Riverview townhome

Harvey Time Capsule: Marina Drive in Forest Cove

It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Harvey. Much of Houston has improved remarkably since then. But one neighborhood near the San Jacinto West Fork seems frozen in time: Marina Drive in Forest Cove. It’s the land that Solid Waste forgot.

Forest Cove Townhomes destroyed by Harvey and swallowed by sand. Photograph from 9/14/17, two weeks after Harvey. Not much has changed since then. 

Featured in FEMA Video Filmed Last Month

When FEMA came to Houston last month to shoot a video about Harvey, they asked ReduceFlooding.com for location recommendations. They wanted a place that told the story of the storm. It took me about a nanosecond to recommend the apartments/townhomes on Marina Drive.

Forest Cove Townhomes destroyed by Harvey. This and following photos taken a year later on September 28, 2018.

The Forest Cove Property Owners Association has fixed up the community swimming pool. But everything around it still triggers memories of the terror that night in August, 2017, when Harvey dealt the final death blow to these ill-fated townhomes.

Forest Cove Townhomes now targets for vandals, looters and squatters.

Ravaged by Numerous Floods, but Killed by Harvey

The townhomes had been ravaged by previous floods, but Harvey was different. Three residents I talked to told me the water reached 17-23 feet high – well up into the second story. To put that in perspective, joists in the garage level are set at 11 feet.

You can see holes chopped in roofs where thieves stole roof-mounted AC condensers. One building appears to have been swept off its foundation. Bedsheets spray-painted with “FEMA HELP” still flutter from second story balconies. Sand clogs the streets and storm drains. Five foot high dunes cover fences and shoreline. Trash litters the parking lots. Graffiti and mold cover what’s left of the homes. An old oil pumper supports vines. Oil storage tanks sit twisted and lonely, off kilter. Not one person still lives there. The homes are uninhabitable.

Forest Cove Townhome destroyed by Harvey. Area is now a target for graffiti artists. 

More Marina Drive Townhomes destroyed by Harvey. In addition to the trash in the parking lot, note the hole chopped in the roof to rescue people in the middle of the photo.

Reportedly, these properties are being bought out by FEMA and Harris County Flood Control to reduce future flood risk. Some offers have already been made according to Glen Allison, a member of the Homeowners Association. Allison also said that “Three units were swept away. Two more completely collapsed. There was tremendous structural damage throughout.”

Someday the area may be turned into parkland. The county has been trying to buy this land and convert it into a linear park since 1994 – almost 25 years ago. Not much has happened since then. The last section in a document from Harris County Flood Control titled 2018 Federal Briefing: Unprecedented Opportunity discusses progress of various buyout programs going back 29 years.


Excerpt from HCFCD map showing historical buyout programs in Forest Cove.

FEMA and HCFCD completed voluntary buyout programs in 1994 (pink), 1998 (blue), 2005 (yellow) and 2008 (lavender).  However, as of this spring, they were still trying to complete buyouts from 2014 and 2016 (see table below, also from 2018 Federal Briefing referenced above).

Forest Cove properties were part of the 2014 and 2016 buyout programs that were still not completed at the time of Harvey and HCFCD’s Federal Briefing last spring.

Maybe this time! Meanwhile, someone please call for a trash pickup.

Posted by Bob Rehak on October 7, 2018

404 Days since Hurricane Harvey