As we left the station in El Paso, Texas, the clouds greyed. The collective phones on the train buzzed with an emergency flash flood alert. The train chugged forward into the empty desert, thundering skies filling the void. The passenger cars shook from the forceful electricity in the air. Soon enough, long fingers of lightning jumped down, striking the earth in the distance. I retreated to my cabin for a tumultuous sleep.
Our train is small; an Amtrak engine pulls our two sleeping cars and one lounge car across the country. I was not quite sure how we would hold up in the flood that washed out Texas, but other than arrival delays, our trip has not been affected. We stopped in Austin and then San Antonio, where the ground was wet but not flooded. I only knew of the impact of the flood because of my family, who was reaching out to make sure I was okay, and because of a woman I met in Austin, who said the city had imposed a curfew on Sunday to try to keep people off of the roads. With very little internet connectivity on the train, I’ve not kept up with the news.
My awareness of the storm’s damage changed when we got to Houston. The devastation permeated the landscape. It seemed like every other house was a foot under water. Our train flew by communities where some houses were raised by cinder blocks, and others missing roof shingles or even entire walls. The clusters of houses along the tracks belonged to Houston’s poor, and it was hard to tell whether their ruin was caused by the storm, or merely exacerbated by it. No one was outside to clean up the chaos. I wondered if some had fled. In sitting down to write, I managed enough of an internet connection to Google “Texas flood,” and the first news article to pop up estimated that 30 Houstonians were missing. Continue reading “The Ark That Millennials Built”