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What Eleven Inches of Rain Did Last Week in Houston, Texas

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Curbside debris after flooding in Houston

Curbside debris after flooding in Houston

April Showers Bring May Flowers

People most often appreciate the showers for what they do to replenish the ground with needed water so that the Spring flowers and other plants can flourish. It also helps to supply our sources of drinking water, whether gleaned from underground or surface areas.

It was not long ago that Houston was running behind in our usual rainfall for the year, and we needed more. Much of Texas still needs rain, and west of here, numerous areas are suffering from drought conditions.

The topography of Houston is very flat, and we are not very much above sea level. In addition to human-made drainage systems, we have many bayous that run through various sections of this city and serve to catch excess rainwater. All that water eventually drains into Galveston Bay and then the Gulf of Mexico.

In the part of Bear Creek where my mother used to live

In the part of Bear Creek where my mother used to live

Rain Event

Late last week, we had a rain event that brought over eleven inches of rain crashing down from the sky in monumental proportions. It happened in a matter of a little over three hours. Many people awoke during the night due to the thunderous noise.

The rain gutters could not handle the deluge, and I was looking out of our back windows at 2:45 am at the mess the pouring rain was making in my newly planted flowerbed. We keep our backyard lit with floodlights during the night, so it was easy to see the destruction that this flood from the skies was creating.

A mere three miles east of where we now live, portions of our old subdivision were flooding. People were getting anywhere from soggy carpet conditions to two and three feet of water in their homes!

Location of much of this devastation

Bear Creek Subdivision

Had my mother still lived in her old home, she would have suffered the fate of having about a foot and a half of water in her home. The neighbors on either side of her and across the street had even more water in their homes!

My mother's home had never previously flooded.

Driving through the subdivision today, we saw mounds of sheetrock, lumber, and carpeting piled curbside. Also, we saw refrigerators, water heaters, sofas, chairs, and possessions of every sort making mountains of trash in front of countless homes. It was a sad sight indeed!

People's possessions are next to every curb.

People's possessions are next to every curb.

Recovery Period

We had some friends over for supper last night who happens to live one street over from where my mother used to live. All the sheetrock is torn out of their home from the floor, going up to about two feet. Dehumidifying fans are humming in all parts of the house, and the white dust from the cut sheetrock is everywhere.

All their appliances no longer work. Much of their overstuffed furniture will need replacing. Water got in the car, and that will need servicing. Contractor's trucks are in evidence everywhere.

Our friend carried flood insurance, and all we can hope is that most of the rest of the homeowners also took out flood insurance. Mind you, this part of Houston is not in a designated flood zone where that insurance is mandatory. But we have learned in living here that almost any portion of Houston can flood when we get torrential rains that disgorge that much water in a limited time frame.

While this video comes from the UK, many of the same principles apply.

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

A tropical storm named Allison flooded the Texas Medical Center several years ago, where much damage occurred. Basements flooded, and the destruction of equipment took place, costing millions of dollars to replace or repair. The floodwaters caused the loss of many hours of research that could have potentially helped to save lives.

Only people who have suffered the fate of what flood waters can do to a person's home and possessions can fully empathize with others suffering the same fate.

It happened to my parents when I was in my late teens. In the aftermath of Hurricane Beulah, my parents had about 2 1/2 feet of water in their home. They lost so much in the way of possessions. The worst part was losing irreplaceable family photos for us.

As long as lives are not lost, almost everything else is replaceable with time, money, effort, hard work, and good insurance policies.

Back in 1967, my parents did not have flood insurance. They had to take out a second loan on the house to bring it back to a livable condition. They had to stretch their limited resources for quite some time. Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act in 1968. People who have flood insurance now have some protection against bearing the total expense of repairing and replacing things as my parents had to do.

Sheetrock and carpeting are on the curb after the massive flood.

Sheetrock and carpeting are on the curb after the massive flood.

Winners and Losers

What strikes me about disasters is that it always creates havoc for the people withstanding the mess and losses, but it creates work and income for others. On the one hand, people lose, and on the other, people gain.

Just think of all the building materials that will have to be acquired and utilized by contractors hired to rebuild those homes. Furniture companies will suddenly get more business. All types of supplies will have to be purchased to replace lost items. Everything from cleaning supplies to clothing to bedding to groceries will need replacing. New appliances will be ordered and delivered. Cars will be salvaged or replaced. Rental car agencies are swamped with local business right now!

