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  • Kaley Lawrimore

Hurricane Harvey hits home, CCU official stranded

Hurricane Harvey rocked southeastern Texas late August with debilitating floods and record-breaking rainfall responsible for killing at least 30 people, including a Houston police officer who drowned in his car on the way to work. Thousands are still stranded and many remain unaccounted for.

The impact from the hurricane hits close to home for the Coastal Carolina University community after word spread of a CCU official being stranded in Houston, Texas.

Debbie Conner, vice president for campus life and student engagement, traveled to Houston for her grandfather’s funeral, but could not lay him to rest on Saturday, Aug. 26 because of the impending destruction.

Houston is seeing the bulk of the massive flooding after having over 50 inches dumped in America’s fourth largest city. The historic flooding has caused hundreds of flights to be canceled and major interstates and roads to be closed.

“Saturday when we went to bed, we thought we had missed the worst of the storm,” said Conner.

But that was not the case as Hurricane Harvey continued to bring winds and rain to the area.

“The city was calling us, telling us to get up and go take shelter, so we spent a lot of the night in our hallway afraid we would get hit by a tornado. Our phones would go off at least every half-hour, emergency alerts would go off, telling us ‘flash flood’ or ‘tornado warning,’” Conner said. “Saturday night was a really long night.”

She said when the alerts first started coming in, her family didn't worry too much, but once the phone calls from the city started, it made the severity of the storm hit a little harder.

“Every 10 minutes, the emergency alert was going across the television and we’re like, ‘oh, we’re so tired of the emergency alerts,’ but when you start getting phone calls saying there are tornadoes touching down in your area and to take shelter…it gives it a little different meaning to those emergency alerts,” said Conner. “You just hope you’re going to be safe, and you’re just praying the people around you are going to be safe.”

Conner and her family made it through the night, safe and untouched. The home they’re staying in did not take on any water, only the yard saw minor flooding.

“We’re so thankful we’re in a dry house,” said Conner. “There are a lot of people in dry houses, you know, Houston is a huge area, but you can go five blocks and houses will be under water.”

Conner said she met with her “Coastal Family” before leaving, and she shared with them what she hopes to accomplish this year moving forward. She said she picked one word to drive all areas of her life and she sees that taking place already.

“My one word for this year is ‘connect,’ said Conner. “I shared with them I was excited I was going to have the opportunity to connect with my family through this time in Houston, and I have done that.”

She said the outpouring of support during this experience is something that will stay with her, even after she returns to South Carolina.

“…what I’ll bring back with me is my continued commitment to my family and feeling the connectedness to my Coastal family because everybody’s been so amazing,” said Conner. “I have gotten so much support from people at Coastal, it’s unreal. Just people checking on me, making sure we’re okay and I just feel blessed that we’re doing perfectly fine, when there are a lot of folks, including some of my family, that aren’t.”

Conner returned to South Carolina late Saturday evening. She will be back at Coastal on Tuesday.

Harvey made landfall in the United States near Rockport, close to Corpus Christi, as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 130 miles per hour on Aug. 25 before rapidly weakening to a tropical storm. Harvey made landfall for the second time on the Texas-Louisiana border on Aug. 30 around 5 a.m. as a tropical storm.

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