20 Lines a Day: Houston

Its suburbs, Katy to be precise: sprawling gated communities, fenced-in subdivisions, country clubs. Some of the best square-foot-per-dollar value in the nation. The scale of the destruction—the amount of raw materials needed to replace, say, the bottom two feet of drywall & insulation in one 2,200 square-foot home, multiplied by thousands—stupifies. If Irma is bad, a third of the U.S. drywall market will be eaten up by Texas and Flordia. Every yard is piled high with torn out drywall, insulation, flooring, cabinets, furniture. Anything resting below the ~2-4 ft. level has been thrown out or is due to be thrown out once the occupants return. Piles as high as my head, dripping chalky water into the gutters. Piles slowly collapsing under their own weight as the rot of their component parts intensifies. Piles of moldering carpet—these piles lower because the weight of wet carpet makes it hard to throw higher than five feet—you can smell at the end of the street. Everywhere the marks of the flood’s high point. I see it on cars, many having been completely submerged, their paint now scored by dirt, their windows fogged up, their insides covered with an eighth of an inch of mold. (The drive back consists in large part of passing tow trucks loaded with scrapped cars still dripping muck from their wheel wells.) On bookcases leaned against trees, on busted brick walls, on the banks of water hazards at the country club. Everywhere mildew and rot, American flags, Red Cross trucks passing out hot meals to demo crews, good Samaritans doing the same. Voiding your bowels while mucking out a single story McMansions gets tricky: with the bottom four feet of interior walls stripped to the studs, there is little privacy to be had.