Developers of the new Royal Pines subdivision at the north end of West Lake Houston Parkway have made a clean sweep. They appear to have finished clearing and grubbing more than 200 acres. See the pictures below taken on 9/17/22.
Trees As “Nuisance”
For most developers, including this one, trees are a nuisance. You have to work around them. They make it difficult to work the earth. And they often die later because of compaction of their roots by heavy machinery. Also, for smaller lots, there may not be enough room to leave trees and build a home at the same time.
But wholesale destruction like this can also contribute to flooding. We saw that a half mile southwest of Royal Pines at Woodridge Village when contractors cleared almost 700 acres before installing stormwater detention basins.
But beyond flood risk, marketing suffers. Marketers often try to build awareness by building a mystique around brands. Their goal: turn buyers into brand ambassadors. By preserving trees, Kingwood turned tens of thousands of families into brand ambassadors.
It’s the most effective form of advertising possible. But Royal Pines won’t have it. Let me retell a true story that dramatizes the principle.
I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when our kids were young. At dusk, snow started falling gently. I called the family together to witness the magic moment as Christmas music played in the background.
As we huddled at the front door, two deer strolled in front of us. You should have seen the kids’ eyes light up. They wanted to know which of Santa’s deer they were. It was our best Christmas ever.
You can’t buy publicity like that. More than 30 years later, I still tell that story.
Sadly, the kids who live in Royal Pines will likely never know a magic moment like that.
Oh, someone will eventually buy each home … even the ones in the flood plain. But the developer won’t have word-of-mouth advertising like I and my neighbors gave the original Friendswood Development Company. They won’t have tens of thousands of happy customers bragging about their community. Instead they’ll have a name that likely triggers a cynical comment as potential buyers enter the subdivision for the first time.
Impact of Clearcutting on Runoff, Water Quality
Clearcutting does more than drive wildlife away. It also increases runoff and reduces water quality. To see a simple experiment that dramatizes the impact, check out this 90-second video.
Progression of Clearcutting to Date
Also see the progression of clearing at Royal Pines during the last six months in these related posts.
All across the region we see this same scenario played out over and over again. Why?
Bloomberg points out, “Money, of course. For homebuilders, trees are a nuisance. To keep a tree alive while building on a lot, they have to keep heavy equipment far away so they don’t compact the soil above its roots. They also can’t push soil up around the trunk. Preserving trees means keeping the topography of the lot unchanged, which often doesn’t fit their plans.”
Memphis Daily News interviewed the president of the local homebuilders association there. The article says that “a developer’s stance on clear-cutting trees often depends on landscape and lot sizes. It’s easier to save trees on larger lots because they allow more room to work.”
“If a developer goes in and he decides he’s going to do two-acre lots, trees are no issue and they’re going to stay,” said Tim Wilson, president of the Memphis Area Homebuilders Association’s executive board. “But if a builder decides the best use for a piece of property is 40-foot lots, then the trees are coming down, every single one of them. That’s because there is no room for a house and a tree on a 40-foot lot.”
Majority of Lots 40-42 Feet
Exploring the links below will show you the general plan and layouts for the first three sections of Royal Pines. Most of the lots are, in fact, 40 to 42 feet wide:
That increases impervious cover. Unless sufficient detention and retention basins slow the water down, accelerated runoff increases the time of concentration downstream. That builds faster, higher flood peaks.
“The roots of trees hold moisture and keep soil in place, protecting it from washing away during wind and rain. This erosion can also lead to flooding in waterways. Because trees are no longer holding the soil in place, rain flushes the sediment into waterways. … That can impact the river’s ability to flow properly and cause flooding.”
Then Royal Pines borders White Oak as you get to West Lake Houston Parkway.
Finally White Oak joins Caney Creek, the East Fork San Jacinto and Lake Houston. (See below.)
All this clearcutting has the potential to increase runoff, erosion and sedimentation that could require future dredging…at public expense.
Eventually, the ground cover and forest canopy will regrow. But what about in the meantime? Neighbors have been lucky so far unlike those in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/5/22
1833 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/20220904-DJI_0445.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2022-09-05 16:14:332022-09-05 16:14:37202.8 Acres of Royal Pines Gone. Was It Necessary?
Models point to the area from US59 to about 40 miles northwest of Lake Houston as the area of greatest risk for heavy rainfall.
Isolated areas could reach higher than 7″ instead of up to 7″.
Watersheds on the northern and northeast sides of the county are at greatest risk for flooding according to overnight modeling of different rain scenarios by Harris County Flood Control.
Here’s where things stand as of noon on Monday, 3/21/2022.
Severe Weather Risk from Tonight into Early Tuesday.
