Early Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in my car on Knight’s Way in Harker Heights, waiting for the light to change so I could head across the bridge over I-14.
As I sat there looking north, I marveled at the low-lying band of clouds moving swiftly from east to west, looking ominous and threatening.
I realized these were the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey, which was spinning about 275 miles to the south, which explained the counterclockwise movement of the clouds.
As the traffic light turned green, the impact of what I had seen hit me. Just a few hours’ drive away, the same storm that produced these cloud bands had pummeled Texas coastal residents with 130 mph winds and epic amounts of torrential rain.
Thousands of lives were changed forever — and some were lost. And with more rain falling over five days, the flooding that immobilized the nation’s fourth-largest city became a disaster of literally biblical proportions.
A news account Monday reported that the slow-moving storm had dumped 19 trillion gallons of water on Houston. By late Tuesday, some areas had seen 52 inches of rainfall — more than any other event in the state’s recorded history.
Yet here in Harker Heights, the rainfall total was a mere 2 inches. No wind damage, no submerged homes or cars. Just wet streets and extremely green lawns.
The dire forecast of 8 to 10 inches of rain and 60 mph gusts for Central Texas didn’t come true, largely because Harvey didn’t follow the path forecasters predicted.
Corpus Christi had been in Harvey’s sights, but the storm tracked east, and Corpus was spared the brunt of the storm, though it still sustained significant wind damage.
However, Rockport — only about 30 miles up the coast — wasn’t so lucky. It was slammed with the full force of Harvey’s wind and rain, and pictures showing the level of damage are frightening to see.
Twenty years ago, an F5 tornado killed 27 people as it leveled a subdivision of Jarrell, only 35 miles south of Killeen. And the tornado first formed just south of Salado — even closer still.
The point is, we never know where the next weather disaster will take place — or who will be impacted.
The next time, it could just as easily be our community.
As hundreds of evacuees from Southeast Texas continue to fill shelters in Harker Heights, Killeen and Belton, emergency responders and local volunteers have treated the storm victims with compassion and respect. Evacuees who arrived in our community commented about how welcome they felt, and how warm and friendly the workers and volunteers were.
Across the local area, businesses, service organizations, churches and chambers of commerce are working to collect needed supplies — both for evacuees and for those trapped in the flooded Houston area.
Our community distinguished itself with its response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but residents’ willingness to help goes beyond storms and floods.
Central Texans also rallied around each other in the face of manmade disasters — the Luby’s massacre in Killeen that killed 23 area residents in 1991, and the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 that claimed the lives of 12 soldiers and a U.S. Army civilian.
Our community cares — and it shows.
It will be a long time before I can watch storm clouds roll by and not think of the devastation Harvey brought to Southeast Texas.
Many of the people who have taken refuge in our community have little or nothing to go back to. Perhaps some of them will settle here, as did some Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
In the meantime, let’s do what we can to help.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Heights Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7543.