Interviews with those affected by Harvey available on Urban Data Platform

Three years after Hurricane Harvey rained devastation on Houston and surrounding areas, first-hand oral accounts from people affected by the storm are available through Rice University’s Urban Data Platform (UDP), part of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

aerial view of flooding from Harvey

An aerial view shows extensive flooding from Harvey in a residential area in Southeast Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez)

The Harvey Oral Narratives on Record (HONOR) project, a collection of more than 100 interviews about experiences with Harvey and its aftermath, was created by Robert Englebretson, Suzanne Kemmer and Nancy Niedzielski from the Department of Linguistics with support from a Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (HERE) grant from Rice’s Office of the Provost.

The project includes more than 50 hours of audio recordings, associated transcripts, metadata and documentation. Interviewees were recruited through a variety of electronic and in-person methods. Their remembrances were recorded in the year following Harvey, primarily by Rice undergraduate linguistics students.

Englebretson said many of the interviewees found the process therapeutic. For some, it was the first time they discussed everything they went through.

“Some people had grievances, and others really wanted to kind of highlight the unity that they experienced and the support that they received,” he said. “There were a number of very poignant moments from the interviews.”

Englebretson said the project may be useful not only for academics who do qualitative research on narratives (such as linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and historians) but also to those who are working on policy and development or, more generally, anyone who wants  to understand how people deal with natural disasters.

He stressed that the stories are intended for research purposes. To protect the privacy of the participants he and his fellow researchers used pseudonyms in the transcripts and blurred out real names in the audio recordings.

“The people who told their stories really wanted to be heard and had experiences that they thought would either help people deal with future floods or to know what it was like to go through Hurricane Harvey,” Englebretson said. “We made a very strong effort to make sure that these interviews remained as anonymous as possible. Many of these participants shared difficult and personal details of their lives, and they deserve the utmost respect.”

The HONOR project is accessible at

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.