DEATH ROW NEWS – AUGUST 28, 2017.
« HURRICANE HARVEY AFFECTS POLUNSKY UNIT TEXAS DEATH ROW »
I have been on Texas death row since 1999 and in my 18+ years of being confined at this infamous prison I have lived through hurricane Katrina and hurricane Ike, which were harrowing experiences no doubt. Because of this when I hear the word Hurricane being used in regards to southeast Texas, where Livingston is located, I pay close attention.
When I heard the report the National Weather Service was forecasting for a tropical storm that was forming in the Gulf of Mexico that could grow into a hurricane and hit somewhere along the coast between Corpus Christi to the Texas/Louisiana boarder this past Wednesday, this news had my complete attention. Polunsky Unit is about 100 miles away from this coastline. From that moment on I listened to the news reports every couple of hours doing my best to keep informed about the development of this storm.
Thursday morning arrived and the storm was the #1 topic on the news reports with the broadcasters urging the public to prepare for the coming storm. To buy food, water, fuel for their vehicles because the storm was coming! This made me think of what we could do to prepare for the storm. It’s not like the authorities on Texas death row will allow us to go to the supermarket and get what we need! No, in that regard, it comes down to doing your best to stay prepared for any unexpected event – be it a month long lockdown or a hurricane. I always try to keep prepared for such events but I thought about the other guys who were not ready. There would be no opportunity to buy extra supplies, never mind the fact that everything costs money on commissary – our supermarket here on Texas death row.
Then, there was another personal issue that I was thinking about. A friend named Abby was planning to visit me on Thursday or Friday and I hoped she was paying attention to the weather and would not come because things could become unsafe on the highways when the storm did arrive. My friend is not one to drive in stormy weather – nor did I want her to be. Fortunately Thursday morning passed into afternoon and I knew by that time she did not travel for the visit and was relieved about that.
Friday morning brought with it the news that the storm was now a hurricane named Harvey and the National Weather Service was forecasting it to make landfall hitting the Corpus Christi area as a category III with winds over 100 mph., rain and even tornadoes. They also forecast the storm to move up the coast and hit Houston and dumps up to 30 inches of rain that will cause massive flooding; and whatever effects Houston often washes over into Livingston, Texas.
Upon hearing this I began to prepare in my little world. I washed my bedding and all the other clothing I had so I could hang it on a clothesline and have it dried before the storm hit. I know what I have sufficient food, coffee, and writing materials but I wish I had a couple of cases of bottled water – I only have 5 bottles in my cell. Other than that I am as prepared as I can be and have no choice but to ride out the storm.
The issue here on Polunsky unit is that with any kind of large storm like a hurricane the electricity will be knocked out and with it goes the electricity in our cells. We also lose the ventilation system that keeps the sealed building which houses Texas death row from becoming a torture chamber with temperatures that will exceed 100°F without it. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coastline, it also came up through south east Texas hitting Livingston which caused us to lose electricity for 3 days. The same thing occurred with hurricane Ike, we lost electricity for 3 days and each time this happened, conditions on Texas death row were very rough.
Around 7pm Friday evening, I heard the state officials say that those who did not heed the evacuation warnings where hurricane Harvey was expected to directly hit needed to write their name and social security number on their arm with a permanent marker! They want these people to do this so they can identify them after they are killed by the storm. That was a very ominous piece of news – they were expecting many people to lose their lives in this storm.
Saturday morning I went to shower early in the morning and was back in my cell for the rest of the day at 7 am. This is when I heard that hurricane Harvey hit near Corpus Christi as a category IV hurricane with winds over 130 mph., rain and tornadoes. It had begun to rain overnight in Houston and here in Livingston the skies were dark and grey as I peered out my window and I could not help but wonder what if it flooded here at Polunsky unit?
I am locked in a cell and there is no way out of this tomb. If a massive flood was to happen here, we would all be locked in these cells at the mercy of the flood waters.
Sunday morning came and when I woke up I turned on the National Public Radio broadcast to find that they were broadcasting the Houston CBS television news broadcast. The reason why this was being done is because there was massive electricity outage across the Houston area and people cannot watch television in their homes. Many only have battery-operated radios or their cell phones on which to listen to the news and this only underscored the magnitude of the disaster that was occurring. They reported that 24 inches of rain had fallen on Houston. This flood was like nothing that has ever been seen in Texas. That morning they broadcast live helicopter rescues of countless people who were on their roof tops needing to be taken to safety. It was unbelievable the Houston, Texas area is home to 6.5 million people so the size of this disaster is hard to imagine. Around noontime a Houston official came onto the broadcast asking the public for boats and strong swimmers to rescue people who have been flooded out and where vehicles could not reach them. It was amazing to hear them ask for help from the public and it tells me how dire the situation is.
Here in Livingston, it has been raining all day and all night. I have been keeping watch out my window but only see the non-stop rainfall. Until now, there is no flooding here and I’m grateful but I can’t help but think to myself, what if we get 2 feet of non-stop rain? I think these cells would fill up with water and nothing could stop it. There are places in Houston where there is water over 16 feet high! My ceiling in my cell is 10 feet high; we’d all drown.
We are not yet halfway through this disaster and so far Livingston-Polunsky unit has been fortunate because the storm hit the west side of Houston more than it hit the east where we are and our rainfall has been less. I do not know how this thing will end but I continue to keep my eyes and ears open and hope to stay safe!
Monday morning I was up at 7 a.m. The guards say that only half their usual number came to work today. Because of this we have no movement on Texas death row. I asked one guard what were the conditions like in this area? He said there was flooding all around this area and there was 12 inches of water on the road when he came to work this morning. The only reason he was able to make it was because he drives a pick-up truck. If he would have driven a car, he would have not been able to come to work.
Shortly after this conversation, my neighbor yelled out to me from his cell, “Watch out! Water is coming out the drain!” I immediately looked at my cell door and see water beginning to come in my cell. I spring into action – I have to keep the water from coming into my cell! I look out the door and see the source of water is the drain on the run between me and my neighbor’s cell. The flow of water grows faster and faster so I grab my towel and throw it down, which slows the water. I then take newspaper and stuff it between the bottom of the cell door and the floor. I then clean up the water that made it in my cell and make a water barricade with more newspaper then socks and the towel on top of this and fortunately the flow of water stopped after about 5 minutes. I start to think about the situation – the drainage system around the unit is backing up because of too much rainfall and it came back out the drain. What if I can’t stop the water the next time? We have 2 more days of rain coming our way! No, I must prepare for an emergency evacuation of my own. So I pack my personal property and I am now ready to leave this cell with my stuff for higher ground if I need to. When and where that might be I have no idea, but I’m ready!
It is now 7 pm. Monday and there has been a lull in the rainfall and until now no more water has come out of the drain – but we’re only halfway through this epic storm! I hope no more flood water runs out the drain threatening to come in my cells or who knows what else… only time will tell!
Monday August 28, 2017
Charles D. Flores #999299