Eleven inches of rain in parts of Houston changed people's lives drastically and very quickly in the dark hours of the night. We were so fortunate to have escaped Nature's wrath this time. Had my 83-year-old mother still been living in her Bear Creek home, it would have been difficult to deal with this disaster. She had just lost her son (my brother) a week earlier. I am happy that she did not have to endure this hardship but sad for those who now suffer.

Life can be smooth sailing, but at other times rough and stormy seas are encountered. This flood makes for a good lesson! We should take each day and be grateful for what we have. One never knows when it might disappear. That goes for not only possessions but, more importantly, our pets, and especially the people in our lives.

2016 Update

Since first writing this post, we have suffered more devastating floods in Houston. Just this year of 2016, we had the "Tax Day Flood" and the "Memorial Day Flood," where even more than 11 inches fell in many parts of our city!

We had 12 to 15 inches in our area in a matter of 4 to 5 hours! Major roads in and out of our particular locale were closed for weeks! Those roads go through the Addicks Reservoir. The building of the reservoir took place many years ago to retain floodwaters keeping downtown Houston from flooding.

We had several friends of ours affected by the floods this year. Once again, they are in the process of rebuilding their lives.

One friend is seriously considering getting a raft or another device that could enable her to escape should her area flood again. The rains came at night, and by the time she discovered the problem, she already had several feet of water in her home. The flooding ruined her car, so she had no means for escape.

She had called 911, but they were too busy rescuing others. Crawl up in your attic was their advice if the water got too high. Believe it or not, a friend who owned a jet ski rescued her. The height of the water by that time was around 3 feet in her home!

Some homes that had never previously flooded did so this year! We cannot control Mother Nature, but some things need to be changed. Our bayous need widening in areas, and better drainage plans need executing. All of this will take time and money. As our large metropolitan area keeps growing, some planning needs to happen. We need more green spaces to absorb excess water, among other things.

Hurricane Harvey Hitting Texas!

This hurricane is going to be hitting the Texas Gulf coast later today, August 25, 2017. The winds and tides have already picked up. Predictions report it to be a category three hurricane by the time it hits land around Corpus Christi.

As if that was not bad enough, a front will keep it stalled for many days in our part of the state. It may even dip back into the Gulf.

Here in Houston, predictions report the possibility of over 20 inches of rain over several days. Many homes that have previously flooded will probably flood again. Others that have never taken on water may be water-soaked this time. Please keep everyone in your prayers!

Update

Hurricane Harvey was a devastating category 4 when it hit Texas and Louisiana. Over 40 inches of rain fell in areas! You can read more about this costly storm in the sources link below if you are interested.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 20, 2021:

Hi Bruce,

It was horrendous seeing all of the flooded areas around our location after Hurricane Harvey. At least we found out that our elevation is much higher, which is a plus! We still maintain flood insurance to be on the safe side of things.

Bruce Woods on April 20, 2021:

Fortunately our current subdivision seems to be on a small island with an elevation high enough to keep us dry. Within a mile, most of the areas surrounding us were flooded during Hurricane Harvey. Much more needs to be done to prevent future disasters.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 31, 2020:

Hi Robert,

After the 11 inches of rain that did the damage portrayed here, Hurricane Harvey came through and did extensive damage. Several people we know sold their water-damaged homes and moved to other locations. We drove through that neighborhood just last week, and it looks so much better.

The latest hurricane hit south Texas and Mexico. All we got in Houston was some extra rain. It appears that we will have an active hurricane season this year. Florida is due to be hit next. I am praying for all those in the paths of tropical storms and hurricanes this year, especially with the pandemic still raging out of control.

Robert Sacchi on July 30, 2020:

Has Houston recovered from this. What is the situation with the latest hurricane?

Robert Sacchi on August 14, 2018:

Yes, reconstruction is a slow process. I remember when Super Storm Sandy hit it seemed to take a long time to get the damage repaired in Staten Island.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Hurricane Harvey hit our area just about a year ago and it was even worse than what you saw with these pictures. Thousands of homes were flooded and some in this area of Bear Creek are still being reconstructed. Some have been abandoned and sit vacant. 2 of our friends were able to sell their homes "as is" to investors and moved out of the neighborhood. One person, we know who stayed still does not have his kitchen counters installed...a year after the fact!

Robert Sacchi on August 13, 2018:

It seems the Texas coast is going through a rough spell. How is the cleanup going?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 28, 2016:

Hi Susie,

What you wrote is so true. So sorry you had to experience flooding in Fargo, ND. Not fun!

