In a span of less than 24 hours, Troy Hutcheon went from celebrating his 51st birthday with his family to being rescued by boat after floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey surrounded his home.
Hutcheon, who was born and raised in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean, moved to Houston in 2000 and now lives there with his wife and three kids aged nine, seven, and two.
Hutcheon turned 51 Sunday. On Monday, a friend who lives nearby rescued him and his three children by boat after their street flooded, while a stranger on a Jet Ski rescued his wife and one of their puppies.
“The last time thing I did was turn off all the circuits and the electrical system in my house and locked the door and left and made sure my wife and family were safe,” Hutcheon told CBC News by phone.
“It’s just neighbours helping neighbours up here. Anybody with a boat is helping.”
Officials said the flooding caused by the storm will likely worsen after already affecting 6.8 million people in Texas and killing two.
Rainfall totals in some parts of the state are expected to reach one metre.
‘We may have lost everything’
Hutcheon and his family are now staying at a friend’s home north of Splendora, Texas, where they live. His sister-in-law’s home is already full of water, and there’s more rain on the way, he said.
Hutcheon said the water outside his home has risen about one metre since Sunday as more of his neighbours escape to relative safety.
“So, it sounds like we may have lost everything except the clothes we have packed,” he said.
“We have no idea what’s going on. We have no idea. Just playing it by ear and seeing what will happen.”
Some tourists from Ottawa who travelled to south Texas to embark on a week-long cruise are now stranded in Houston because of the widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.
“We’re totally trapped,” said Nikki McIntosh from a hotel near the Houston airport. “The whole city’s at a standstill. So we can’t drive anywhere.”
McIntosh, her husband and their two children were supposed to board a cruise ship on Sunday from nearby Galveston for a seven-day trip with stops in Mexico and Jamaica.
“We really thought that when we left Ottawa — we were tracking the weather — that we’d be able to get on the boat, and we would not be here for this week of absolute chaos,” said the Ottawa teacher.
Harvey said the cruise company, Royal Caribbean International, assured the family the ship would be able to depart despite the worsening weather. Harvey said they were told they wouldn’t get refunds if they failed to show up.
So they flew to Dallas and drove to Houston, about 80 kilometres northwest of Galveston, only to learn Sunday afternoon the cruise was cancelled.
“The concern is, as the week drags on and if delivery trucks aren’t able to [get here] it’s a limited supply of food,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh’s friend Melanie McGee, who was booked on the same cruise, said the group is unhappy with how Royal Caribbean handled the situation.
“They insisted over and over and over again that they were going to dock on Sunday, that that was going to happen. They absolutely put us into a dangerous situation,” McGee said.
The group is now out thousands of dollars, but McGee said she was offered a refund and credit for a future cruise with the company if she booked within 30 days.
In an email to CBC News, Royal Carribean International said the ship has been unable to make its return to the Port of Galveston, though the company hopes to do so by Friday.
“We are doing all we can to help guests adjust their travel arrangements and appreciate their patience during a stressful time,” the statement read. “The next sailing of Liberty of the Seas, originally scheduled for Sunday, August 27 has been cancelled, and all guests will have their fares fully refunded and have been provided with a future cruise credit.”
The Ottawa group hopes to fly back to Canada after the Houston airport reopens on Thursday, but they worry a rush of travellers may keep them stranded in Texas.