Houston, We Have a Problem…Named Harvey

In case you’ve been living under a rock, not only did we have an eclipse this past week, but we’re also having a hurricane. At least Texas is.

The eclipse was over in a flash, but unfortunately, hurricane Harvey is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Houston, the home of Family Tree DNA, is getting hammered. The strength of the hurricane itself has dissipated, but the rains….

Oh, the rains!

Today is day two of an expected 4 or 5 day “event.” Harvey is centered on top of Houston and is stalled, not moving, and it’s dumping feet of rain on the city. Yes, I said feet, as in multiple.

It’s bad folks.

The streets are rivers. Expressways are impassible.

You can watch the CNN coverage here, or pretty much anyplace.

Genetic genealogists are wondering about how Family Tree DNA is doing.

First, let me say that I’m NOT speaking for Family Tree DNA. I’m only speaking as a project administrator who has visited the facility multiple times after the annual conferences.

I also spent years in the technology consulting world, so I fully understand disaster planning, but this disaster is turning out to be far worse, in terms of flooding, than anyone anticipated or has seen before in Houston.

The good news is that Houstonians, and Family Tree DNA in particular, are not novices. For those who don’t know, the building that houses Family Tree DNA was damaged by hurricane Ike in 2008, including the lab. They were fine then, and they’ll be fine this time too – which doesn’t mean they might not have some challenges.

Family Tree DNA, along with their lab including DNA samples is located on the 8th floor of an office building on the Loop Road, on the Northwest side of Houston.

Looking out from their windows, you can see the freeway BELOW grade. Let me translate this for you. The expressway will fill up before the roads around the expressway flood. And then it would take 8 more floors of water to touch FTDNA.

If it gets that bad, the only saving grace would be some guy named Noah.

And no, for those wondering about leakage, they are NOT located on the top floor of the building.

There is automatic generator power for the entire building. Family Tree DNA also has offsite backup out of harm’s way.

However, neither FTDNA, nor any company, can control the communications lines from their carrier – nor the weather for that matter.

Not only has part of the infrastructure in Southeast Texas been damaged by the actual hurricane itself, but the resulting floodwater will be affecting the carrier’s facilities in Harris County.

The biggest problem, right now, is the safety of the residents, including, of course, Family Tree DNA employees. Flooding is nearly universal and is expected to worsen. Some homes are badly flooded, with residents being evacuated by boat, but others are “only” seeing flooding in their yards. Those homes may yet see more extensive flooding in the coming days.

Needless to say, if your street is a river, you’re not driving to go anyplace.

The mayor of Houston has asked (ordered?) residents to stay off the roads. If their street isn’t underwater, people have been deciding to venture out and then they get themselves into trouble, because most streets are impassible. There’s just no place for the water to go.

So, if the FTDNA site is slow, it could well be due to the fact that their communications lines are affected.

If the site goes down for some reason, don’t panic. That too may be a result of communications lines and does NOT indicate a problem at FTDNA itself.

Hopefully, the site will simply continue like normal, and no one will even realize that they are located in the midst of a disaster area.

Given that the rains are predicted to continue for the next two days, it’s unlikely that FTDNA will be open for business on Monday, or Tuesday, and maybe somewhat longer, depending on the magnitude of the disaster. Even if they are open, with a skeleton crew, please, please do NOT call. Whatever problem we have can wait until they finish dealing with this catastrophe of whatever magnitude it turns out to be.

My prayers and positive thoughts go out to people of Houston and Southeast Texas and especially the fine folks at Family Tree DNA.



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37 thoughts on “Houston, We Have a Problem…Named Harvey

  1. Thanks for sending this Roberta – I have lived in and around Houston for 30 years and this is by far the worst weather event I have seen. My three kids all live here also. One has water in her home and the other two are with 8″ of having it in their homes. I am good so far. None of us have flooded before. I suspect FTDNA will not be operating for awhile.

  2. Thanks for the update. I was wondering how the offices might be faring. As my luck and Murphy’s Law would have it, my dad’s Y and mtDNA samples were delivered on Friday morning just before Harvey arrived. I’m hoping for the best for all of Texas. My prayers and positive thoughts are with them.

      • Our group has a Kit that also arrived on Friday, and I was thinking the same thing, so glad that it was delivered to FTDNA headquarters before the storm hit, and not floating down the streets somewhere.
        Thank you Roberta for writing this article, I’ll be sharing it with both my Projects.

      • I thought the same thing Roberta. It’s just my luck. I’ve had the kits for months but every time I would be home to see my dad, he would forget and eat or drink something. I finally get the sample and mail it out and Harvey hits. I was just relieved it was delivered and not left in the hands of the post office.