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on July 28, 2016:

Flooding does so much damage to property. When it comes that fast there isn't much anyone can do but hang on for the ride, then roll up their sleeves and clean-up the mess. I survived the flood of 1997 in Fargo, ND.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 23, 2016:

Hi Au fait,

Yes...Houston has had more than its fair share of flooding this year! So many people affected including our friend who had her home flooded (again) from the time I first wrote this hub. It will be many months before her home will be rebuilt again and be habitable. She will be hoping to sell...but I wonder who will want to buy in that area with that history of flooding. My heart goes out to her and all the others in that situation.

We are supposed to have a rainy week according to the forecast. We now actually need the rain with these sizzling temperatures.

Thanks for the share. Stay cool and safe where you live.

C E Clark from North Texas on July 22, 2016:

We had some flooding here in North Texas this past spring and I believe some people died when they drove their vehicle into it. The thing about Texas is that usually when it rains it doesn't mess around. If you're in it, you could easily be soaked and dripping in the blink of an eye.

It gets really bad in the summer when the relentless sun bakes the ground for days and days, sometimes weeks and months, so that it becomes hard as a rock. Then comes a downpour and everything is fooding because the ground is too hard to soak any of it up and because it comes down so fast, not in buckets, but more like vats.

I know Houston has suffered a lot of flooding this spring. I hope you were spared. Of course being on the coast where hurricanes come in every now and then makes it worse than just our usual pounding rains. Studying weather at university, I learned that the biggest threat in a hurricane is flooding. It affects more people than just the strong winds and can go inland a long way.

We're to have 3 days of rain beginning Monday, but often by the time the appointed day arrives rain has been removed from the forecast.

Sharing this interesting article.

Hope you are in a cool place. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 13, 2014:

Hi Peg,

I was still living at home when one of my parent's homes got about 3 feet of water in it due to after effects of Hurricane Beulah many years ago. So much was ruined including the house. Not fun! It seems you have had your share of disasters also. Hope you get that needed rainfall in the Dallas area to make up for the deficit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 12, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

Here in Houston it has also been terrible for several years regarding drought and many trees were lost all around this city. Of course replanting has taken place but places like Memorial Park certainly have a different look these days.

We have finally caught up to about normal rainfall for now and the reservoirs and lakes that supply drinking water to Houston are now filled.

Hope you get the much needed rain in your area. This rain event featured here took place several years ago. Sounds like you had a bad time of it also with the one you related. Too bad it is feast or famine!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 12, 2014:

With the Texas weather there's never a dull moment. This incredible amount of rain in such a short time is amazing and your photos tell the tale of the destruction to possessions and the lives of those affected. I've made it through a few natural disasters and thankfully, have lived to tell the tale.

Our area here is still in Stage 3 Drought despite recent rainfall. Years ago, we had the 100 year floods that left the nearby lake way above its normal point. These days, it's way below normal.

C E Clark from North Texas on June 11, 2014:

I remember how badly it flooded here where I live a few years ago -- before the awful drought we've gotten into since. My daughter's apartment flooded and her cats had to take refuge on top of tall bookcases. Some of the people who lived in the same apartment complex awoke to find their cars full of water up to the bottoms of the windows as well as their apartments flooded.

Daughter stayed with me that afternoon and night because I couldn't get her home, so many of the streets were flooded. Good thing I didn't take her home too, I think. Her cats managed. It rained hard for nearly 2 full days that time.

Right now we desperately need rain and more rain, but I know if we get too much at a time it will flood and fail to benefit all the trees and other plants that need it. We've hardly had any decent rain at all this year since last September. When it does really rain, perhaps 2-3 times these last many months, it only lasts for 20 minutes to an hour and then it's gone again for weeks. Mostly it sprinkles, mists, or drizzles, and even that is rare.

Voting this article up and interesting. Another one I haven't seen before. Pinned to Awesome Hubpages and sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 23, 2013:

Hello torrilynn,

Yes, for sure, rain...especially if it is extended over a short period of time...can do a lot of damage as is shown in these pictures. Much depends upon the topography of the land, how much rain has happened in the near past, the type of soil which can either absorb so much moisture or not...etc. Thanks for your interest and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 23, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

Yes, it really is amazing the power of flood waters and what can happen in such a small amount of time. We carry flood insurance although we are also not in a designated flood plain...but since Houston is so flat...almost anyone could be effected if the storm and rain clouds linger over one spot for too long a time. Thanks for your comment + the share.

torrilynn on February 23, 2013:

PeggyW, wow I never knew that rain could do so much damage. very interesting and thorough hub. thanks. voted up.

moonlake from America on February 22, 2013:

We've had some bad rains here but it has been years. It's terrible what water can do. Interesting hub voted up and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 02, 2011:

Hi Don,

We had hail many years ago in the same subdivision shown in these pictures (where we used to live) and it was not nearly the size of baseballs...closer to nickle and quarter sized. Most everyone got new roofs at that time also.

