HOUSTON — If you kept your eyes locked Friday on the centerline of the road that winds through Tartan Lane, you’d have no clue of the historic destruction that Hurricane Harvey caused in and around Houston days ago.
The skies were blue and the clouds were few — a typical, muggy late summer afternoon in the so-called Space City. But a glance to the left or right of the street tells a darker tale.
Ramshackle mounds of waterlogged sofas, mattresses, clothing, toys and torn-up remnants of floorboards and saturated drywall stretch across many lawns.
Floodwaters filled many of these homes just days ago. Now it’s front yards inundated with debris.
“This is everything I own,” resident Mike Gregg said, shaking his head as he surveyed piles of furniture, large appliances and trash in front of his home.
Gregg is still trying to come to terms with the storm’s wrath. It won’t come soon and it won’t come easy. But even as floodwaters were rising inside his home early Sunday morning, he knew he wouldn't endure Harvey alone.
He found shelter in the above-the-garage apartment of a Mormon bishop that lives close by. Days later, when the waters began to retreat, a team of LDS missionaries and other volunteers showed up at Gregg’s front door.
“They came in and worked their tails off — and as soon as they left another group came in and worked their tails off,” said Gregg, choking back emotion.
That “look-out-for-your-neighbor” spirit found along Tartan Lane and far beyond has helped lift a city that is still reeling from the tragedies of the past week.
Helen Soares counts herself among the lucky in Houston. Somehow Harvey’s floodwaters stayed away from her home. But the native of Brazil was still pained to watch her adopted city suffer. She waited for the heaviest rains to pass and then got to work.
“I volunteered for three days at a shelter, separating donations as they came in,” she said. “This storm brought Houston together. It doesn’t matter if you’re, say, Catholic or Mormon. We are all just people coming together to help our city.”
On Friday, Soares joined several Mormon missionaries and a pair of BYU students in a team effort to muck out Nancy Haight’s severely damaged home.
Haight fled to Dallas when Hurricane Harvey began veering toward Houston. She watched floodwaters fill her front yard and breach her home in real time via a doorbell camera.
“The only word for what I saw was catastrophic — I’ve lost everything except a glass and metal table,” said the Houston native. “There was no way we could anticipate Harvey. But it does lift your spirits knowing people want to help.”
Counted among the volunteers helping Haight on Friday were several Utahns. Elder Arturo Loza’s yellow LDS Helping Hands T-shirt was heavy with sweat as he hauled trash to the front yard. The full-time missionary from Ogden spent days inside his apartment as the deluge fell.
“It wasn’t much fun,” he said. “But it feels great today to be out helping people.”
Elder Loza was joined by a pair of other missionaries — Elder Garett Ferrero of Las Vegas and Elder Joseph Larsen of Eagle, Idaho.
“We’re called to serve and labor, and, right now, this is the best way we can serve,” said Elder Ferrero.
The missionaries’ leader — Texas Houston South Mission President Aaron Hall — has spent the past few days working shoulder-to-shoulder with his young charges.
“We muck out one home and then move on to the next,” said the North Ogden resident, who noted every young elder and sister missionary in the mission are working on cleanup crews.
The damage exacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston won’t be clear over the weekend. So the missionaries and many others will continue their backbreaking work of helping those in need in the coming days and weeks.
“We’ll go wherever there’s an opportunity to serve,” he added.