By Jose Arredondo and Darcy Sprague
Most everyone is hunkering down in San Antonio this weekend as the city prepares for a long weekend of torrential rains and likely flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. Mayor Ron Nirenberg has already declared the city a disaster zone.
For many, hunkering down means buying water and food and sandbags — and maybe some extra wine. But the storm’s danger is heightened for another group — the homeless and the many living in distressed homes.
Historically, the West Side — where many of the homes are old and in poor condition — has been ravaged by flooding. Friday afternoon Folo Media took to the West Side streets to see what some of the most vulnerable San Antonians were doing to prepare for the incoming torrent.
Alberto Tores, 55, who lives on West Martin and Zarzamora streets, has five leaks in his 79-year-old home. He was cleaning debris from his yard in preparation for the storm.
“The ladders are coming off the ground, the chairs are coming off the ground,” said Tores, who regularly performs magic at Market Square. “Anything that’s on the ground is coming off the ground.”
When asked about the leaks, he replied, “The leaks are going to get the buckets.”
Tores did not seem concerned about possible structural damage to his home from the wind or rain. He plans to hunker down in the center of his home with his girlfriend, sister and son, along with his son’s family.
Folo Media talked with at least 10 West Side residents. Most were sitting in lawn chairs in front of their homes. A majority said they were unconcerned. Even the residents with leaky roofs and boarded up walls were nonchalant about the potential storm.
Some said they were used to the rain and the leaks. Others didn’t feel distressed because there was nothing they could do.
One person, in passing, said they are worried those on the West Side do not know what to expect, or fear, and will be caught unprepared for the destruction the storm will bring.
Henry Van de Putte III, the executive director of the American Red Cross Serving Greater San Antonio, offered these tips for low-income families:
• Look around for resources you already have in your home. Fill pots and pans with drinking water and fill the tub with water for flushing the toilet and hydrating pets.
• If you don’t have internet access, use a radio.
• Write down a plan for leaving in an emergency.
On the streets, Haven for Hope officials said they expect to see 900 individuals seeking refuge.
“The people who live on the streets are smart,” said Laura Calderon, director for external relations with Haven for Hope. “They know how to stay warm and dry in a normal storm … our biggest concern is their safety.”
Both Haven for Hope and the city have representatives combing San Antonio to warn homeless individuals about the storm.
“Is it going to be bad?” said Jeff Roberts, a man who has lived on a bench across from Geekdom building downtown — where Folo Media offices are located — for 10 years. He was hiding under a bushy tree at the time.
He had no way of tracking the storm, or understanding what was coming, but he could feel the change in the weather this morning, and he was afraid.
“I can stay over there,” he said pointing to Frost Bank. “There is a tunnel, a stairwell, that is like an ‘L.’”
He drew it on the ground and pointed to the small part. “During the rain I hide over there so the rain splash won’t reach me,” Roberts said.