What if 25 of your relatives showed up on your front doorstep tomorrow needing a place to stay?
That was the situation faced by Adam and Melisa Hernandez over the weekend, when two dozen members of their family turned up in a caravan on Friday after fleeing their homes in Texas to escape Hurricane Harvey.
Most of the incoming families are from Palacios, Texas — a town of 4,682 halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico.
“Our seawall got hit; bridges and all that got damaged,” said Alfredo Ovalle Jr., one of the Texas family members staying in the family’s Amber Cove Way home in Flowery Branch. “Besides that, we don’t know yet still what we’re going home to, what kind of damage.
“To top that off, we can’t even go home yet because the road we have to take to go home it’s flooded up too — through Beaumont and Louisiana.”
The Ovalle, Hernandez, Zamora, De La Rosa, Rivera, Cambray, Guillen, Morlas and Ramirez families hit the road from Texas on Thursday, the day before a mandatory evacuation notice was issued in Palacios.
“We left on clear ground — no wind, no rain, no nothing,” Ovalle said. “Just a long drive.”
It took 20 hours to reach Flowery Branch.
It’s a been a tight fit on Amber Cove Way, said Adam Hernandez while sitting at his kitchen table Wednesday evening. They’ve tried to find places to sleep and to live for nieces and nephews, aunts, cousins and parents — and a way to feed 25 people.
Nine people are staying with Adam Hernandez’s son, Gino Hernandez, who lives in Oakwood.
They’ve been getting donations of gift cards and food from their church, Oakwood’s First Pentecostal Church led by the Rev. A.B. Stewart, and family friend Rhonda Burgess.
Burgess met the family through the church more than a decade ago and described them as “loving” and “giving.”
She paid a visit to the house on Wednesday to bring by another delivery of canned goods and other food for the families in Flowery Branch.
When I walked in there yesterday, here I am bringing them food and they’re offering to feed me. That’s just the kind of people they are.Rhonda Burgess
“When I walked in there yesterday, here I am bringing them food and they’re offering to feed me,” Burgess said. “That’s just the kind of people they are.”
Even while housing 16 people, the Hernandez family — and even their relatives, who are waiting to see what condition their state, cities and homes are in when they return to Texas — were jocular.
The group laughed at their situation, especially the very busy restrooms in the house, and entertained the little children padding around the place.
Christina Lasseter, the girlfriend of one of the Hernandez children, doted over her baby boy, Wyatt, at the kitchen table while the family’s visiting relatives were busy cooking in the kitchen — a task that never ends when there are more than 20 people under one roof.
Maribel Zamora, a young girl who came from Texas, snapped selfies with her relatives using a borrowed phone.
“They do what they have to do, and they’re always happy about it,” Burgess said of the Hernandez family. “Most people going through what this family is going through would be so depressed and would be looking for handouts. They’re not looking for a handout, they’re looking to see who they can help.”
While the visiting families are in Flowery Branch, they’re out of work and income. A GoFundMe has been set up by the Hernandez family not for themselves, but for their visitors who will need to pay for gas, food and home repairs in the coming weeks.
For now, they’re staying put in Hall County until the flooded roads along the Gulf in Louisiana and Texas are cleared.
“As soon as they say we’re clear to go, we’re gone,” Ovalle said, laughing.