I wonder if those "river rats" know of the door flood protection items (as shown in the 2nd video) that are available? They also have some that block off entire driveways, etc. that seem easy enough to install with a small amount of notice.

The problem with the rainstorm in Houston that happened causing all of this damage...it came in the night and no one would have been able to predict that amount of water coming down in so short a time. It was not even related to a tropical storm!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 02, 2011:

Hi Peggy,

Heavy rains and flooding can have many problems, as you note. In Moline,IL there are a number of people who have homes on the shores of the Rock River which floods fairly often. Oddly they almost always clean up and stay. They call themselves river rats and refuse any other lifestyle.

a few years ago Wisconsin Rapids had a hailstorm with hail the size of baseballs. Just about every house in town needed new roofs and siding..

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2011:

Hello doodlebugs,

No...we are also parched. Wrote this hub in 2009 after Houston got 11 inches of rain in just a few hours. We still BADLY need rain and lots of it to catch up so that trees quit dying and the water level for drinking and otherwise is replenished. Let's hope for rain in Texas...just a decent amount at a time. :))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2011:

Hi Happyboomernurse,

Actually we had both sold our homes and lived together in our current one when it happened about half a year before she died. So my mother did get to see all of the damage. My brother died just shortly before this flooding happened.

I think that you are smart to have that flood insurance. We do the same although we do not live in a flood zone. The people in our former neighborhood also did not live in a flood zone!

Yes, we still need rain badly...just not so many inches at one time. We have had a few days of intermittant rain in the last several weeks...but still so much is needed. Thanks for the good thoughts.

Nolen Hart from Southwest on November 01, 2011:

Wow, I had no idea you had so much rain down there. We are still parched here in Austin.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 01, 2011:

Hi Peggy,

Very sad hub. Am glad your Mom was spared seeing this but sad that both she and your brother are no longer alive. I can't imagine how she could have coped with a flood that came so soon after your brother's death.

As you know, we previously lived in a flood zone and experienced several floods even though it was a "once in a hundred year zone." We now live in DE where the whole state is about sea level and when we moved to our home here I insisted that we still buy flood insurance as a tropical storm or hurricane could cause flooding. We were lucky that Hurricane Irene did no damage but as you say, one never knows.

Sorry to hear that the drought conditions are causing some many problems. Hope you get some rain soon.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2011:

This flooding happened in 2009. We have almost the opposite problem in 2011...a severe drought that is causing plants to die, foundations to crack and wildfires destroying everything in their path. Today we need rain badly...just not 11 inches in a few hours as happened when this hub was written.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2010:

Hello nur,

You obviously have a big heart! Hopefully you and people you know will never have to withstand the effects of 11 inches of rain and the devastation it caused in Houston or anywhere else on this planet. Mother Nature sometimes smiles at us and at other times rages. It serves to remind us that we are but small and temporary residents in the grand design of life on earth.

nur on October 20, 2010:

Im a grade 9 student and i just cried reading this...............

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 28, 2010:

Hi billyaustindillon,

At least we don't have to worry about water rationing like we do sometimes in the summer months. Also enjoying the lower water bills since we have been getting so much rain lately.

Keeping sewers clean and unclogged should be everyone's concern. Also when open land keeps being "developed" meaning more concrete poured...the government entities that keep approving this need to take into consideration where all that excess rain water will go. We actually NEED some open land and areas to absorb excess water when it comes pouring down as it has a tendency to do at times in Houston.

billyaustindillon on July 28, 2010:

Been crazy wet again the past few weeks in Houston - it is Storm season I guess. Ike was something else right under the eye. Which brings me back to Rita that was bizarre how there was no rain for days as the outer bands passed. I digress. Great hub of what is always a sad time in some areas. The garden does love rain in Houston though.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2009:

Hi again Jennifer,

People who might be envious have NO IDEA what it is like. Like you, I would not want to go through it again.

