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A Houston family taking refuge on a roof watched as bodies floated by

Roshanda Harris, 41, tried to explain to her 10-year-old daughter, Forever Adams, while their family awaited rescue by a helicopter from their rooftop. “I couldn’t explain it. I was just crying,” Harris said as she stood outside the convention cente

Roshanda Harris and her family had climbed to the roof of her two-story townhouse in east Houston, calling 911 for rescue and waiting for help. Then they saw the bodies.

A family had drowned, two adults and three children, and their corpses floated past in the brown floodwaters. Harris, 41, recognized them from her Wood Forrest Chase apartment complex, but didn’t know their names.

For the record:
12:35 PM, Aug. 29, 2017

An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of Roshanda Harris as Roshana.

Her 10-year-old daughter, Forever Adams, also spotted the bodies and started asking questions. Harris had no words.

“I couldn’t explain it to her,” Harris said. “I just started crying.”

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They could hear others calling for help. There was nothing they could do but huddle with 10 family members in the rain, including several children and Harris’ 2-month-old grandson, Jayden.

Harris and her family sheltered on the roof over two days and in time were joined by about 50 neighbors. The group had a few cellphones, but the 911 lines were busy, and they waited on hold. No one came. A cousin told Harris by phone that the Coast Guard advised them to wave for help. Monday afternoon, a helicopter finally spotted them.

Harris was able to leave with her family and their Shih Tzu, Passion, but in the rush she left her phone, purse and the rest of her belongings on the roof.

Harris recounted her family’s ordeal Tuesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, where they had sought shelter with thousands of others. Her son and daughter-in-law work at the city’s two airports, which are both closed. Harris had a job interview last week for food services at a hospital, but wasn’t sure if they had called her phone left on the roof.

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The convention center was getting crowded — officials said 9,000 people had sheltered there. More were arriving Tuesday, forming disgruntled, damp lines outside. Harris said there were plenty of baby supplies for Jayden, but she feared the center would soon run short of food and other necessities. Stir-crazy children and parents had already started quarreling.

Harris retreated outside to smoke under an overhang. She watched the rain, and thought again about the bodies.

“There’s probably more, because more people stayed,” she said.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Twitter: @mollyhf

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