Clarke home damaged by flood waters

Family reaches out to their hometown for assistance in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Sean Clarke’s daughters, Kinzie and Kaylin, and his son, Kynan, outside their hurricane damaged home in Little Cypress, Texas, next to piles of household goods, appliances, drywall and other debris from neighborhood homes. Photo by Sean Clarke/For The Cordova Times

Former Cordovan Sean Clarke, his daughters Kinzie and Kaylin, and son Kynan, were rescued during Hurricane Harvey when a boat pulled up to the door of their flooded house Aug. 29, in Little Cypress, Texas.

“I picked up Kaylin, and Kynan picked up Kenzie,” Clarke said. “We were waist deep in water. The water came into the house so fast. When we were inside, we could see out the glass door that the water was six inches higher outside, then it was inside.”

Clarke, 48, 10-year-old twins Kenzie and Kaylin, and Kynan, 14, had lived in Cordova all of their lives, up until last year when he and the children moved to Texas.

Clarke said he’s been through some of Cordova’s toughest storms, but nothing like Hurricane Harvey, which whipped through East Texas as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds.

Kynan Clarke went with his father, Sean Clarke, to check out the family’s home in Little Cypress, Texas, after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey during the last week of August. The water, which flooded the neighborhood, was still several feet deep in their home. Photo by Sean Clarke/For The Cordova Times

Little Cypress, which sits on the outskirts of Orange, in Orange county, is the easternmost city in Texas with a population just over 18,000 people, and sits on the Sabine River, sharing the border with Louisiana. The family was enjoying life there in a nice home, with good schools, and Clarke was working as a marine mechanic.

But all of that changed on Aug. 29, when Harvey, by then downgraded to a severe tropical storm, struck Little Cypress and Orange. The Clarkes lost everything.

Cordovans first became aware of the Clarkes’ dilemma though social media, when Christine Hite posted a flyer Sept. 1 on Facebook, saying that the Clarkes needed help. Hite set up an account in Clarke’s name at Wells Fargo Bank.

“Any contribution to this family is greatly appreciated, as they have no time frame for how long they will be without their home or what will remain once this disaster subsides,” Hite wrote in her Facebook flyer.

The inside of Sean Clarke’s family home in Little Cypress, Texas, following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The homes had to be completely gutted due to flood damage. Photo by Sean Clarke/For The Cordova Times

She is also collecting clothing for the family. Kinzie and Kaylin wear size 12 girls’ clothing and size 6.5 shoes; Kynan wears men’s extra-large shirts, 34×34 jeans, and men’s size 11 shoes.

“Thank God for Christine,” Clarke said. “She’s sent us money, otherwise we would not have been able to buy food. This isn’t the time to be proud; I’ve had to set that aside. We need some money.”

“When we got evacuated, we first went to a shelter in a church,” Clarke said. “It was so filled with people, and they were walking around in flip flops in raw sewage, like it wasn’t there. In human waste. The sewer systems were not designed to handle so much use. I wouldn’t let my girls walk in that. I picked them up and carried them. It was terrible, like a giant toilet. There was human waste floating in the gutters.”

After stopping briefly at the church, Clarke and his family were next sent to Sulphur, La., where they stayed two nights.

“If it wasn’t for my boss getting us a room the first two nights, I don’t know where we would have gone,” he said. “We had to go to Jennings, La. after that, after we were pushed out of the hotel in Sulphur. Jennings was the only place open for a hotel. They kept pushing people further away from their homes, everything closer was filled up. We stayed there three nights before they let us back into Orange, to check on our homes. They were still flooded.”

“I opened the door and you could just smell that really bad, rotten, moldy smell inside the whole place – it was so bad. The sewer was backed up. The food had gone bad. There was still no power, no lights,” he said.

“It’s really bad,” he said. “With 91-degree temps and 90 percent humidity, it’s terrible. The yards in the neighborhood are filled up with piles of sheetrock, washers, dryers, freezers, TVs, everything you can imagine. Everyone had to gut their houses as fast as they could.”

Sean Clarke’s neighborhood in Little Cypress, Texas. “After Hurricane Harvey, it looks like a war zone in our neighborhood,” he said. “Every house had to be gutted, everything inside was molding. The smell was terrible.” Photo by Sean Clarke/For The Cordova Times

Volunteers came from all across the country to help Hurricane Harvey victims.

“That got me,” he said. “Giving out hot meals, bread, barbecuing burgers and handing them out, handing out bottled water and soda pop to the kids.”

“Herds of people went from house to house in our neighborhood, and in other neighborhoods, dragging stuff outside and onto the yards, working as a crew, one house at a time,” he said. “Trucks and truck and trucks of people, taking time off work and volunteering their time to help us. Everyone here helps their neighbor. No one starves.”

Clarke applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance Aug. 31, and while he was approved Sept. 1, has yet to see any money come in. On Sept. 11, he went back to work, and also started looking for FEMA housing.

“We’re waiting for people to bring in FEMA trailers,” he said. “For now, we’re back in the house. There’s nowhere else to go. There’s no walls, no washing machine, no kitchen sink, no refrigerator, no dryer. We’re washing dishes in the bathroom sink. I’m grilling food on a little barbecue grill. It is all gone.”

“One thing that’s nice about it here – East Texas is warm,” Clarke said.

For more information on donating clothing or other items the family may need, contact Hite at 907-253-3795.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.