A Photographer Documents Her Own Battle with Harvey

Erin Trieb has navigated conflict zones, but to evacuate her family, she navigated through Houston’s life-threatening flood waters.

Conflict photographer Erin Trieb is a Texas native living in Turkey who happened to be visiting family in Houston when the storm hit. She has documented some of the world's most harrowing conflicts, including the trauma left by war and conflict in the Middle East, but now her camera is trained on the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, including the toll on her loved ones.

"It's oddly serene," she said Monday, describing the experience of walking through the flooded streets of the Houston suburb Bellaire. Following the chaos of Harvey, which first hit Texas late Friday night, the ensuing floods have made a quiet entrance into her family's neighbourhood.

"I can only remember hearing the chirping of frogs," she said. "Birds were quiet. The wind wasn't blowing hard. There was a strange and still effect all over the neighbourhood."

Images from inside her family's home show inches of water slowly rising throughout various rooms in the house and garage.

Trieb was forced to evacuate her mother and her three dogs from her home. Video she took at the scene shows the two anxiously collecting only the most essential belongings and racing to leave her mother's home before the water became too dangerous.

Furniture and family mementos were piled high on beds and desks in an attempt to save them from the rising water.

"If I hadn't attached so much sentimental value to everything, I would just be ok," Trieb's mother said on video while speaking through tears. While the financial loss from floods are great, studies have shown victims often have post-traumatic stress in the aftermath.

She and her mother waded through waist-deep flood water to evacuate their neighbourhood. They took only what they could carry, pulling the three dogs behind them in plastic waste bins. Along the way they ran into the National Guard carrying children above rising waters.

Watch photographer rescue mum and dogs from Harvey’s devastating flooding

Bellaire sits just southwest of downtown Houston, where some of the worst flooding has been seen.

Aerial photos have shown parts of Houston as unrecognisable to those who call it home. Rooftops are seen only from their peaks, cars are entirely submerged, and highways look more like rivers than road.

While the city's buildings and infrastructure have suffered massive damage, many residents are fighting for their lives as increasing rain and overflowing rivers promise to make floods worse.

Many Houston residents remained in the city when the storm hit. As of Monday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that 30,000 will need emergency shelter. More than 450,000 are expected to seek federal recovery aid, which will likely be needed for years.

City officials have faced extensive criticism for not issuing evacuation orders. The memory of a disastrous and deadly evacuation for Hurricane Rita in 2005 has been blamed for the decision.

Trieb noted that, in Bellaire, most people are still in their homes. Those who own two-story dwellings have taken shelter in the tops of their homes. She said it varies street to street how badly a location is flooded, and some houses have even seen flood waters recede.

The National Weather Service expects rains to worsen by Wednesday and Thursday before the city sees signs of relief (learn more about why). Regions near creeks and bayous are particularly at risk.

Trieb plans to continue photographing her family's Houston neighbourhood to document how victims are coping with floods.

"Houstonians have dealt with floods before," she said, "but this is a much bigger situation than any of us anticipated."

Erin Trieb is a photographer based in Istanbul. See more of her work on her website, and follow her on Instagram.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay