When Hurricane Harvey brought devastating wind and rain to southeast Texas, many of the area’s residents stood witness. Despite orders to evacuate, many Texans stayed with their homes, watching as the storm uprooted their picket fences, flooded their streets, and submerged their highways. These powerful images, taken by readers during Harvey and its aftermath, help shed more light on the scope of the storm, depicting everything from sinking couches to a gator in the gutter. Read on to see the photos and experiences shared by readers, told in their own words.
"We were very fortunate and did not experience any flood damage in our home. We happen to live in a development that drains really well. Many of our friends were not so lucky. During the storm we stayed in our home and watched The Weather Channel for what felt like weeks, but was actually only days. We were seeing the rescues happening all over, but when we looked outside it wasn't that bad. A friend of ours who lives in Brookside Village had a couple of feet of water in her home. We wanted to help, so on August 30 we decided to go out and get some feed for her animals. On our way to her house we were able to see some of the devastation here in Pearland, and it was terrible. That's when I took this photo. After experiencing the four hurricanes of 2004 in Florida, and losing my home to wind and rain from them, this was not at all what I was expecting. I've never seen a hurricane do what Harvey did to this area."
"This is from Houston's Third Ward, along Brays Bayou—or in the neighborhood just south of it, Riverside Terrace. I moved here in mid July, so I'm still new to the neighborhood. I've lived in Houston for over a decade, though."
"This was taken Monday morning in Brazoria County, just east of Lake Jackson. The detail you have to strain to see are the two buzzards on the roof. When I saw them, I said to my son—who was in the car—'There are the last responders.' I almost felt guilty because of the still beauty of the light and the reflection — knowing that at its essence this was someone's heartbreak."
"The grim face set off by the bright colors of the umbrella is a nice juxtaposition. It says a lot about the mood that day, and also about the grit and determination of Houstonians. I snapped this picture on the Scott Street bridge over Brays Bayou on August 27. I talked to him after I took the pictures. His name is Troy. Very nice guy."
"This isn't my first time documenting a tropical storm. However, this storm felt powerful, and it was the first time while working on street photography that I not only knew anything could happen, but I very much felt it too. So I wrapped my Canon in a brown plastic Kroger bag and started walking in the rain around downtown. I'm familiar with taking photos in the rain, as I do it often, but documenting Harvey was nothing short of surreal."
"This is only about a block and a half from my own house. I was extremely relieved that the flooding spared our home. The night before, it was rising very fast out in the street. It rose about a foot in only 20 minutes when the rainwaters overwhelmed the storm drains. The water started creeping up the lawn toward our house. We just moved in, and didn't have time to get flood insurance. I planned on buying it, even though we are just outside the 500-year flood line, but hadn't had time yet. Fortunately, the waters crested, and started receding in a rushing torrent down the street. Unfortunately, those waters probably ended up in someone else's home."
"On August 27, 2017, at approximately 12:30 p.m. as I made my way by bicycle in search of a path to get my food truck from the Raven Tower, I took the Quitman Bridge and came across this view. It was my city underwater all around. As I saw other friends and neighbors come out of their residences, we were all in awe, walking the bridge, clinging to this chain link fence looking at the devastation. It was now the city in mourning, or a 'help me' sign to the Quitman Bridge's passersby. It was just then that I decided to #bethedifference and be a part of #hoUSton. I decided to rescue my food truck out of the storm and do my part for the city and the community by feeding the many refugees that started flocking into the many shelters, and for the first responders that were going to be working around the clock."
"This is my street in west Houston, on day two of the flooding. A neighbor decided to float his inflatable shark in the water, a bit of a parody on the photo that was being spread via social media claiming we had sharks in the street, swimming in the flood waters. The dog, like all of us, was happy for a distraction."
"On the Saturday before Harvey hit, I was out with my kids walking the dogs and discovered an alligator in a puddle next to the curb on our street. I was pretty alarmed at first and moved my 15-pound dog, three-year-old, and five-year-old away from it. After that, I decided to take a photo since it was such a unique thing to see and I didn't feel threatened because it was relatively small (five feet) and not moving. After taking the photo, we continued our walk but I guess we must have scared it because when my husband went back to look for it, it was gone. I posted the photo on a neighborhood website, prompting other neighbors to look for the alligator, which was discovered hiding under a neighbor's car. The homeowner called the game warden and a few hours later, Gator Squad came and removed it. Gator Squad told us it was a five-year-old male and they named it Harvey; they even let us pet it, which made the whole experience even more exciting and fun for me and my kids."
"The outflow from the Barker and Addicks dams was causing Buffalo Bayou to rise, and even though we were south of Briar Forest, we had rising water from the storm drains that filled our street and trapped us in the subdivision for about four days. Water never reached the house, but it was slowly rising over those days, and there was some concern. Our neighbor was repositioning his boat in case we needed to evacuate."
"This was someone's yard. The picture was from the passenger side while my husband was driving."
"I live at Canal and Franklin, and though my apartment building sustained virtually no flooding or loss of power, I didn't have to walk far to find it. This image, taken on August 27, shows the I-10 exit for Jensen Drive in Houston's Fifth Ward. This is the route I take to and from work each day, and it was surreal to be able to walk the streets—highways—as if I was in some sort of post-apocalyptic film. No cars. No trains. Just people, like me, walking around without any place to be and with nothing else to do. I have lived in Houston since 2013, and in this neighborhood for more than a year. On the other side of this highway and closest to Buffalo Bayou is a government-subsidized housing community. Flood waters there covered cars and wiped out the first floor of their buildings. Many there, already at a decided disadvantage, are about to rebuild their lives from scratch. I can't even imagine."
"Stephanie and I bought our home in Portland, Texas two years ago; we both moved here from Massachusetts. The flag was a birthday gift from my Mom this year, and it has been on the fence since February. It's just us and our two dogs here, so we boarded up and headed west with some friends on Thursday, once Harvey became a Category 3. We anxiously watched the news through the storm. We returned home the following Monday to debris everywhere, bad roof damage, and no power. This was the only section of our back fence still resiliently standing. It gave us a little hope and a good distraction on an otherwise pretty bad day. The photo has been really well received and shared online, especially in the Portland community, and I hope that maybe it provided a little bit of that distraction to others."
"I bought this couch nineteen years ago. It is in our den, part of one long space that includes the kitchen on the other end. In the year that we've lived in this house, it became our favorite place to sit, drink coffee, and read. I took this picture at 5 p.m. on August 28, ninety minutes before we were rescued at our front door by two guys from Midland in a motor boat. I'm going to miss this couch."
"This image was taken in the Braeburn Valley subdivision in southwest Houston on Wednesday, August 30. The storm was terrifying, and since that day it has been a mash of endless days. This is my brother and sister-in-law's home. The level of damage was shocking, especially knowing that this community had never flooded. It makes me very sad to feel and document the grief of my family and community as they cope with the loss of their homes and hard work."