  3. It is worse than you think. Ben Taub Hospital is being evacuated due to lack of electricity. Yes, they learned from Ike not to put generators in the basement. Here they are, again. One of the 3 network TV channels is off the air. Officials are begging for people with flatboats to come help with rescue efforts. Transtar traffic camera locations are virtually all high water locations. And the forecast is that we will get as much rain in the next 2 days as has fallen already. I’ve lived here 42 years and there has never been a disaster of this magnitude: it is impossible to watch local TV without weeping. Thanks for letting me vent.

  4. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be praying for the safety of the families. I will ad to your poat that when I lived in Houston in the bad floods 1994, I was stranded in my neighborhood for a week before flood waters were low enough to get out, and I was north between Tomball and Spring. That’s about a 30 minute drive from downtown Houston. I just heard on the weather channel that the water heights were close to the heights in 1994. There will be a lot of damaged homes. Again, we all need to add Houston to our prayers. Thanks for all you do!

  5. We in Oklahoma are very aware and concerned for residents in Texas. Our prayers are with you. I understand if our testing takes a little longer. Safety first!!! Just a note; my DNA Deborah J Trent, and Vickie K Stachowiak ‘s test kit is not for genealogy purposes. They are to determine if one of is a half sibling to a person in Colorado. She has been deaf since birth and was adopted. We have just recently learned of her existence. She very badly abused as child and had been searching for over thirty years. We are waiting for rest results before moving her to Oklahoma. Again, our prayers are with you! If there is anything at all you can do when the storm passes to
    get us the answers we so desperately need as soon as possible, you will be such a hero amidst great anguish!!
    Thank you so much! Be safe and praying for everyone’s safety🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
    Deborah J Womack Trent

  6. Thank you for your email. From Mexico, I am sending best wishes that this nightmare will end sooner than anticipated. I pray for the safety of
    all employees and their properties. I experienced Betsy in New Orleans. Hurricanes nor their aftermath are not fun.

  7. Thank you for your update, Roberta. The scene is dreadful. I’m hoping and praying for the safety of the people of Houston. So many genealogy buddies live in the area and I’m keeping everyone and the Family Tree DNA folks in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

  8. Thanks for the reminder, I had forgotten FTDNA was in Houston. I hope everybody on the FTDNA staff is safe and will stay so. The same for they rest of Texans who are going through quite a catastrophe.

  9. The Family Tree DNA folks need to take care of themselves and their families first and foremost. My thoughts and prayers are with them and all the other residents of the area. The rest of us will be fine if we can’t research today, tomorrow, or even next week.

  10. Continuing to pray for y’all. I live 60 miles nnw of Houston on higher ground. We’ve received 21″ of rain so far. Please stay safe.

  11. Thank you, thank you, Roberta; as always you are on top of it! Our family has lived here 33 years and yet never experienced anything like this. We are safe; many tens of thousands are not. Was just preparing to phone FT-DNA to see if they were submerged when I found your notification, above. And may assistance and actual relief be soon provided by our state and federal governments to all who have been suffering for too many days and nights. Too much talk, not enough help.

  12. Thanks for the update, Roberta. I have never been to Houston and wondered about the geography and where FTDNA was in the city. I have been in hurricanes, even bad ones, but nothing like this one in Houston. You’re all in my prayers.

  13. Thank you so very much for taking the time to explain what may be happening at FamilyTreeDNA. What a horrible thing for everybody affected by Harvey. Praying for everybody.

    Kristy O


  14. Thanks, Roberta, for this informative update. Our prayers go up on behalf of any and all who are currently affected or will be affected in the coming days, by Harvey.

  15. Thanks for the info on Family Tree DNA and what the situation is as far as where they are located in Houston. I was wondering where they are located in the city and concerned. As luck would have it we recently mailed in our samples and got confirmation that my husband’s was received but nothing on mine. I am hoping that they just didn’t have time to log in its receipt but the most important thing is that the staff and their families are safe and can get thru this.

  16. Thanks for updating us about FTDNA’s location. You are a wonderful and caring person that we are fortunate to have helping us.
    I just sent a contact message to FTDNA saying that I hope they and their families are ok. I lived in Houston briefly and even small rains cause flooding of underpasses.



  18. Thank you so much for putting my mind at ease. I pictured a contaminated lab, difficult to sterilize, and a report coming back saying I was related to a water moccasin. After viewing so much heartbreak, a little joke might be forgiven.

    Lee, a witness to Sandy on Long Island New York.

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