By David Fleet
Spring Texas- It’s a bad mix.
“The dry food—like spaghetti or noodles stored in cupboards mix with flood waters—then temperatures raise into the 90s,” said Shannon Vultaggio. “It’s like the food is cooking in muddy warm water. The smell is unforgettable.”
Shannon along with husband James Vultaggio, a 1997 Brandon High School graduate, are residents of Spring, Texas a community of about 55,000 located about 50 miles north of Houston.
Celeste, Shannon Dominic and James Vultaggio at Lemm Elementary School Spring, Texas.
The family home is about 230 miles north east of Corpus Christi, Texas where Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25, according to the National Weather Service.
“The hurricane did not come our way but the rain sure did,” said Shannon. “It started to rain on Friday (Aug. 25) and did not stop until the next Wednesday. It was a steady hard rain.”
The National Weather Service reported some areas around Houston received more than 50 inches of rain.
“We are at a peak in our neighborhood,” she said. “It’s like we are on an island—our power was off for a five days— but our home was safe only a few small leaks. However, you could not leave our street there was so much flooding—it’s like we are on a boat in our house. We are very lucky. Just 200 yards from our house the Texas National Guard was launching boats right in the middle of the highway—a major interstate.”
The couple, along with their two children Celeste, 9, and Dominic, 7, stocked up with food and water before the hurricane came ashore.
“It’s like your getting ready for camping,” said Shannon, a Houston native. “Just plan on no power to cook or lights for a few days. However down here in Texas the heat can get oppressive during the summer so it’s pretty bad.”
The couple is familiar with major storms. On Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike roared on shore near Galveston, Texas about 80 miles south of Spring.
“During Ike, James and I, along with Celeste who was just a baby at the time were inside a closet when the eye passed over our house,” she said. “We lost power for about three weeks that time and had only minor damage to our house.”
The first day of school was Aug. 21 for Celeste a fourth grade student and Dominic a second grader. The children attend Lemm Elementary School in the Klein School District where Shannon is a registered nurse. The children could walk to their school.
“They closed (schools) on Friday (Aug. 25) when the storm started to prepare,” she said. “Lemm (Elementary) was hit pretty hard and now will not open until sometime around Christmas. The school is going to require a total gut job—much of the building had major water damage. The students are now going about 20 miles away on a bus for classes. They will be sharing the a wing of a high school until Lemm can reopen.”
Although the rain subsided just a few blocks away many areas are still underwater.
“We went out and helped our neighbors,” she said. “I have never seen such community action. The minute that water went down donations started coming in the area. There’s a pavilion in the neighborhood and it was like a grocery store—trash bags, cleaning supplies, food anything people would need—we never had to go to Home Depot. Everyone just volunteered—it’s just amazing. People would see us working cleaning out houses and get us pizza or lunch. Unreal.”
James and Shannon assisted in gutting flooded homes.
“When a house is underwater and the water goes down—the doors often swell shut,” she said. “The furniture floats during a flood sometime in front of the door so it’s very hard to open. It’s just surreal— refrigerators float and end up on top of kitchen cabinets. Couches and chairs swell up with water and just don’t move. One flood victim explained it would be better if pictures and personal items would have burned in a fire. With the water damage you have to throw away ruined pictures of your family—it’s just devastating.”