Gulf moisture quickly returned to the region overnight. Scattered light showers are moving quickly from south to north. An upper level storm system is approaching from West Texas with strong lift ahead of it. Conditions will favor strong to severe thunderstorms in our area by mid to late afternoon over the warm air mass.
The National Weather Service does not assign a mathematical probability to the definition of Enhanced Risk, but note that it is the mid-point (3) on a 5-point scale.
Tornados may form, especially in any supercells that may form in this area. The Brazos Valley area will see the highest tornado threat, according to Lindner. But the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center extends the area of 10% risk to the entire north and northeast Houston area. Large hail and damaging winds will also be possible with these storms.
The SPC also gives a 30% chance of large hail and damaging winds to west, north and northeast Houston.
Severe Threat Gives Way to Heavy Rainfall Threat During Night
According to Lindner, the severe threat will gradually transition to a heavy rainfall threat during the night as the pre-frontal trough slows over the Houston area. Formation of a line or two of training thunderstorms will be possible. Models point toward the US 59 corridor northeast of Houston and about 40 miles to the northwest as the most likely area of cell training.
Lindner predicts rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches north of I-10 with isolated totals upwards of 6-7 inches. South of I-10, amounts of 1-2 inches look most likely. Given moisture levels, hourly rainfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour will be possible. Street flooding in urban areas is currently the greatest threat and the Tuesday morning commute may be impacted.
Runoff, River and Stream Report
While grounds are generally dry over the area, expected rainfall rates in short duration will generate rapid run-off. Rises on all creeks and bayous are expected tonight.
HCFCD modeled various contingency forecasts yesterday afternoon with different rainfall durations and amounts to see how area bayous and creeks would respond.
Most of the creeks and bayous will be able to handle 4-5 inches of rainfall in a 4-6 hour period or longer. Should parts of the area realize the higher isolated totals of 6-7 inches, there would likely be some concerns for channels reaching bankfull.
While uncertainty still exists on exactly where training lines will form, Lindner believes watersheds on the northern and northeastern sides of Harris County will be at greatest risk. He named:
East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River
Little Cypress Creek
These watersheds will likely see some of the higher rainfall amounts and responses.
To view real-time stream levels and inundation reports, visit the Harris County Flood Warning System and click on a gage near you. Stay home tonight. Don’t roam. Let your fingers do the slogging.
Overall, the developer appears to be cleaning up its act. But as you can see in the first shot, they seem to have made a significant and serious intrusion on Edgewater Park.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/22
1641 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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.
Construction activity at the Laurel Springs RV Resort near Lakewood Cove kicked into overdrive today as workers laid forms to prepare for concrete and more pipes went into the ground. Also, the detention pond seemed to change shape in ways that could reduce its capacity.
Getting Ready for Concrete
The shot below shows what will become the main entrance/exit opposite Mystic Glen Loop in Lakewood Cove.
Baffling Work at Detention Pond
The work at the detention pond today was hard to explain. For the last few days, workers have pulled dirt and tree debris up onto the southwestern wall of the detention pond. Here’s how it looked yesterday around noon.
Trucks have moved a portion of it to the western wall.
The wide shot below shows where they have been piling it on the western wall and puts the activity in context.
Did the developer’s surveyors make a mistake initially? We shall know soon enough if the County conducts its own survey.
The further along construction gets, the harder it is to undo mistakes if they happen. So we need to monitor this closely.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/18/22
1634 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/20220218-DJI_0059.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2022-02-18 20:45:272022-02-18 20:45:31RV Resort Getting Ready to Pour Concrete, Baffling Activity at Detention Pond
Today, Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist issued a report on last weekend’s (1/8/22 – 1/9/22) storm. One of the more interesting findings: According to the National Weather Service, the Kingwood tornado was the widest, strongest and longest of five that touched down in Harris County. See below.
Wealth of Detail Beyond ReduceFlooding Reports
Lindner’s report confirms my “after-action” reports, but adds a wealth of details.
Rainfall rates of 2-3 inches/hour were common in the slow-moving training thunderstorms.
That led to rapid and significant street flooding, and rises on area creeks and bayous.
The highest measured discharge (streamflow) rate was in Greens Bayou at Mount Houston Parkway – 7,067 cubic feet per second.
Lindner found that certain areas experienced 2- to 10-year rains based on Atlas-14 exceedance probabilities. Based on 1- to 3-hour rainfall rates, those included middle Buffalo Bayou, Luce Bayou, middle and upper Halls Bayou, middle Greens Bayou, middle and lower White Oak Bayou, and the lower portion of the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. However, based on 12- to 24-hour rates, all impacted watersheds experience 2- to 5-year rains.
Because the storms trained perpendicular to the direction of most bayous, the rainfall within their watersheds varied greatly. For instance:
Greens Bayou received on 0.9 inches at Mount Houston Parkway, but 6.2 inches at US59.
