Widow struggles with leaving Hurricane-hit home

(CNN)As Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters recede, 80-year-old Frances French is left clinging to five decades of memories made in her modest Pearland, Texas, home.

She recalls family parties, her kids playing in the sunny front yard and the dream she had of growing old there with her late husband.
Hurricane Harvey could not wash those memories off when it barreled to Texas, but French’s house and neighborhood were hit hard. The devastation has left her facing an agonizing choice. If she stay should she go?
    Her house is filled with precious memories — particularly among her late husband, Lew. She says when she continues to reside there it’ll be because of him. He passed away at age 58. He is buried in a cemetery just two miles. Family and Friends accompany French on her frequent visits to his grave.
    But the powerful ties that bind her to the house and neighborhood may eventually turn into a burden, her family anxieties.
    “She’s Plenty of good memories of the home. And I believe that’ll wear on her health,” said French’s daughter Lewanne Palmer.

    A long road to recovery

    French and her family were well aware of what trouble Harvey could bring as the strong storm wrapped its deadly grip around Houston, just 20 miles north. “We were listening to each of the meteorology and understood … that we were going to be in trouble,” she said.
    This was by no means her first experience with all the chaos of flood. She’s seen six floods, for example this year’s disaster, because she and her late husband purchased their house. But the calamity caused by Harvey was not less intense than the damage done on previous events. French said she had purchased flood insurance except with this one.
    Now Pearland, like numerous different communities across the area, is taking its first steps on the long, challenging road to recovery. Piles of debris clutter areas. Churches and faith-based global aid organizations are working to repair homes that were damaged — such as French’s house.
    It was inundated as the floodwaters rose.
    “We knew we could come, however, the water was so large we had a full week before we could get access,” said Palmer.
    French’s house served as a hub of family life for decades. “The grandchildren all met here in the house from babies to adults. Nathan Palmer, my grandson who lives with me, ” said family vacations with distant cousins would be the best memories,” said Palmer.

    ‘Good memories’

    Now the sickly smell of mould and mildew lingers throughout the house. Volunteers have started work to repair the damage — and get rid of the mould.
    A group of friends, family, and aid organizations has come together to renew the house. She’s amazed at all the help.
    “I didn’t believe that many people were willing, able (to assist),” French said.
    If French were to depart, she would stay with one of her three kids, but she hasn’t yet been able to decide.
    And although funds for repairs are available from many sources, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration, it is still unclear whether it is practical for her to stay. For today French has been living. She intends to apply to FEMA for help.
    Meanwhile, as the group of volunteers and French’s household work to place her house back together, she struggles with a decision only she can make. Should she stay or should she go — which might mean leaving part of her family’s history behind.
    “We ate and ate in this house. Good memories,” Palmer said.

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