Just after midnight on Aug. 28, Ken Kuratko stood staring out the window of his home in the Kingwood neighborhood in northeast Houston, watching the water creep toward the front stoop.
He still couldn’t believe it. A year earlier when the Riverside native and his family moved to Houston, all of the old-timers in the neighborhood said the home was “in a good spot.” It hadn’t flooded before. Even the Kuratkos’ insurance agent told them they didn’t need flood insurance.
As the water crept closer to his home in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall at Rockport, about 200 miles southwest of Houston, at 10 p.m. on Aug. 25, Kuratko tried to convince himself the water wouldn’t reach his home.
“I was in denial,” said Kuratko, as the water inched toward the home. “I was convinced it was going to stop there.”
Three hours later, water was flooding through every doorway of the house. Eight inches of water covered rooms on the first floor, and the water kept rising. Kuratko, his wife Rena and his two teenage daughters, Madison and Katie, each grabbed a suitcase full of belongings and they waded outside into waist-deep water.
“It was pitch black,” Kuratko said. “The water was even darker.”
And it was still raining, like it had been since the winds howled into the neighborhood early on Aug. 26. There was so much rain – Kuratko said that between Aug. 26 and Aug. 29 the area had gotten 54 inches – that on Aug. 27 officials released water from a reservoir located north of the neighborhood. That sealed the residents’ fate.
“That water came to us,” Kuratko said. “The streets became rivers, and it didn’t stop.”
The rain finally let up at 9 p.m. on Aug. 29, and Kuratko caught his first glimpses of blue sky the next morning.
“We got five years of rainfall in three and a half days,” he said.
Kuratko called the family’s roughly 100-yard escape from their home “surreal.” After at first resisting Kuratko’s efforts, the family Labrador paddled alongside while one of Kuratko’s daughters held her pet hedgehog aloft.
Kuratko’s wife and two daughters were in tears as they gingerly waded toward higher ground.
“That was when I just tried not to lose it,” Kuratko said.
“One of the errors we probably made is that we were just not as prepared as we should have been,” he added. “We never expected to be leaving our house.”
The family’s car was parked on a street that hadn’t been flooded, and they drove a short distance to a friend’s house, where they’ve been staying since. Kuratko said he doesn’t expect the water to recede until “Saturday [Sept. 2] at best and most likely Monday.”
Asked to describe what his neighborhood looks like, Kuratko said, “My neighborhood is like a lake with houses planted in it.”
He’s not sure exactly how high the water got inside his home; he hadn’t been able to get back inside as of Aug. 30. But he expects it go to about five feet on the first floor.
“I’m estimating about $100,000 in rebuilding costs,” said Kuratko, who added that neither his family nor the vast majority of his neighbors have flood insurance.
Kuratko works in downtown Houston, and said his corporate office was “completely flooded out.” Core systems were being relocated to Dallas and he estimated that it could be weeks before the downtown office will be up and running again.
“We’re trying to work remotely,” he said.
Schools, which had already pushed back start dates because of the approaching storm, are unsure when classes might start. One of Kuratko’s daughters starts her senior year in high school this fall. Just when that will begin, is unclear.
In the meantime, the family is staying with friends with only the belongings they were able to cram inside their suitcases.
Ken’s brother, Brian Kuratko, has started a GoFundMe page, asking for donations to help not only Ken’s family, but the rest of the neighbors in the subdivision, almost all of whom are in the same predicament.
“This is a very overwhelming situation — leaving them feeling helpless on how to begin the process of starting over,” Brian Kuratko wrote in his plea for donations. The campaign seeks to raise $100,000, and the money will be distributed “directly with the impacted residents of Kings Point Cove neighborhood.”