Buffalo Bayou received 5.2 inches in places and 0.2 in others – a 26X difference.
Like all of the work that comes out of Lindner’s department, the documentation is meticulous.
House Flooding Estimates
Contrary to previous reports, some house flooding did occur. It happened along Brickhouse Gully on the west side of Bingle Rd. Approximately 6-8 structures experienced flooding to depths of 4.0-6.0 inches.
Says Lindner, “Other isolated structures may have flooded in portions of Spring Branch due to the intense rainfall rates overwhelming street and local drainage systems. A few houses also flooded along Valley Stream downstream (east) of I-45 along Halls Bayou.”
Unfortunately, Lindner doesn’t offer much more information about the Kingwood tornado at this time. Nor does he cover flooding in surrounding areas, such as Liberty County. However, the storm did set off a number of alarms.
The storm triggered 26 rainfall alarms when gages received more than an inch of rain in 15-minutes.
Rising water triggered 14 flood warnings when streams reached 3 feet below bankfull.
For detailed maps, rainfall rates, and exceedance statistics at dozens of locations, see Lindner’s full report. Note: on major storms, Lindner often issues an immediate report and a final report several weeks later. This report falls into the “immediate” category. For future reference, you can also find this report under the Major Storms tab on the reports page.
Early Sunday morning on January 9, 2022, an EF-1 tornado touched down along the Kingwood Diversion Ditch between Hamblen and Kingwood Drive. It damaged trees and homes on both sides of the ditch for several blocks. By early afternoon, tree crews were swarming over the area, making the streets barely passable.
Tornado or Just Strong Winds?
I asked one of the crews if they were sure a tornado caused the damage. They said yes, based on the type of damage they saw. The tops of trees had been twisted off like screw caps. See photos below taken on Sunday afternoon after the storm cleared out.
While some trees were uprooted, the vast majority of the damage involved “topped trees.” Had straight line winds been the cause, you would see more uprooted trees. The damage would have been more widespread. And the trees would have been pushed down in a uniform direction rather than scattered like pick-up sticks.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/20220109-DJI_0404.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=18001200adminadmin2022-01-09 19:55:532022-01-10 20:44:59Pics of Tornado Damage in Kingwood/Forest Cove
In the “better late than never” department, the City of Houston officially launched its Harvey Economic Development Program today. The program offers aid to small businesses damaged by Harvey. This comes four years after the storm that brought Houston and thousands of its businesses to their knees.
This is kind of like sending out birth announcements for someone’s funeral – a little late. If it weren’t for the fact that most of the impacted small businesses who really needed this help probably died after the storm, like those above, I would be laughing now instead of crying.
Without further editorial comment, I will simply reprint the press release that I received this morning.
Text of Press Release
Headline: City of Houston officially launches Harvey Economic Development Program
Subhead: City’s small business revitalization effort makes first awards to restore capacity to microenterprises impacted by Harvey
Exact Text: The City of Houston has awarded its first small business grants through the Harvey Economic Development Program, part of the City’s long-term recovery plan. The program offers up to $150,000 to small businesses that suffered damages during Hurricane Harvey. The first awards – totaling $562K – went to six local business owners, including three women-owned construction companies, an oil and gas supply company, a real estate agency, and a women-owned transportation firm.
“A big part of building a more resilient city is attending to the recovery needs of small business owners, especially minority and women-owned, who may not have the resources to fully recover otherwise,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “These small businesses bring jobs, support community growth, and help build a strong network of entrepreneurship, especially for disadvantaged communities. While this program directly invests in business owners, we will build our entire city forward as a result.”
The program provides aid to businesses that are most vulnerable and have limited access to capital, specifically focusing on microenterprises — businesses of 1-5 employees. Qualifying microenterprises must have been in businesses at the time of the storm, be current on federal business taxes, and have proof of Hurricane Harvey’s impact.
“The impact of external shocks like Harvey sets business owners, particularly small minority- and women-owned businesses, back for years to come,” explained Dr. Paula Pineda, who leads the Economic Development team at the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department. “Serving microenterprises exclusively has allowed us to assist Houston’s ‘mom and pop’ small businesses that were disproportionately set back and yet disproportionately excluded from resources such as the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan.”
Approximately $2.5 million in grants are in the approval pipeline, with awards ranging from a minimum of $75,000 to the maximum amount of $150,000. The program is succeeding in soliciting applications – 200 since its soft launch – from historically disadvantaged businesses: the majority of applicants are minority-owned and/or women-owned. All applicants who receive the City’s recommendation must be approved by the Texas General Land Office, which has been a strong supporter of the City’s microenterprise initiative.
