Looking on the bright side after HarveyOctober 12, 2017
By ALLEN LAMAN
FERDINAND — Margaret Bieker admitted that her mind isn’t the same as it was before Hurricane Harvey flooded her Port Arthur home and soaked many of her personal belongings in more than 1 1/2 feet of rainwater.
But after losing almost everything, Bieker, who now lives in Ferdinand, is keeping a positive mentality and looking for the good that will come out of the tragedy.
“There’s always something to look forward to,” Bieker said. “Even though I’ve been through this devastation with this hurricane. I’m not going anywhere now. I’m staying here, and I’m going to watch my grandbabies, and I’m going to enjoy my daughter and her family.”
Bieker was born in Pittsburgh and lived in Ferdinand for more than two decades before moving to Hardin, Kentucky, in 2010 following a divorce. She moved to Port Arthur — a Texas city located about 90 miles east of Houston — a year later. Bieker recalled hurricane scares that she experienced during her time in the city, but Harvey marked the first time those fears became a reality.
In late August, rain flooded the street she lived on in Port Arthur for two days. Bieker said the water would always drain down before it got threateningly close to her first-story apartment, but eventually it stopped receding as Harvey slogged over the Gulf Coast.
According to Weather.com, the storm’s slow movement from Aug. 26 to 30 led to the intense flooding that occurred in the southeast part of Texas. An MSNBC meteorologist said at one point that all roads in and out of Port Arthur were impassable and rescues required air support.
“I kept thinking, ‘When the water gets to the sidewalk, I’ll panic,’” Bieker said. “Well, the water got to the sidewalk and I panicked.”
At that point, she knew water reaching her home would have horrible consequences. She prayed that it wouldn’t enter the apartment, but it did. Before she went to bed, close to 20 inches of water had soaked in from outside the walls.
The morning after water breached her home, Bieker was scooped up by a rescue boat and transported to a shelter at a local bowling alley. From there, she rode a bus to a regional airport where she was shipped by a military plane to the Dallas Convention Center. Her 25-year-old daughter, Chelsie Bieker, later paid for a flight that brought her mother to Louisville and eventually back home to Ferdinand.
“I’m lucky because I have her,” Bieker said of Chelsie. “She is so responsible. She was able to take care of her mother instead of her mother taking care of her. I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
The floor of her apartment was still saturated when Bieker returned to Texas two weeks later, facilitating the growth of mold on everything in her apartment.
“I was just amazed at how fast the mold grew,” she said. “That was why we didn’t try salvaging things because we were really afraid of the mold.”
Aside from photo albums and other objects of sentimental value that were drenched and ruined by the surging water, Bieker’s most valuable possession was a 2003 Saturn Ion that she said she’d taken excellent care of. She knew as soon as the deluge rose halfway above the vehicle’s doors that the electrical system was fried and the car was a wash. She currently has no vehicle and doesn’t know how she will go about getting a new one. She is waiting on Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief funds.
“Even after all that, I could lose everything in my house 10 times over, but when I lost my car, that is what devastated me,” she said. “That is your freedom.”
Regardless, Bieker said she feels like every challenge she’s been through has happened for a reason and made her a stronger person. This recent flood is no exception.
In the past, Bieker had hoped to return to Ferdinand to be a part of Chelsie and her fiance, Luke Fleig’s, family — the two will be wed next month — but she was hesitant to leave because she also wanted to be with her family in Texas.
In light of recent events, moving back to Dubois County was a silver lining for Bieker. She wanted to thank everyone who donated items to her since she left Port Arthur.
Bieker is no stranger to adversity. Over the years, she has had artificial heart valve implants and various procedures related to her colorectal cancer that is now in remission.
“There’s a reason I’m still here,” she said. “There’s been so many ways I should have died already, and I’m still here. God’s got a plan for me, I just don’t know what it is.”
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