The same thing happened to my parent's house in McAllen years ago when I was still living at home. Post Hurricane Beulah. The cause......clogged drains from people dumping grass clippings, etc. down sewage drains. Only 3 houses flooded but we had about 2 1/2 feet of water in it. And as you (sadly) know, water seeps up destroying additional things.

They had to rebuild the home adding much more to the cost. No flood insurance...was never necessary where they had lived.

We all lost irreplaceable things like photos, etc. That is almost the worst as furniture, etc. can be replaced.

As you also pointed out, this puts things in clear perspective as to what is really important in life.

When I see people putting leaves and grass clippings into what should be reserved for excess water drainage I cringe. They have NO IDEA the damage that they might be causing!!!

My heart goes out to all of you suffering through this mess. Hopefully the government entities that have jurisdiction will DO SOMETHING before another flood happens!

Yes, I also hope more people find this...the appropriate people who can do something about it.

Thinking of you with great empathy.

Jennifer Bayles on August 03, 2009:

Sorry I got so long-winded. LOL! Looks like several paragraphs got lost in cyber-space because I couldn't stop typing. Ah well, such is life on the internet.

I guess the short-form is that any disaster continues even after the flood waters recede or the tornado disappears into the clouds or the flames are subdued. Reconstruction is almost worse than the event itself, and psychological issues can plague us for years. I know we aren't the only ones who cringe every time we hear a clap of thunder.

Another gripe I have is criticism from people who say we should install our own drainage systems privately - as if we are the ones to blame for the flood losses. I do agree with that to some extent. My husband and I have improved the drainage swales, cut several inches off the bottoms of the side fences and installed sump pumps on the property. For many years now it has rarely helped because the storm drains quickly become overwhelmed. The water comes up from the street and in from the higher properties in the back. There is no place for the water to go.

We've had people "advise" us to remove our interior doors and place them on sawhorses to raise household items. Sorry, but these people obviously don't understand what a flash flood is. There is simply no time to do much of anything than save important papers, pets and your own skins. It's not like preparing for a tropical storm or hurricane.

It amazes me how many people are more than prepared to blame the victims. Initially I blew those people off because I had bigger fish to fry. In hindsight, I'd like to give several of them some black eyes.

Almost worse are the folks who are actually envious. "Oooh! But you're going to have a brand new house when you're done!" I'd like to see what they'd say if they experienced a flood themselves. Yeah, our lives have been turned upside down and we're supposed to be HAPPY because we "get" to rebuild our homes. I'd rather have my outdated 1980 home than experience this kind of upheaval. Since we will likely flood again before our drainage problems are fixed, having a "new" home doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy. Do you think any of these same people would like to buy my newly-renovated house? Not!

And thank YOU Peggy for starting this blog topic. I hope more people find it. Our flood was not as spectacular as Katrina or Allison, but the financial, physical and mental issues are exactly the same.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2009:

Dear Jennifer,

As a former Bear Creek resident (we now only live about 3 miles west of there) you have given a comprehensive account of the aftermath of that flood and the politics of the situation.

I am horrified to know what you and so many others are still having to endure.

Hopefully those drainage issues will be resolved sooner rather than later!

Thank you for this account and may God bless you and everyone that still lives in that area.

Jennifer Bayles on August 03, 2009:

We who live in homes that flooded are also living in something of a state of suspended animation. My husband and I were lucky enough to be well-insured, but that doesn't exempt us from the mental and physical stress of rebuilding. A drive through Bear Creek may make one think that everything is back to normal; but it isn't. While the visible debris has mostly been hauled off, contractors' vehicles clog the streets Monday through Friday. There are plenty of on-site storage containers and even some travel trailers for those lucky enough to have them. Living in a construction zone isn't exactly a healthy experience.

It's very odd to be a homeowner without a home. In the early aftermath, some residents gave up and walked their mortgages. Some paid for basic demolition and water mitigation and sold out cheap for whatever they could get. Some are making do with what is left. Those with flood insurance are wading through the painfully detailed paperwork and finally getting the money to begin rebuilding. Some were able to qualify for low-interest Small Business Administration loans that became available after we received a gubernatorial disaster declaration.

The governor did not ask for a presidential decree which would have helped a great deal toward getting flooded neighborhoods repaired. Had so many residents not called in their damage estimates, the county would have done nothing. Many thanks go to Joyce Boudreaux at Harris County Office of Emergency Management. As I was passed from one bureacratic office to another (ain't my job lady) Joyce took the lead in setting up a call center to field resident calls and gave her name and phone number as a contact. Within a day of our flyers hitting the streets, Joyce was required to bring in extra staff to handle the call load. Joyce also went the extra mile to keep us informed as to the status of our quest for the disaster declaration and activities at Judge Emmett's office.

