Human Interest

What was supposed to be a romantic cruise turned into an experience they will never forget.

Sedona City Attorney Robert Pickels and his wife, Lisa, had been looking forward for quite some time to their Caribbean cruise, which was supposed to set sail from Galveston, Texas — less than an hour away from Houston.

As Hurricane Harvey was inching its way toward Texas and the Gulf Coast, the Pickelses weren’t sure if they would be able to fly into Houston on Saturday, Aug. 26. Robert said he shared his concerns with the cruise line but was told that if they were not on the boat, they would not be reimbursed.

So, they flew from Phoenix and were one of the few planes allowed to land in Houston on Sunday. Two days later the cruise line finally canceled the trip allowing guests to be reimbursed.

“I was very disappointed that it took the cruise line so long to make that decision,” he said.

While relieved about the cruise, the realized they had bigger things to worry about. Lisa’s brother lives in nearby Spring, Texas, and was able to drive to the airport during a brief break in the weather to pick them up.

“In Spring they received 30 inches of rain while we were there,” Robert said. “I couldn’t get my mind around that. That’s just so much rain in a short amount of time. It literally rained the entire time we were there — it never let up.”

Fortunately, his brother-in-law’s neighborhood sits on higher ground so they sustained no flooding, aside from the swimming pool overflowing at times.

“What you’ve seen on the news is so true,” Robert said. “The area was devastated. In Houston, people were trapped. It was like there was a giant moat around the city. People who were inside the city couldn’t get out and those who were out couldn’t get in. Some people wanted to leave their homes but they were too late.”

Pickels said one of the things that stuck out in his mind were the number of first responders throughout Houston. Most were rescuing residents while others were shutting down freeway off ramps as they began to flood.

“It really made me think about all those people who were at risk,” he said. “We were fortunate to be safe and warm but it was heartbreaking to see and hear about all those who lost their lives and homes. It was very depressing.”

Since there were no flights in or out of Houston for a few days, the Pickelses decided to rent a car in Spring and head toward Dallas to try and catch a flight home. He said it was almost surreal as they could see the storm system in their rearview mirror but blue skies ahead as they drove toward Dallas.

“One of the things I will remember is the number of people helping other people they didn’t even know,” Lisa said. “That’s the best part of this entire tragic story.”


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