Beyond Grateful: Houston-Based Travel Agent Finds Her Way Post Hurricane Harveyby Jessica Montevago /
“It seemed as though Hurricane Harvey came out of nowhere, and truthfully, I wasn’t prepared.”
Like many in the greater Houston area, Brownell Travel’s Blaire Kochar wasn’t ready for what Hurricane Harvey was going to bring when it made landfall in her hometown of Houston last week.
As the storm approached, Kochar prepared for a run-of-the-mill hurricane season storm. She did what she always had done—hunkered down in her home with non-perishable food items, stocked up on bottles of water and located the flashlights.
“Being born and raised in Houston, I am very used to inclement weather…I figured Houston would get a decent amount of rain and then dry up a couple of days later,” she told TMR.
Harvey had different plans. It ended up being the biggest rainstorm in the recorded history of the continental United States, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on Houston over four days and flooding the city’s roads and runways.
#USCG crews continue to conduct rescues. We have rescued/assisted over 6,000 people & over 1,000 pets in #Harvey's wake. pic.twitter.com/p3l0xjL6uD— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) August 31, 2017
“I’ve never seen this much devastation in my life,” Kochar told TMR. “People are being rescued from their flooded houses with absolutely nothing from different neighborhoods all over Houston. The catastrophic damage has been felt by so many.”
Kochar says she’s one of the lucky ones; her house and cars were left without water damage. Her street also wasn’t flooded, though the surrounding streets were, making it impossible for her and her husband to go anywhere.
Working through it all
As a home-based agent, Kochar said she was fortunate “my office did not have to be uprooted and my work has not been interrupted.”
“I have never been more thankful of my affiliation with Brownell. To prepare for the flood, I was able to tell my support group at Brownell of my trips leaving soon and prepare them to take over these itineraries in case I lost power,” she said.
She had five sets of clients leaving on trips with flights all originating out of Houston, from Aug. 25 to Aug. 30.
A few decided to postpone their trips. One client who was scheduled to leave Houston Aug. 30, push it back a few days and will pick up their itinerary in London on Sept. 5. Another also took precautionary measures to delay their 15th Anniversary Trip to Cinque Terre and Florence, Italy by a month and a half.
“My partners were able to communicate with all suppliers in a timely manner and push back the exact itinerary to future dates in October. [They] understood the dire situation in Houston and helped to reorganize my clients’ dream trip at such short notice,” she said.
After some of her clients had their return flight from Costa Rica to Houston canceled, and they didn’t have the financial means to stay an unexpected five days, Kochar was able to negotiate with a Virtuoso property to get a discounted rate for the remainder of their stay.
“My teammates at Brownell have also constantly checked in with me to make sure my family and I are ok. Their support, not just as it relates to work, has shown me how extremely and genuinely gracious and caring this organization is. I feel beyond grateful to be affiliated with this incredible group.”
In the aftermath of Harvey, Kochar says she and her husband are helping their neighbors who lost everything by starting by donating clothes to the George R Brown Convention Center, which is housing more than 10,000 people who have been displaced by the hurricane.
Anyone who wants to donate can donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund here.