Amidst the stress and headaches of any disaster, life goes on. Petty criminals scavenging empty homes kept the constables busy and parents tried to restore some kind of normalcy to their children's lives while trying to hold on to their jobs and rebuild their lives. The senseless traffic death of a very good neighbor only weeks after losing their home to the flood was one more blow to us all. This family's pain is beyond my comprehension. We've all learned that we can't put life on hold while we deal with death and disaster. Somehow, we muddle through day after day.

There are so many lessons, good and bad, to be learned from a disaster. We've learned who are our true friends and who are merely acquaintances. In addition to family, biker friends and neighbors, our church family at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in particular rose to the challenge of helping many families remove flooded and contaminated furniture and carpet. You know you have a truly selfless friend in a person who is willing to get his hands dirty and risk e-coli sickness to engage in such a filthy job.

All in all, the blessings have outnumbered the curses. Total strangers came in and helped heave trash out to the street and make sure we stayed fed and hydrated. Friends and family took time off work to help clean up and decontaminate what was left. Once the initial shock of seeing destroyed memories leaving the house wore off, we didn't even bother questioning what we might salvage. Just get it out. Goodbye photos and treasured mementos. We have precious people in our lives now that are worth far more than those things. We have befriended new neighbors we may never have known without the great flood of 2009.

We have also learned that disasters can bring out the worst in some folks. We have been called stupid (for living on former rice fields in a flood zone) and greedy (for asking for government assistance). We didn't buy in a flood zone. The flood zone came to us in 2007 after FEMA finally redrew the flood maps after Tropical Storm Allison. Most residents had flood insurance. Some did not. Others were never informed of the change in flood zoning by their mortgage and insurance companies, and as a result lost the ability to buy coverage at the old rates. One woman told me that it would now cost her $5,000 a year for the basic flood policy. West Houston is not an area populated by people looking for a handout. While the leftover FEMA trailers from Katrina would have been a godsend, we got on with it without them. We got through our cleanup with various flood-related illnesses ranging from respiratory illness to weeks of diarrhea caused by e-coli in the sewage-contaminated water. Nothing like a little PTSD on top of the physical issues to really cap off a disaster. Just when you need to think clearly, that ability is stripped away. Add little to no action on the part of our county and state officials, and the feeling of isolation and abandonment becomes overwhelming at times.

As to our worsening flood issues, there is a ton of information that come to light in the aftermath of April's event. Yes, the rain we experienced was phenomenal, but similar rain events have occurred in the past without this kind of massive flood damage. Our water district, Harris County UD #6, commissioned a drainage study in 2006. A copy of the report and recommendations were given to the Bear Creek homeowners association (Hunters Park Community Association), Harris County Flood Control and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The report disappeared down the drain of those governmental agencies and nothing happened. The report is damning to say the least. We have several problems in play that contribute to our chronic and worsening flooding that involve several governmental jurisdictions. Because we are in unincorporated Harris County, we are at the mercy of the county commissioners. Jerry Eversole appears to want to spend more time at Starbucks than doing his job of maintaining roads, bridges and drainage infrastructure; and Steve Radack isn't any better. Mayor White and the City of Houston actually DO their jobs and send out inspectors after a disaster. We residents outside the city limits must do that job ourselves, and we were completely unaware of that fact until we flooded. Nothing happened until we made it happen.

According to the 2006 drainage study, many of our drains (built by the developer and accepted by Harris County for maintenance) actually run backward. The same goes for some of the outfall pipes that go to Langham Creek and into Addicks Reservoir. One of the major outfall pipes was never even connected to the subdivision's drainage system.

The way Flood Control works (or rather, doesn't work) is that no regular maintenance such as desilting and desnagging is performed. They wait until the creeks and bayous are so full of silt, debris and vegetation that neighborhood flooding becomes a major problem. Then they have to do a study on the situation to determine exactly what needs to be done. Next, Flood Control has to obtain funding from either a federal grant or Commissioner's Court. Enter the despicable and polluted world of county politics.

While west and northwest Harris County undergoes profound development, ever more rainwater runoff flows downstream to the subdivisions developed in the 1970's and 1980's. While the system was adequate thirty years ago, they can no longer handle the additional runoff burden without significant improvements to the drainage infrastructure.

