SPRING, Tex. — On Tuesday, the rain still fell and Devon Rose was still wet.
By 9:30 a.m., his long blond ponytail was already wet again. His red shorts were heavy and sagging with water again. His feet were bare — shoes long lost — wrinkled and almost bluish-white from the cold, waist-high water surrounding the LaQuinta Inn that he had just waded through to reach the grocery store. Now he was in line and shivering because with the water came cooler air, and of course the sky was still gray.
How long had he been like this, wet or wading or dripping? “Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?” said Rose, who had evacuated with his family after their house in Spring, just north of Houston, flooded Sunday night — or maybe it was Saturday.
On a day when the death toll was rising from Hurricane Harvey, Rose was grateful to be alive. But like millions of Texans, his reality had shifted, and he was having trouble keeping track of what life had become because of a storm that has left every day blurring into the same long surreal state of being physically wet, of feeling, hearing, smelling and even tasting water that was not only flooding roads and invading homes but inundating people.
“I feel like I’m under water!” yelled Taylor Cauthen in her third day and fifth hour of directing traffic away from flooded roads, her third day and fifth hour of slanting rain slapping her bare face, of water rolling down her cheeks and into mouth when she opened it to yell, as she did now at a truck, “Turn around!” It tasted like sweet metal.
Her feet at the moment: “Beyond pruny,” she said.
Her hands right now: “Prunes.”
Her whole being on the fourth day of this: “I’m a prune.”
Her neighbor Joshua Morales stood next to her in the road, water dripping off the bill of his NASA cap, dripping off the tip of his nose and off his eyelashes, rolling down his face and dripping off his chin, and from the waist down he was flooded with the creek water he had waded through to get here, feeling the current press the back of his thighs and almost buckling his knees. He had seen a water moccasin zag by.
The creek by his house was still rising and Morales had the odd sensation that he was shriveling.
“I feel constricted — really cold, like my body is starting to shut down,” he said as a truck with a fishing boat passed by Sunday. “Get the number of the boat!”
It was late afternoon and the water had been consuming Spring for days, overflowing creeks and lakes and muffling the usual sounds of a suburban town. Everywhere was quiet except the sounds of water — waterfalls spilling off overpasses, water spraying into tire wells and washing through engines, water rushing along a gully by the mattress store.
“Water?” a woman said through the window of her SUV, handing out bottles of water to a group of volunteers in front of a Spring high school.
“The water . . .” the news on the radio began.
“I’ve stopped watching the news,” said Trimeke Bradley, standing in line at the grocery store. “I know what they’ll say. Water, more water.”
Water was all there was — more than a trillion gallons of rain, officials said Tuesday, the equivalent of Niagara Falls for 15 days. Troy Roy watched it invade his lawn, his patio and his living room until the water finally seemed to be invading him, nose first. It smelled like wet carpet Saturday, wet sewage Sunday, and by Monday Roy gave in and walk ed ankle, thigh, then chest-deep into the brownish-green water, navigating by texture — carpet, sidewalk, grass and out into his new riverine neighborhood. Now he was standing on the patio of Gringo’s restaurant, still wet and with little chance of not being wet in the future.
“I’m wondering how to get whatever funk is on me off,” Roy said as the falling rain filled the parking lot that surrounded the restaurant.
It was deep enough that fishing boats were launching rescue missions from there, and soon Steven Doonan and his son were motoring out along the service road that was a river, navigating past the tops of stop signs, the tops of trees, the top of the gate, into the neighborhood.
“It’s a little swift up in here,” Doonan said as the current picked up because the water was still rising.
The wind was blowing and the boat was rocking as they steered past a sign that said Challe Circle West, where every street and every house in the line of sight was submerged almost to the roof in brown water. Another boat passed, then another.
“Y’all been back in there?” Doonan asked.
“Yep,” the other boater said, and they motored back to the parking lot marina.
The people who wanted to leave had been floated out and driven in trucks to Spring High School, where a shelter had sprung to life and sleepless volunteers with wet hair and dripping clothes were there to greet them.
Iderrian Ervin was in her sixth hour of running out to meet the trucks, ignoring the water washing the product from her hair into eyes that were stinging and red, ignoring the wet pants clinging to her legs, and not thinking of the water in her shoes and the squishing sponge sensation that came with each step.
Kassidi Yosko, another volunteer, wasn’t thinking of how she had been wet every day since Hurricane Harvey arrived, or how she had a cold, or how every time she sniffed, the water dripping down her face would go up her nose and she got “that headache feeling, you know?”
On another day of rain — and with more rain forecast — she and Iderrian kept going, seeing another wet, dripping neighbor getting out of a truck. The sun was going down and they went out into the rain to greet her.
“Towel?” Ervin said.