After hurricane-turned-tropical storm Harvey dumped as much as 40 inches of rain on parts of southeast Texas by Monday afternoon, White Oak Bayou couldn’t contain itself.
The slow-moving river that sits less than 450 feet behind CrossFit Yellow Rose in northern Houston crested over its banks, sending 2 feet of water into the affiliate.
Owner Clark Hibbs and wife Rachel last saw their gym Sunday night to begin the clean-up process. As of late Monday afternoon, however, the couple has been unable to further assess the damage inside the 9-month-old box.
“Only a few people can move around their neighborhoods because, I’d say, 95 percent of the roads around Houston are just impassible,” Hibbs said.
He added: “There’s nothing we can do right now until all this rain stops.”
Weather forecasters are expecting torrential rain and flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana to continue over the next several days in a storm being compared to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.
Hibbs, who was born and raised in the Houston area, said the storm is the worst he’s seen.
“Houston gets 50 to 60 inches of rain annually. In the past 48 hours, we’ve gotten 40. You can say whatever you want to about city drainage—no city is ready for 40 inches of water in two days. … We’re looking at months before the city is back to normal.”
People have drowned in their cars and in their homes, unable to escape rushing water, since the storm made landfall Friday evening.
“It’s a pretty grim scene down here,” Hibbs said.
As of Monday afternoon, officials in Texas had confirmed eight deaths because of Harvey and only expected the number to rise, according to multiple published reports. Also on Monday, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott activated the state’s entire National Guard—12,000 members altogether—for search-and-rescue efforts. Meanwhile, 39 U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and seven airplanes are also assisting, in addition to the New York Air National Guard and helicopters from the Nebraska, North Carolina and Utah Army National Guards, among other military resources, reported The Washington Post.
Hibbs and his wife initially didn’t expect their gym to sustain much damage, but the unprecedented storm brought catastrophic flooding to East Texas, with forecasters predicting more rain to come.
“We thought the bayou would hold, but it didn’t,” Hibbs explained. “So, we really didn’t make any sort of preparations for the gym. We figured if it did flood, we figured it’d only get a few inches of water in there. So we were like, ‘OK, well, we’ll just have to pick up the mats and clean up.’ But we were not expecting to get 24 inches of rain and have it submerge our rowers.”
Nearly 40 miles southeast of CrossFit Yellow Rose, fellow affiliate owner Brett Moore spent hours using a ShopVac to remove nearly 300 gallons of water from Eximo CrossFit in League City, Texas.
“We did take on some water. Nothing too drastic,” Moore said on Monday afternoon. “It’s manageable at this point.”
With his gym nearby, Moore walked to his facility once and drove a second time after a reprieve from the rain. As of Monday, however, that was no longer possible.
“I’m actually a quarter mile from my box and I can’t even get to it,” he said.
Flood waters have made movement for most residents impossible.
“In some places, it was about 4 to 5 feet, and then in other places—like in our neighboring neighborhood—it got up to 6 to 8 feet and almost covered people’s fences.”
Moore added: “We’re scared. We don’t know what to do.”
Like her cohorts, Jamie Derouen is waiting for the worst and hoping for the best.
By Tuesday, officials in Texas expect the rising Brazos River—the 11th longest in the country—to spill over its banks, wreaking more havoc on Houston-area residents.
“I just didn’t see this happening,” Derouen said. “I’ve been in Houston my entire life. … This is crazy.”
Along with husband Mark, she operates CrossFit Better Than Yesterday in Missouri City, which is just southwest of Houston. The couple prepared their affiliate for possible flooding by moving plyo boxes to the center of the space and topping them with dumbbells and kettlebells.
“We put our barbells up on the racks and then across the pull-up bars to get them off the ground. We unplugged everything, brought the electrical equipment home. That’s really all we could do. There’s nothing open to get anything to do (more).”
The Derouen home in Pearland has become a shelter of sorts, with two gym members—one with her mother—staying there until their respective neighborhoods are no longer under mandatory evacuation.
“It’s all really overwhelming,” Derouen said.
Still, she added, CrossFit Better Than Yesterday is prepared to handle “whatever’s dealt” by Harvey.
“Look, we’ll make it. Whatever it is. I just have no idea what that looks like.”
About the Author: Andréa Maria Cecil is assistant managing editor and head writer of the CrossFit Journal.