The County wants the tax revenues from the new developments, but is unwilling to spend the money on drainage improvements downstream. As long as a resident pays flood insurance premiums, FEMA will keep rebuilding our endangered homes. Buyouts are not done until a particular area (not just a handful of homes) has flooded many times. Flood Control must apply to the federal government for grant money for a buyout program, and they must present a study showing that destroying those structures will improve flood control for the surrounding area. It is not a philanthropic program for helping financially burdened

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2009:

Hello Alicia, Happy to share this information. Slowly things are getting back to normal for those people affected by the flood. The contractors are still very evident and busy in that area!

Alicia Crowder from Everywhere on July 07, 2009:

Thank you for publishing this informative article!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2009:

Hello Jennifer,

Thank you so much for this most informative and useful update. Hopefully everyone that needs this information will have access to it. You are certainly doing your best! I'll forward this hub again to people I know in the Bear Creek area and feel free to do the same. With your added information, hopefully this will help the situation.

Better drainage and leaving more open green space is absolutely critical to prevent this from happening over and over again.

Jennifer Bayles on May 09, 2009:

I am in Bear Creek and we got 14" of water contaminated with raw sewage and hydrocarbon products. I've been pounding the pavement to get the word out to residents that Commissioners Eversole and Radack are not doing their jobs to get damage estimates to the governor so we can be declared a disaster area. Without that declaration, there will be NO help from FEMA for the many, many homeowners with no flood insurance. They are now getting sick from having to live in their contaminated homes.

Damage reports must be called in to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. Mark Sloan heads the department, and his assistant Joyce now has extra staff to handle the load of calls finally coming in. The number is 713-881-3100; open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday thru Friday.

More information for Bear Creek residents is on our website at www.bearcreeknetwork.org.

Also hard hit are:

Savannah Estates, Hearthstone, Yorktown, Jamestown, Charlestown - pretty much anywhere that Langham, Bear Creek and Horsepen Creek flows through. I am now getting flyers out to Bear Creek area businesses like the grocery stores, hardware and big box stores where flood victims will need to go to replace their belongings. We just don't have enough manpower to go door-to-door throughout the entire area.

Two days ago the number of damaged homes was at 716. County Engineering told us yesterday they believe the total will be in the neighborhood of 2,000 homes and businesses or over. Again, we residents must report the damage to OEM including home, possessions, and vehicle losses. Make a point of mentioning the raw sewage and gasoline-contaminated water.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2009:

Hello JamaGene, I agree with you wholeheartedly. City and county planners should also be more responsible and not keep issuing building permits to cover every bit of land. We need our green spaces for more reasons than just asthetics. Thanks for the comment. Hope your friends did not lose and valuable items in their basements.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 09, 2009:

It's in the best interest of insurance companies to push for whatever measures are needed to prevent flooding that causes so many to lose so much. Where were they when green space was being covered with concrete?

btw, we got a lot of that rain here last week.  Only about 5 inches, but that was enough in a very short period to flood basements that don't normally flood. One friend's basement is still a soggy mess of gawdknowswhat.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2009:

Hello Curious Traveller,

Sorry to hear about the similar problems in the UK. Things DO seem to be getting worse each year.

With the economy such as it is, most city governments are cutting budgets. The mayor of Houston just said on television last night when addressing the city council that improved drainage will continue to be a high priority and that is one area that will be spared any budget cuts. That is very GOOD NEWS for those of us living here! Some of the economic stimulus money will be put towards that effort. Maybe we will see the results of less flooding in the future??? It will take time and it is a monumental project considering the size of Houston.......4th largest city in the U.S.

Thanks for commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2009:

Hello kiran,

So very sad to hear that your government is of little help to the people. That should be their reason for existence in the first place. Private organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and countless smaller groups including churches of all denominations are also of immense help to people when disasters occur over here as well as elsewhere around the world. Thank heavens for their continuing help!

