CALGARY — The restaurant Bo Levi Mitchell used to frequent has been claimed by tropical storm Harvey. Floodwaters have threatened to breach the sandbags around his family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Ja’Gared Davis’s mother Gayla fled Houston and headed north to his hometown of Crockett. Davis says a close friend required rescue in Houston.
Mother Nature is on the minds of the two Calgary Stampeders as much as Monday’s Labour Day game against the Edmonton Eskimos.
The pictures and videos they’ve seen of submerged cars, homes and interstate highways, combined with the updates they’re getting from family and friends in their home state, are worrisome.
“Being up here, I feel helpless,” Davis said Wednesday. “All I can do is send my heartfelt condolences and my prayers and know I’m there with them mentally if I can’t be with them physically. It’s hard.”
As quarterback of the high school Tigers in football-mad Katy, Mitchell’s environment wasn’t far off ”Friday Night Lights” depicted in the book, movie and television series.
His father Dwight, who everyone calls Mitch, and stepmother Susan live in the city of 17,000 just west of Houston as do Mitchell’s stepsisters, two brothers and extended family.
“Can’t leave their houses yet,” the Stampeder quarterback reported. “Water the last couple days was about halfway up the driveway and yesterday got up to the door and didn’t go in.
“They’ve got sandbags around the houses. They’ve moved the furniture upstairs and they’re all just kind of sitting upstairs making sure nothing bad happens.
“It’s insane to think about. I know that city front to back, like the back of my hand.
“Some of the pictures and videos I’ve seen, the I-45 going out towards Richmond, it looked like an ocean. Waves with whitecaps on top of them. It’s like one of those movies, the end of the world kind of thing.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” he continued. “Even if flew down there, I don’t know if I can get into the city right now. I’d have to find somebody with a boat.”
Mitchell and Davis feel torn between wanting to help out those at home and knowing there’s little they can do right now other than continue to earn their living on the football field in Canada.
And while Harvey continues to drench southern Texas, southern Alberta by contrast is as dry as a cinder with the Stampeders practising under smoky haze from B.C. forest fires.
For Mitchell, football is a mental refuge from worrying about Harvey’s impact on his hometown and those in it.
“It might sound selfish, but I try and use football as my getaway,” Mitchell said. “Obviously there’s always the thought in the back of my head that something bad could happen and I’m always thinking in my family in that way, but my family is strong.
“The guys in my family would not only help their family, but everybody else around them. I have a lot of faith in those guys.”
He and Davis are comforted by the heroic work they see volunteers and rescue workers doing to battle the flood.
Calgary’s next bye week is the first week of October, when Davis intends to be on a plane heading home to pitch in.
“Kudos to the city of Houston and state of Texas,” the defensive lineman said. “Everybody is pulling together and everybody is coming from all over to help out and lending a helping hand.
“Everybody needs a helping hand.”