Neighbors help neighbors: Islanders ride out Hurricane Harvey

Dispatches from the worst disaster in Texas history.

A Mercedes sits abandoned after catching on fire and flooding simultaneously. — Bill Windle

“The rain is coming down by about three inches per hour. It’s biblical,” Bill Windle, Houston resident and longtime seasonal visitor of Martha’s Vineyard, told me in a phone conversation on Monday. Bill’s one of several Island residents and visitors who were in Texas for what has turned out to be one of the worst disasters the state has ever faced.

On Friday night, Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, located in southeast Texas, as a Category 4 storm. By Tuesday afternoon, downgraded to a tropical storm, Harvey continued to devastate the southeast region of the state, dropping what has been estimated to be 9 trillion gallons of water on the area in the previous five days.

“Even with the dire warnings we had about rainfall, I don’t think anyone truly appreciated or comprehended what 30-plus inches of rain meant, and how that impacts everyday life,” Mr. Windle said. “The house is dry, but we’ve had about four feet of water in the streets and around the home.”

“For us, we have been very blessed and very lucky, and we have handled the rain well,” Island native Dion Alley told us in a phone call, “but two miles away, I couldn’t even get to my office because the bayous have flooded all of the roads.” Mr. Alley, son of MVTimes Oak Bluffs columnist Megan Alley, lives in the Houston area with his family.

“We have had more evacuations not simply because of the rain but because they have needed to release reservoirs because [water levels] are so high,” Mr. Alley said. Although there have not been severe winds, falling trees have become a major concern. “The root systems on the trees are so soft now due to the rain, so they are worried about more trees falling, not because of the rain but because the soil is so saturated,” he added.

“[Houston] is prepared to deal with the flooding and the rescue, but until this all dries and recedes enough so they can get into neighborhoods and assess the damage, I think, like Katrina, you could see five to 10 years before everything fully recovers,” Mr. Alley told us, echoing news reports.

Houston’s population of more than 2 million people were advised not to evacuate, as it could be more deadly than simply staying put. “The big thing was, Remain in place. Don’t go out, don’t get stuck. Just remain in place, even if that is on the second floor while the first floor is flooded,” Mr. Alley said.

“I’d rather be trapped in a two-story home than a one-story car,” Mr. Windle said.

While Harvey continues to ravage Texas, both government officials and citizens remain hopeful and helpful. “Even with all the preparedness, what is really making the difference is neighbors helping neighbors,” Mr. Windle said.

“It’s amazing, because there is an informal navy going around the neighborhood helping people evacuate. Just imagine all the people on the Vineyard with their Boston Whalers patrolling around looking for people to help,” Mr. Windle said. Even the Cajun Navy, the famous group of volunteer citizens who organized in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help people, have traveled to Houston to lend their experience and resources. “No one cared about anyone’s socioeconomic status, the color of their skin, who they voted for. When this storm came, everybody just stopped and helped each other. People helped people,” Mr. Alley said.

To help:,


Where and how you can help

Local organizations

Hurricane Harvey Release Fund

This fund was established by Mayor Sylvester Turner and will accept tax deductible flood relief donations for affected victims.

Texas Diaper Bank

Individuals can mail in diaper and wipes for those displaced by Harvey to the address 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Tex., 78238.

United Way of Greater Houston

United Way is providing emergency assistance to communities in need of immediate food, shelter, and water. Once these needs are taken care of, they will focus their efforts on long-term recovery. Donate on their website or text UWFLOOD to 41444.

National Organizations

American Red Cross

American Red Cross accepts donations through its website and through text message by texting HARVEY to 90999 for a $10 donation. People are also encouraged to donate blood, which they can do by setting up an appointment at or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

Salvation Army

Donations can be made through their website, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769), or by texting STORM to 51555.


Donations go to supply victims with medicine and other emergency medical supplies.


Help For Houston

The city of Boston will be collecting items for victims of Hurricane Harvey in several city hall buildings until August 31. Suggested items include toiletries, diapers, baby formula, non-perishable food, clothing, and blankets. Items can be dropped off at Boston City Hall (3rd Floor lobby and 5th Floor Mayor’s Office Lobby, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), 1010 Massachusetts Avenue (5th Floor, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), Bolling Building (2300 Washington Street, Roxbury, 1st Floor Lobby, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), 26 Court Street (1 Floor Lobby, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), Boston Centers for Youth & Family Headquarters (1483 Tremont Street, Roxbury), and Boston Centers for Youth & Families sites.


Through airbnb, people are encouraged to open their homes for evacuees in need of immediate shelter. Service fees will be waived.


J.J. Watts, Houston Texans football player, has started a YouCaring page for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. People can donate both large and small donations directly to the website.

Food Banks

Food banks in areas most affected by Harvey. Follow the instructions on their websites to donate.

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley

Brazos Valley Food Bank

Central Texas Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank