HOUSTON — Large swaths of South Texas ground to a halt as Harvey dumped dozens of inches of rain on everything in its path. Some schools are closed until next month. Thousands of flights were canceled. Travel was stalled for anyone without a functioning boat.
But some things could not wait.
Particularly, the arrival of the region’s newest and youngest residents, who refused to push back their grand debut for a Category 4 hurricane or the area’s worst flooding in centuries.
That’s why on Monday, shortly after midnight, a man came running into the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Southwest Houston. A pregnant woman was in his truck, he said, and she was about to deliver.
Crystal Manker, the hotel’s operations manager, told The Washington Post that she was shocked that anyone had even made it to the hotel through an obstacle course of deep, impassable floodwaters and abandoned, submerged cars. Nobody had gotten in or out for 24 hours.
But hotel staff went with the man through the swamped parking lot and into the waist-deep water, where his truck had stalled. Inside, they found the pregnant woman and her husband.
The man said he had seen the husband’s desperate call on Twitter that his wife was in labor and they couldn’t get out of their home. It was close by, so he and a friend drove through the deep water and picked them up.
They started toward Texas Children’s Hospital, but as they got closer to the overflowed Brays Bayou, the water became too deep to pass. As their truck started stalling, they saw the Courtyard, which is on the banks of the Brays, and ran inside for help.
Manker said she called 911 and got through after 10 minutes. She told the operator that the woman’s contractions were eight minutes apart, and the operator told her to call back when they got closer.
The baby seemed destined to be born in a hurricane-marooned Marriott, Manker said, so she and her staff rolled a bed into a ground-floor meeting room. They hurried in with sheets, towels, water, pillows and scissors.
As they prepped, Manker remembered that three nurses from Louisiana were staying in the hotel, after they moved early Sunday from the flooded-out Residence Inn next door. She called them and they rushed down — even though none of them had ever delivered a baby.
As the mother-to-be lay in the bed in the meeting room for more than an hour, Manker called 911 again and told the operator that the contractions were now two minutes apart. The nurses were getting ready.
Then a huge city dump truck appeared. Several men helped the woman into the truck, which then headed off into the 4-foot deep water, across the swamped bridge across the bayou and toward the hospital.
Manker was still waiting for word Monday morning on how everything went, but said she was still amazed that the men answered a call for help they saw on Twitter.
“They had to be her angel,” she said.
A few days earlier, with more than a foot of rain falling outside and hurricane-force winds blowing on the hospital windows, Irma Rodriguez had all the problems that other residents of Corpus Christi had on Friday night, plus one more:
She hadn’t chosen a name for her baby.
After Rodriguez delivered a healthy baby boy while the winds of the hurricane shrieked outside, a nurse suggested a name that seemed just right:
“It was exciting delivering my baby during the hurricane,” Rodriguez said of the seven-pound, 18¼-inch-long newest addition to her family, according to a statement released by Corpus Christi Medical Center-Doctors Regional. “We are thankful for the care we received … and for the good health of our family.”
As Harvey the baby made his debut, Harvey the hurricane had left more than 210,000 homes in the area without power during the worst of it Saturday, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Roads were flooded. Emergency services were delayed. A courthouse and a public school were damaged.
But officials at Doctors Regional knew they had to stay open.
On Thursday, HCA Healthcare, the system Doctors Regional is part of, announced it would be closing other hospitals across Corpus Christi and in nearby Portland during the storm.
Leaders at Doctors Regional prepared to ride out the hurricane, said Kimberly Megow, the chief medical officer. They set up a command post, fueled backup generators and brought in enough food and supplies for patients and staff.
Rodriguez showed up at the emergency room Friday as the hurricane loomed, asking for care, Megow said.
As the hurricane neared, power to the surrounding area went out, Megow said. But the backup generators kicked in instantly.
Harvey made landfall late Aug. 25, 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, according to the National Weather Service. Around the same time, Harvey was born.
According to the hospital system, two other babies were delivered by Caesarean section at nearby Christus Spohn Hospital South as Harvey made landfall, according to the Caller-Times. Another baby was delivered at home under the care of medical personnel.
Neither of those children was named after the hurricane.
“We were really well prepared,” Megow said. “Hospitals really are the place of last resort for any patients in the community. We’re a safety net. We always have to be ready. We can’t close.”