Florist announced it will raise money for the American Red Cross by giving a percentage of sales on two designs in honor of storm victims.

In addition, Corinne Dudine, executive administrator for the SEARCH Foundation, a nonprofit that supports event professionals confronted with a catastrophic occurrence, reached out on Facebook to say her Scottsdale, Arizona-based group is ready “to assist all of our friends in the Texas events community.” For information on the group and how to donate, click here. To request instance, click here.

Look for additional coverage of the storm and its effects on the industry in future issues of EBrief and Floral Management. Have a story to share? Need help answering a question? SAF is here to help. Email mwestbrook@safnow.org.