Nicole Clermont is among tens of thousands of Houston residents unsure when they can return home.
The long-time Red Deer resident who moved to Houston last fall had to flee her home earlier this week because of Hurricane Harvey.
She took refuge in a friend’s home and two days ago followed another family to Austin. The mother of a three- and six-year-old is now in Dallas, where she was joined by her husband Cody, who had been working in India when the hurricane hit and rushed home as soon as he could.
The Clermonts live in a Houston suburb called Sugar Land in a home leased by Cody’s employer, ME Global. Cody is working temporarily on a project in Texas.
When the hurricane hit, Sugar Land, which is southwest of downtown Houston, was among those under evacuation order.
Nicole, who lived in Red Deer for about nine years before moving last October to Texas, said she has since found out her adopted neighbourhood has escaped the worst.
“Our next-door neighbour called us yesterday. He somehow got in, I don’t know how, because the roads are still closed.
“He said he doesn’t think we have damage.
“He doesn’t have damage. The water got really, really close to going inside, but not quite.”
Someone posted drone footage of nearby neighbourhoods, Riverstone and Sienna Plantation, that shows how close her area was to being inundated.
“Our area was kind of lucky. Our levee, the one that protects our subdivision area, was good.
“The (subdivisions) a little bit further back, towards the east, they are a lot worse. They probably have six inches of water in their house or more.”
Other friends, not able to get back to their homes, know they will be returning to a mess.
“Just from the storm footage, they know they’re under water,” she said.
U.S. authorities estimate 30,000 to 40,000 homes in the Houston area have been destroyed by the hurricane and the flooding it caused.
While the Clermonts’ home may have escaped the worst, it is still unknown when the family can return.
“Our area is still under mandatory evacuation, just because they don’t know what’s going on with the river yet,” she said. “They don’t want anyone returning to the area, even though some people have already returned.
“But we’re going to stay away until we get the OK.”
Authorities expect the river near her neighbourhood to crest on Friday. It may be a few days though before residents are given the green light to return.
Getting back may be difficult. Many of the usual routes are flooded.
“Our drive out of the area, it should only take three hours to get out and it took us well over five,” she said, adding they had to keep searching for alternate routes.
“Some of the roads were washed away so we had to take an hour detour.”
There will be much work to be done by residents when they return even in areas not hardest hit.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of cleanup.
A relief fund for her area has already been started and volunteers have come forward for cleanup crews.
“When we can go back we’re going to go back and help with all that.”