Auburn native Evan Matzen and his wife, Cara, are old hands at hurricanes, having lived in Houston during Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008, but as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the city amid dire warnings of 3 feet of rain, they took every precaution they could.

Like buying life jackets for their two sons, 4 and 6. They’d moved into a new apartment about a month ago, and while they made sure the complex didn’t have a history of flooding – Houston is close to sea level – Matzen said he wasn’t sure what to expect.

That remained the case for a number of Mainers and former Mainers in the storm’s path Saturday. By evening Harvey was producing rain but no flooding in Matzen’s West Houston neighborhood, while coastal communities to the southwest bore the brunt of the storm. Red Cross official Laurie Levine and volunteer Margaret Rode, who had flown into Dallas from Maine to help with relief efforts, were sharing a rental car and a drive to Austin, still uncertain what they’d be needed for.

Meanwhile, Anna McDermott, a content creator for the Maine-based public relations firm Nancy Marshall Communications who telecommutes from Houston, was waiting out the storm in a La Quinta hotel in Dallas. She and her husband had seen the bare supermarket shelves and hourlong waits at gas stations and hit the road.

“The storm warnings said there would be 3 feet of rain, so we took our kids and our border collie and drove all the way up to Dallas,” McDermott said ruefully. “It took us over four hours to get here and apparently it has rained three inches.”

Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm, was the first big storm McDermott, a Portland native, and her husband and children, 4 and 7, had faced in the nearly three years they’ve lived there.


“The worry was a ridiculous amount of water trapping us in Houston,” she said.

Forecasters haven’t ruled out that possibility, with the National Hurricane Center still warning of “catastrophic flooding” to come. McDermott had heard that power was out in some Houston neighborhoods, which would be worrisome on a prolonged basis.

“Especially if you are a Mainer,” she said. “Being in a 100-plus-degree heat without air conditioning, I think Texans are a bit like, ‘Meh, it’s hot,’ but I am not OK with oppressive heat.”

Biddeford native Buddy Charity, who has a small sandwich shop empire in Houston specializing in lobster rolls and ham Italians – “I am trying to make those go viral,” he says – kept both his Maine-ly Sandwiches shops open, albeit with skeleton crews, as the storm hit Texas. But he’d parked his food truck in deference to the wind and rain.

“They are pretty top-heavy,” he said Saturday. “And the place it was scheduled to be at last night was right on the coast.”

Charity also cut back on his lobster order in anticipation of the storm. Typically this weekend, the last of the summer before Labor Day, is a big moneymaker, he said. It wouldn’t be, thanks to Harvey.


“It would be like Old Orchard Beach having a really bad rainstorm on what is supposed to be a really busy weekend,” he said.

So far, he said, what he’d seen in Houston was no more daunting than a typical rainstorm, and he said it was possible he and others had overprepared. But the bayous that traverse the city were filling up. “We could possibly see catastrophe,” he said.

In that event, Red Cross volunteer Margaret Rode will be there to help. Hurricane Harvey is at least her 10th disaster deployment. The Tenants Harbor resident has been to Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington state, among others, offering disaster mental health support during flooding, wildfires and mudslides. She’s a retired social worker who spent 30 years with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. “So being part of the Red Cross and participating is just a great thing for me,” Rode said.

While she still didn’t know where she’d be used – she was one of four Mainers with the Red Cross who had already landed, and a fifth hoped to fly out Sunday morning – she had a good idea of how.

“Disasters are very disruptive and people react to them in different ways,” Rode said. “We are there to help people get back on track.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

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