Hurricane Harvey was ‘heartbreaking,’ SIU student from Houston says


Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE

Defensive lineman Raymond Sullivan, 19, of Houston Texas, talks about the damage he saw from Hurricane Harvey Monday Sept. 11, 2017, outside SIU Arena. “On a scale from one to ten, it was an eleven,” Sullivan said. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

By Isabelle Rogers

Houston-native Raymond Sullivan, a sophomore studying business, has experienced some of the worst storms to come through Texas, but Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in late August was his first time away from home and his family during major weather.

“My whole life I’ve experienced hurricanes,” Sullivan said. “I knew it was going to be a strong hurricane but nobody knew it was going to impact our city and our area just as badly as it did.”

Harvey unleashed about 50 inches of rain in four days, resulting in floods that displaced more than 30,000 people, inundated hundreds of thousands of homes and led to 60 deaths, according to local officials.


Because Sullivan serves as a defensive lineman on the SIU football team, he said wasn’t able to make it to Texas to help in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Sullivan said he and his parents, brothers and sister moved to Lake Forest a few years ago, but the rest of his family still lives in Houston. For four days, he received constant updates from his grandmothers, aunts and uncles who live where the storm hit the city hardest.

The flooding that resulted from Harvey’s continuous rainfall caused the most damage to the city, Sullivan said.  Both of his grandmothers’ homes flooded, he said, and one lost most of her furniture and clothing as the waters in her house rose to thigh-high levels.

His aunt’s house was spared from significant damage because it was built on elevated ground, so she is housing both grandmothers until the flooding goes down. He said the damage to their homes will take an estimated two to four months to fix.

Many are expecting the city’s recovery to take much longer.

“It is just heartbreaking to see,” Sullivan said. “They said it would take years of repair — it could be a whole decade.”

One of Sullivan’s grandmothers in Houston, Inas Hassaen, said residents in her apartment complex have banded together following Harvey, and some on the upper floors have opened their doors to house neighbors who were previously strangers.


“People are trying to help and do what they can to help others,” Hassaen said. “There is so much kindness, so much spirit of helping. It was just incredible to see, but we Texans do that a lot.”

As soon as the rains stopped, Sullivan said his parents flew into Austin and drove down to Houston to help their extended family recover and rebuild. They also donated $10,000 dollars to a GoFundMe account in order to aid the family’s cleanup efforts.

Sullivan said he has a network in Carbondale supporting him while he can’t be with the rest of his family.

The athletic department donated clothes and the football team donated 20 pairs of UnderArmor shoes in order to help those that lost everything to Harvey, he said. In total, the athletic department pitched in over 500 items.

“Like everyone in Houston, we’re just trying to stick together, trying to band together and help Houston out,” Sullivan said.

In addition to the support from the athletic department, Sullivan said football head Coach Nick Hill personally contacted him to talk about how he was dealing with the hurricane while he couldn’t be with his family.

However, Sullivan doesn’t have long now to wait before he can see his family again. On Sept. 29, he said all his relatives are coming for Family Weekend.

“I’m blessed and happy that they’re all okay,” Sullivan said. “No one is hurt, no one is harmed.”

Staff writer Isabelle Rogers can be reached at or on Twitter @isabellarogers. 

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