PORTLAND – Tamara Flournoy was tucked underneath her stairwell as Hurricane Harvey roared through. She was stuck in Portland because her truck had broken down a few days before so she waited it out with her three dogs, her cat and a possum (more on that later).For hours she listened as boards creaked and moaned and nails from the roof hit the floor of her 1938 home.
After the storm passed she was surprised her house was still standing. Mostly.
“And then, after it all quieted down, I was scared to open the doors so I sat there for probably two or three hours,” Flournoy said. “That was scary. I won’t stay for another one.”
Siding from the old house was ripped off; the house, which was on beams, began to sink on one side, and in one of the rooms the roof caved in, giving way to mold she couldn’t get rid of.
Then, to make matters worse, when she was outside cleaning up debris from the hurricane, she tripped and fell, her upper shin landing directly on a nail protruding from a board. It was so deep she had to pry it out with two hands.
During the time she was attempting to get money from FEMA to fix her house, and had appealed 14 times before, tragedy struck once again.
“I was keeping an eye on the wound, and everything looked fine, but I was having trouble breathing,” Flournoy said. “After going to different doctors, one finally told me I needed to get emergency medical help, and I was rushed off and admitted into the hospital.
“I woke up three months later.”
She said that the nail was full of bacteria and had vegetated her blood, eventually causing her to need to have a heart valve replacement. One of the days in the hospital, all of her internal organs shut down, only for them to miraculously turn back on like a light switch the next day.
“Everything was really bad there for a while,” she added. “And then when I got out they told me the funding was gone for FEMA, and there was nothing I could do because I was in the hospital for so long. I had to relearn to talk, walk – the whole nine yards. It was something else.”
Two years later, her luck would finally change for the best as on Feb. 10, she received keys to her brand new brick home – the first brick house built in the program – courtesy of Texas General Land Office (GLO) Homeowner Assistance Program which has already rebuilt more than 600 homes that were damaged by Harvey and is expected to repair approximately 6,000 homes before funds are fully expended.
“This is – I’ve never, never had a house this nice. Ever,” Flournoy said seeing her new home for the first time. “I thought there was no hope, but these guys have really – wow – all I can say is thank you, God; thank you to all the people, that there was a lot of people to help pay my bills when I was in the hospital I didn’t even know until I woke up and my brother told me. People came from all over the place to help. This is amazing.
“Its lemons to lemonade,” she laughed on the verge of tears.
Stonewater, a nationwide small business specializing in mitigation and restoration following natural and man made disasters or events, constructed the new home.
Production Manager Kelly Phillips said, “This is what really keeps you going. This is the motivation behind it all.
“At the end of the day when you break it down, we’re building houses, but then when you come, and you hear stories like this and you’re turning keys over to people who have been devastated and had their lives flipped upside down, it’s much more than just wood and brick.”
GLO Director of Communications Brittany Eck was on hand to give Flournoy the keys to her new home and said, “This the best part of my job. Right after the hurricane it was all about taking care of folks and making sure they understood that we were going to rebuild and that we’re all here for them.
“Now we’re doing the work; now we’re out here swinging hammers and driving nails into wood and putting doors on and to come out and see the final product all put together is tremendous, and to be able to see homeowners really understand that now they’re home. It’s really, really, really their home.
“So it’s exciting and to be able to do this for Valentine’s Day, I mean, it’s great to get roses, but I get to give people keys to houses,” she laughed.
With keys in hand, Flournoy added, “You’re only limited in life by your desire so don’t give up, and have the faith because good things happen to everybody. I always thought it was everybody else, but now I know good things happen to everybody.
“This is amazing.”