Texas fencers coordinate Hurricane Harvey relief

Donations will be accepted on the STAR Complex’s third floor through Sept. 30.

Sophomore epee Camille Simmons’ home in Houston was surrounded by floodwater after Hurricane Harvey. | COURTESY / CAMILLE SIMMONS

When Ally Micek and Camille Simmons boarded their plane in Houston the week before Fall 2017 classes started, rainfall was in the forecast. But that rainfall eventually grew into Hurricane Harvey, one of the costliest natural disasters in United States history.

It displaced more than 30,000 people and caused more than 20 casualties.

Starting classes was difficult for Micek as she watched Harvey’s eye on the weather radar while it moved through Houston.

“It’s like every other hurricane times 10 put together,” the junior epee said. “[Hurricane Ike] was definitely a devastating one. … My mom said it’s nothing like Houston has seen before. The floods of 2016 weren’t even as bad as this year.”

Simmons, a sophomore epee, and Micek are both from the Houston area. The storm caused 51.88 inches of rain — a record total from one storm in the continental U.S. — to flood the city.

The two worked with Compliance and Student-Athlete Affairs Coordinator Jessica Gray to set up a donation drive for non-perishable items like water, clothing, household items and cleaning supplies. The drop-off point is in the Office of Compliance and Student-Athlete Affairs on the third floor of the Aramark Student Training and Recreation Center Complex at 15th Street and Montgomery Avenue. Donations will be accepted until Sept. 30 and will be sent to the University of Houston’s athletic department as necessary, Gray wrote in an email.   

While many in the Houston area had to relocate, Micek and Simmons’ families are safe and their houses didn’t lose power or suffer extreme damages. The only property damage that occurred at Micek’s house is that her heater, air conditioner and pool filter need to be replaced. Simmons and Micek’s houses are each built a few feet above ground, as required by Houston law, to withstand possible floods.

During floods on Memorial Day in 2015, 11 inches of rain fell on Houston. After the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which coordinates disaster recovery efforts — approved more than 13,000 residents for federal assistance. That, however, only accounted for a small fraction of Houston’s more than two million residents.

Micek was shocked by pictures her mother sent of the flooded street outside her house.

“It was really heartbreaking just to hear how bad it was and knowing I could’ve still been there,” Micek said.

Before Harvey made landfall in Houston, Simmons and Micek’s parents each sent them on errands.

Simmons went to the supermarket the day before her flight, and all of the shelves were empty except for some non-perishable items. Her parents asked her to buy water, but the store was out. She bought Gatorade and juices instead, she said.

“The traffic on [Aug. 24] was horrendous,” Micek said. “I had a 15-minute drive to pick up my little brother, and it ended up taking me over an hour and a half because everyone was evacuating.”

University of Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson tweeted on Aug. 28, asking high school and college coaches if they could each send 20 of their school’s T-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes to help people affected by Harvey.

Coach Fran Dunphy responded and sent clothes and shoes to Sampson.

Simmons and Micek said it’s great to see people who aren’t connected to Houston willing to help.

“It’s devastating, but it’s also empowering to see everyone come together and become stronger from it,” Simmons said. “I think Houston was already such a dominant city. … I think after this, yeah there will be a little setback, but everyone will come out stronger.”

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