Curious Traveller from United Kingdom on May 07, 2009:

Wow, this looks and sounds horrific, Peggy. This is happening in several parts of the UK now as well with extremely worrying regularity. Although causes or contributions are a very contentious issue, I think it is definitely getting to the stage where no one can dispute the fact that extreme climatic changes are taking place on this planet and that severe weather occurences are becoming considerably more common.

kiran8 from Mangalore, India on May 06, 2009:

I am so soorry to see this, but to be frank with you, in my country ( India) this happens every year making thousands of people homeless and totally at the mercy of nature, with the corrupt government officials trying to gain mileage , in spite of doing percious little to help those people. It is mostly private organisations which reach out to these peole and offer them help...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 06, 2009:

Hello Jason,

Flood insurance is a nationally offered program, and yes.....many people in our area take it out as a precaution. Most insurance policies do not cover rising water, so this is the only way to protect one's home and possessions in the case of flooding. In some areas of typical flooding, it is mandatory. In other areas it is not mandated. Thanks for your question.

jasonstevens from California, United States on May 06, 2009:

Is flood insurance common in your area?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 06, 2009:

Hello Erick,

That is terrible! Amazing that no one was hurt. In what part of the world do you live? Sending best of wishes your way, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

Erick Smart on May 06, 2009:

I can sympathize here. Over the past few days we have had 8 inches of rain. New sinkholes have opened up and a school roof collapsed last night with 100 parents, teachers, and kids inside. Luckily everyone was okay.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Thanks Patty, I agree that green spaces are not only useful for soaking up water, but also good for the spirits of people who live in cities.

An innovative way to use some of it is in some of our flood control areas which are parks (when not flooded) and some of the things in them include soccer fields, running and walking tracks, dog parks, baseball diamonds and even a mini zoo in Bear Creek Park. That park is the largest county park in Texas and is nearby. They also have picnic areas with a few covered pavillions and restroom facilities. When the overflow of flood waters hits those areas they are simply closed to the public and the animals are moved to higher ground.

Years ago the Army Corps of Engineers built some earthen dams in our area which retain flood waters from various creeks and bayous and have effectively kept downtown Houston from flooding. In the 30+ years that we have lived in this area only 3 times have two of the major roads crossing the flood control project have had to be closed due to water over the road. The roads sit up high. When opened, it looks like one is crossing a causeway with water on all sides until the ground gradually absorbs the water or it evaporates.

This latest deluge was the 3rd time the roads have closed since we live here!

We really DO like living here except for these occasional floods and hurricanes. Guess no place is perfect!

Hopefully we'll have a quiet year with the hurricanes. Our area has had its share of disasters for a while.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 05, 2009:

Green space is a good answer for soaking and retaining water. And they are gorgeous.

Best wishes to you and your mom.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Hi Patty,

We escaped this latest flooding but not the case years ago. Had my mother not moved along with us 2 1/2 years ago...she would have been in the middle of this latest flood.

Yes.....better sewage drains would help but with the topography of Houston as flat as it is, thought should be given to keeping some more open green space before continually covering more of the ground with concrete.

Impermeable home storage units. Interesting thought. The answer for most is to lift things and put them as high up on top of other things when floods occur.

Thanks for the comments.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 05, 2009:

I am really sorry you had this happen - I've had lots of important files and papers destroyed in floods over the last 12 years and am discouraged by it every time I hear of high water. We had 6 inches quickly flood our streets for 3 miles a few days ago. Cars stalled and floated to the curb.

I will keep you in prayer. Perhaps Stimulus Package money chould go for anti-flood measures and impermeable home storage equipment in frequently flooded areas.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Hi G-Ma,

Thank you so very much for your blessing. Time will help heal the scars in neighborhoods as well as help to heal hearts. Hugs back to you!

Merle Ann Johnson from NW in the land of the Free on May 05, 2009:

Yes Mother nature does have her savage moments and am sorry for all, but am also saddened to hear about your brother passing...God rest His soul and Bless your mom...things can be overwhelming at times can't they!!!G-Ma Hugs :O)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Hi shamelabboush,

Yes, Nature can be as cruel as it is wonderful. Depends upon the season and what happens to be in the mix of climate change as well as influences like tutonic plate shifting; solar flares, and so much more. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Hi Melody,

So sorry to hear about the typhoon in your area. Were any of your friends or family affected?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Thanks Teresa. Gives a whole new meaning to the saying "When it rains, it pours!"

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2009:

Hi Pete,

Bear Creek which is the western part of town located outside of the Houston city limits got the brunt of the storm, but we have heard about other areas being affected also...perhaps just not quite to this extent. Thanks for commenting.

shamelabboush on May 05, 2009:

This is terrible. Nature is so cruel sometimes, but I only blame us for the climate change bcz this is one of the results. God be with them.

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on May 05, 2009:

The damage is indeed substantial. A region here too sustained great damage after a typhoon hit it this weekend.

Sheila from The Other Bangor on May 05, 2009:

Sorry to hear how much damage was done.

Pete Maida on May 05, 2009:

I'm sorry to hear that it was so mad there.

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