One Year Ago Today, Streets of Elm Grove Turned into Rivers for First Time
May 7th is the anniversary of the first large-scale flood in Elm Grove history. On that day, more than 200 homes flooded on the streets south of Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village and the Montgomery County line. Homes that did not flood, even during Harvey.
Life After Harvey and Before May 7th
In the weeks leading up to May 7th:
- The Kingwood community was still reeling from Hurricane Harvey.
- The Texas legislature was allocating billions of dollars to flood mitigation.
- The Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee heard testimony on sand-mining best practices.
- The Army Corps had just withdrawn Romerica’s permit application for a high-rise development near the San Jacinto.
- Lake Houston area residents were scurrying to lower the lake in advance of storms expected to pound the region all week.
- Great Lakes had just finished its portion of West Fork dredging, accelerating the need for a decision on the mouth bar.
Then The Rain Came
According to the gage at West Lake Houston Parkway and the West Fork, it started between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Then it picked up again between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. when we got about 2.5 inches of rain. Then we got slammed between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. when we got another 2.2 inches. Altogether, we got 5.64 inches before midnight.
The bulk of the rain, about 5.5 inches, fell in about a 12 hour period. That would make May 7th about a 5-year storm. The one-hour peaks during the storm never significantly surpassed the one-hour peaks during Harvey. Yet Elm Grove did NOT flood during Harvey and flooded disastrously on May 7th.
Act of God or Series of Missteps?
The Woodridge Village developer issued a terse statement saying that the flooding was an Act of God. But video showed sheet flow coming out of Woodridge Village.
And that helped trigger hundreds of lawsuits. Over the next year, hundreds of posts would piece together a series of missteps by the developer that turned a heavy rain into a disaster. Contributing factors included:
- Clearcutting the entire site at once
- Lack of erosion and sediment control
- Lack of functioning detention ponds
- Destruction of wetlands
- Mischaracterization of soil types
- Pretending a floodplain did not exist
- Failure to follow Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual
- Engineers who felt they owned no duty to flood victims, ignoring their highest professional responsibility – to protect the public.
All of these factors would come into play when Elm Grove flooded again during Tropical Storm Imelda on September 19.
The judge in the lawsuits set a trail date for July 13, 2020. But COVID may delay that. Meanwhile, Harris County is trying to buy Woodridge Village from Perry Homes with the help of the City. We should have a final answer on that within two weeks.
Images from That Awful Day
While we wait, here are some pictures of that awful day and the immediate aftermath.
Encore Performance Just as People Moving Back Into Homes
As tragic as all these images are, the whole scene would repeat itself again in September, just as many people were moving back in to repaired homes. Except in September, 2x-3x more homes flooded.
Since then, many people have waited to repair their homes a second time until they can be sure that the source of the flooding has been fixed.
The hearts and prayers of the entire community go out to those who flooded so needlessly.
Posted by Bob Rehak on May 7, 2020 with images from flood victims
982 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 366 since last May 7th
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.