On August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas. A Category 4 hurricane, it was the first major hurricane since Hurricane Wilma in 2005 to touch down in the U.S. And with it came catastrophic destruction.
Rainfall of more than 40 inches caused disastrous flooding, and nowhere in the U.S. was devastated as much as Louisiana and southeast Texas, particularly the city of Houston.
Countless businesses and homes in Houston were affected by the storm and subsequent flooding. One such business was The Houstonian — which boasts a club and hotel in the heart of the Houston metropolitan area.
“Saturday night into early Sunday morning, the storm really impacted us the most,” recalled Cher Harris, the club general manager for The Houstonian. “And the bayou that sits behind us, the Buffalo Bayou, started to rise because of the torrential downpours and the amount of rain that we received.”
Although the club’s physical location made it through the storm essentially unscathed, The Houstonian’s hotel property experienced flooding that impacted the company’s support systems, which feed into the club.
“We didn’t have any damage to the actual hotel rooms or the lobby, but all of our support departments – purchasing, human resources, bakery shop, housekeeping, and engineering – were all flooded,” said Harris. “The club was fine, the facility itself. But all of our support systems in the hotel that are connected to the club were damaged.”
When it became evident the storm was life-threatening, the first thing the engineering staff did was clear the elevators and move them up to the top floors. They also brought all the food they could upstairs, to feed the company’s employees and 88 hotel guests on campus.
“A lot of us stayed over just to make sure that we could accommodate the hotel guests as well as just make sure that the campus was safe,” Harris described. “Then on Sunday morning, some of our hotel guests were able to get out, and we moved 32 hotel guests to the club to stay on Sunday evening. And I believe at that time we had about 85 to 90 employees on campus that we housed in the club as well.”
In the midst of such upheaval, Harris and the club were able to provide safety for the facility’s guests and employees.
She credits her staff’s execution of their emergency plan for the eventual safety of everyone in the club and hotel. She believes being prepared for any catastrophe is critical in emerging safely from it.
“I think having a plan up front [helps],” said Harris. “We on campus are used to the flooding — not this extent, but [we] have a very good plan in place. So I think my advice to anyone would be to make preparations for any type of disaster event, so you are prepared. Really, nothing can prepare you for something like this, but at least you have the steps in place of what to do when.”
No matter how good a safety or evacuation plan is, natural disasters can still take their toll. As a result of Harvey’s destruction, many of The Houstonian’s employees were unable to get back to their homes for several days, and some lost their homes or cars.
In spite of all the damage, however, there is still hope for restoration. “I think, as a city, the disaster was so widespread that it’ll take Houston a long, long time to recover,” Harris said. “But I think we’ve really seen people volunteer, and just the outpouring of love has been awesome.”
Because of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, many health club employees, including those at The Houstonian, suffered great losses. While they made it through the storm with their lives, many lost their homes, cars and other personal possessions. Click here to make a tax deductible donation to The Houstonian Campus Employee Disaster Relief Fund.
In addition to The Houstonian, a number of other clubs were negatively impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Health Clubs Hurricane Relief effort provides support for affected staff members of Houston-area health clubs. All of the funds received are used to help affected staff members get part of their lives back.
Please consider supporting this cause as an individual, or with your business.