SALT LAKE CITY — As the Hurricane-force winds of Harvey died down to tropical storm level and the rain intensified, veteran Deseret News journalists Dennis Romboy and Jeff Allred made their way to Texas to cover what was quickly becoming a Katrina-level event.
“When we got here the storms and the rain were in full swing,” said Allred, who as a photojournalist has chronicled Huricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and post-earthquake Haiti in 2010, when Romboy also was on scene describing the devastation and recovery.
“In Haiti there were some similarities (to Houston), but we were just dumped there and we had MREs (meals ready to eat) and blankets. But we didn’t have any connections or transportation. We were just at the mercy of whomever we could find. Here we have transportation,” Romboy said by phone late Thursday night as he and Allred drove from gas station to gas station in Sugar Land, Texas, searching for fuel to fill their tank.
Finding gas was an issue in many parts of Texas in the days after the main storm hit and is another obstacle for residents coping with the disaster and those working to help them.
Our journalists flew into San Antonio on Monday and were able to secure a rental car. They made their way toward Houston and hit a checkpoint in the town of Katy blocking an onramp toward areas dealing with rising flood waters.
“We’re media,” they said.
“You going to Buc-ees?” said the worker at the checkpoint. Media were apparently gathering there.
“Yes, Buc-ees,” they replied, though they had no idea what Buc-ees was, only that they needed to get into the area and find a place to land for the night. Media were not being restricted.
Our journalists obey the law and respect those working an emergency. They also know the best way to cover a disaster is to talk to as many people as possible; one person knows another and another, and stories are discovered by word-of-mouth. Those stories highlight needs both immediate and long-term, and help the Houston area and the nation knit itself back together.
Hotels were full, but Romboy and Allred made one last attempt at a Courtyard Marriott around midnight. There was one room left and it was reserved. But the person hadn’t shown up so the manager let them have it for $129. They flipped a coin to see who got the fold-out couch.
“Jeff lost the flip,” said…