Hurricane Harvey: The week Houston will never forget…
To call Hurricane Harvey a devastating storm would be an understatement. As of Friday, it has been assessed that Harvey caused: one million Texans to evacuate, 185,000+ flooded homes, displacement of over 42,000 Houstonians still housed in shelters and over $23 billion in damages. An unprecedented 800 year storm, Harvey may have covered Houston in water, but he also uncovered the importance of our legacies; our photographs.
The Importance of preserving photos before and after a flood…
Flood victims who were interviewed spoke of their attempt to salvage irreplaceable family photos before and after the flood.
Judy Levison shared, “You realize what’s important: photo albums are the only thing I really care about. So I lifted things into closets as high as I could.” [Bethea, Charles The New Yorker “The View from Houston, As Harvey’s Floodwaters Rise” August 27, 2017]
Jessee Smethermann of Kingwood said, “As we were trying to salvage what we could putting them out to dry, I was noticing the dates they were taken. One of them was a relative from 1897.” [Molestina, Ken CBS News “Family Photos Saved In Spite Of Harvey Destruction” September 4, 2017]
And Sheila Ware sadly explained, “Once you lose pictures that are 50 years old, you are never going to see that again. You have photos to trigger memories, and when they are gone, they are gone.” [Slaydon, Andrea Click 2 Houston “How to recover photos after a flood” September 1, 2017]
Thankfully when photo albums are damaged during a flood, there is still a way to save them. Firstly, bring them indoors. The sun and wind will cause them to curl. Ideally, while images are still wet from floodwater, rinse off any mud or debris with clean, tepid water. Lay each photograph flat onto a towel or blotting paper. Then, with rubber gloves, gently press down on the images to blot the water off of the back of the photograph. Be careful not to rub or scratch the front of the image as this may cause irreparable damage. Change the blotting paper or towel every few hours (as this will help soak up the moisture). Finally, leave images to dry completely. Do not use newspaper or colored paper as this may transfer ink to the images.
Natural disasters force us to take stock of what is truly important in life. The safety of our family, pets and friends is paramount, however the loss of irreplaceable photographs can be heart-breaking. While attempts to move items to higher ground is of course your best option, it’s nice to know that there are ways to save our treasured photographs.