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Flooding and Football: Week 1 Along the Texas Coast

After five days of torrential downpour, Hurricane Harvey has ravaged through the Texas coast and taken the one thing Texans love most with it.

Receding waters uncover submerged vehicles left behind from Harvey.
Eric James

With the first full Saturday slate set to send the new college football season into full swing tomorrow, America eagerly sits on the brink of excitement.

Yet, as the nation enters this most wonderful time, the place where football is most celebrated - The Lone Star State - lays amidst tragedy. After being trapped underneath the most devastating natural force of rain in U.S. history, the Texas coast continues to bleed as Harvey unceasingly hammered the region for five straight days.

The category four hurricane made landfall Friday evening, having an immediate impact on coastal and bay-area cities such as Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, Rockport, and Victoria. Affected areas continued to expand as the storm slowed and traveled northbound, hovering over the city of Houston in limbo and producing more than 72 hours of continuous rainfall. The grand total was at 51.9 inches through Tuesday afternoon; the greatest amount ever recorded in the continental United States.

Cars, homes, interstate highways - completely submerged. A city of six million sunken, with thousands of victims displaced from their homes and some still in need of rescue. The Weather Channel reported over 50,000 calls made to 911 within first the 24 hours of Harvey’s landfall. Throughout the disaster, about 900 calls were coming in per hour, or one every four seconds.

Over one million people had to evacuate their homes as Harvey dumped 20 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston area. That is not a made up number. More than 100,000 homes are damaged and/or destroyed, and close to 50,000 people are fixed in shelters across the region.

The entire state’s National Guard was deployed to help rescue efforts. Over half a million people are expected to require federal aid in recovery and FEMA has already distributed upwards of two million meals and liters of water to victims. ABC reports Governor Greg Abbot has estimated about $125 billion in total damage has occurred.

It’s one thing to read about and see pictures of 52 inches rain, but it’s another thing entirely to see it for yourself. I can’t explain what it’s like. Imagine your subdivision being located in a beach - not on a beach, but in it. That’s sort of what it’s like. There’s an old Tool song about California snapping along the San Andreas’ fault and sinking into the Pacific Ocean. That’s sort of what it’s like.

Imagine climbing into a boat from a second or third story window, and that window’s proximity to the water level was closer than that of a dock, and climbing into that boat was quite possibly the only option you had to save your life. That’s literally what it’s like. For three days the area surrounding my home around Cypress Creek was effectively Atlantis.

When the water finally receded yesterday, there were cars in between trees and piled on front porches after Harvey tossed them around its wake like a cheap float. Refrigerators in front lawns, fences in the middle of the street; debris, trash, feces even - everywhere.

Everything comes up in that type of flood. The stench a flood like that leaves behind is more vile than anything you can comprehend in your worst nightmares. Be thankful for that.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, Harvey took the one possible salvation those along the coastal regions of Texas had to brighten their spirits: football.

There were thousands - probably millions - of people that at some point during the armageddon of the early part of that storm, had a thought of football cross the back of their minds. “Oh, we’ll still be able to make it up to Dallas for the Cowboys-Texans game on Thursday, it ain’t that bad,” or, “I wonder how this is going to affect the Cougars against UTSA this Saturday.” Hell, I thought about it, and so did many of my neighbors.

But the storm, being much too catastrophic, left programs and organizations without a choice. All across Texas, from hundreds of Friday Night Lights high school games to the grand opening of college football to the NFL preseason finale, football was canceled.

And rightfully so. As a community we are not in a fit emotional state to play football. As much as our hearts yearn to get away from this post-apocalyptic aftermath to the paradise of the gridiron, the current state of our homes is just too severe to turn away from for even 60 minutes.

The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans chose to cancel their preseason contest slated for Thursday night.

Houston and UTSA decided to postpone their Saturday season opener in the Alamodome, effectively pushing both programs’ first games to week two on their respective schedules. There is no word on if or when the game will be rescheduled.

In fact, both the Houston Cougars and Rice Owls were displaced at the time the storm hit Houston. Rice was traveling back from Australia after playing Stanford in their season opener exhibition, and Houston evacuated to Austin when storm first made landfall.

MaxPreps reported that over 100 season-opening high school games have been canceled.

Unfortunately, things can be a bit more complicated for Friday Night Lights. In most cases out-of-district games are never made up, and affected schools can suffer the whole year. Displaced students often have to enroll in a different school entirely. When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, my alma mater Westfield High School was closed for three weeks without power. That’s an enormous chunk of the high school season for a team to lose.

Take the damage done to Rockport-Fulton High School for example:

So Texas football has decided to clap back and band together to provide relief in whatever way possible.

On Rice Football’s way back from Australia, they couldn’t fly into Houston as Harvey was hardly halfway through its havoc. Head Coach David Bailiff simply wanted to get his team as close to home as possible, and he was able to fly the team into Dallas on Monday. TCU was generous enough to provide their facilities as a home to Rice until they could make it back to Houston.

With their preseason finale canceled, the Dallas Cowboys hosted a Salvation Army Telethon to raise money on Thursday night, and owner Jerry Jones donated $1 million to the relief efforts.

And, of course, you’ve already seen the video J.J. Watt posted to social media asking his followers to raise money. Watt’s celebrity reach has exploded the fundraiser, which has effectively generated over $12 million as of this morning.

And the Houston Cougars had former head coach Tom Herman offer UT’s facilities to the team throughout the week.

The Cougars also launched a campaign of their own, and called on essentially every FBS program in the state of Texas to pledge supplies. Their call was answered, and what ensued was a once-in-history event: equipment trucks from all available Texas college football programs met in Austin and stormed down State Highway 290 in a convoy trek to Houston, where they would deliver all supplies to a neighborhood church.

The Cougars led the caravan from Austin. Simply put, it was pretty awesome to see.

That sight is more rare than a solar eclipse, and might I say more beautiful as well.

Though the Owls and the Cougars finally made it back to Houston, some will never go home again. Players from all across the state and the country were affected by this storm, perhaps someone on your favorite team. But they will continue to fight and move forward. They are Texans, after all. And even more so, Texas football players. They’re our superheroes every weekend.

And maybe that’s something to take from away from all of this: I’ve forgotten how much I hate my opposing teams this week. I respect and admire all of them, and at the end of the day I wish the best for their well-being. That emotion will pass rather soon, but right now we’re in this thing together. We’re Texas Football Strong.

As week one arrives, the storm has finally passed. Texas will continue its relief efforts and look forward to putting the aftermath of this storm behind us. As for the rest of the world, your care is greatly appreciated. As you tune into your favorite team this weekend, let the situation in Texas remind you of the privileges you enjoy including a safe home, electricity, running water, and yes, football.