A total of $24.9 million has been allocated for the Small Business Grants program, which aims to serve between 150 and 250 microenterprises. The Harvey Economic Development Program is one of eight prongs of the City’s $835 million Harvey recovery effort, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and managed by the City’s Housing and Community Development Department.
Information on the Harvey Economic Development Program, including eligibility details and the application, are available at recovery.houstontx.gov/hedp. There, small businesses can also find a plethora of resources, including assistance with taxes, computer access, and federal requirements. Applications will remain open through the end of 2021 or until funds have been depleted.
The City of Houston Housing and Community Development (HCDD) makes long-term investments to better the lives of Houston residents by creating opportunities for every Houstonian to have a home they can afford in a community where they can thrive. Our department will spend approximately $450 million in federal, state, and local funding this fiscal year to construct and maintain affordable homes, reduce barriers to homeownership, support the work of social service providers, build public amenities, and facilitate disaster recovery efforts. Learn more about programs and resources for Houstonians at www.houstontx.gov/housing.
Those who apply should ensure they have all the documents requested in the application. HUD required dozens of docs for housing assistance. But 36% of the applications had NO supporting documentation.
The deadline is December 31, 2021 11:59 PM (CST).
The so-called soft-launch started February 15. It took more than 6 months. Now, after the official launch, only 4 months are left.
This tardiness of this program makes a great case for “business interruption insurance.” Small business owners should ask their insurance agents what that is and also ask for a quote. I got it for my business about a year before Hurricane Ike knocked out power in the Lake Houston Area for three weeks. It was a lifesaver. And it didn’t take four or five years to recoup lost income.
Someone needs to coordinate the copy in the City’s website, the City’s press releases and the State’s approved action plan. For instance, the action plan lists the maximum award at $250,000. The website says $100,000 in one place and $150,000 right next to the first mention. The press release says $75,000 to $150,000. Another example: The City’s website says 400-500 businesses have already been served. But the press releases says the City has only solicited 200 applications. And the City’s Pipeline Report shows none are in the works. It doesn’t even list the program.
For the launch of an important new economic development program, you would expect these details to be worked out.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/28/2021
1458 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/KingsCrossing_16-e1630026745789.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=18001200adminadmin2021-08-26 20:19:032021-08-26 20:19:08City of Houston Officially Launches Harvey Economic Development Program
At 8AM EDT this morning, the National Hurricane Center issued an update for that blob of moisture in the Bay of Campeche that forecasters have focused on for a week now. Last weekend, its chance of tropical formation was 20%. NHC now gives it a 70% chance. NHC also has it headed, like a billiard ball, toward the side pocket in the Gulf of Mexico between Houston and New Orleans.
Continued Intensification, But Little Movement in Next 2 Days
Disorganized showers and thunderstorms continue over the Bay of Campeche and southern Mexico in association with a broad low pressure area. This system is expected to move little during the next day or two, and any tropical formation should be slow to occur during that time period. Chances of formation in the next TWO days are still at 20%.
Regardless of development, heavy rainfall will continue over portions of Central America and southern Mexico during the next several days. Heavy rains could also begin to impact portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Friday.
Where Will Storm Come Ashore?
Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s Meteorologist, notes that the area currently has no defined low-level, low-pressure system. Global models, he says, show a trough lifting north on Thursday with better chances for low-pressure system formation.
The general consensus of the global models continues to indicate a track toward the north or northeast, but uncertainty remains about the final track. Expected wind shear over the western Gulf, conditions in the western Gulf, “a fairly disorganized system is expected,” says Lindner.
Even if the storm heads toward Houston, the dirty side would likely be to our east and southeast Texas would likely see minimal impacts.
Impacts will likely focus around increasing tide levels as higher and longer swells approach the coast this weekend. But at this time, Lindner believes tides should remain below flooding levels. He expects to know more later in the week as the storm approaches. Rain chances may increase also if some moisture can wrap around the western side of the circulation, but any heavy rainfall and flooding threat should focus east of our area.
Tropical Storm Bill Has Formed in the Atlantic
Also note that Tropical Storm Bill has formed in the Atlantic with 60 MPH winds and is headed northeast. At this time, it does not pose a threat to land.
Finally, a tropical wave has moved off the western coast of Africa. It is slowly moving west. But due to strong upper level winds and dry air aloft, NHC gives this area only a 10% chance of tropical formation.
Two weeks into hurricane season, the Atlantic Basin is already looking at triple threats. Experts predicted an above average season. This could be the start.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/15/2021, based on information from NHC and HCFCD
1386 Days since Hurricane Harvey
00adminadmin2021-06-15 10:27:042021-06-15 10:33:03High Chance of Tropical Formation for Disturbance in Gulf as It Heads North
After a few drier days during the Memorial Day weekend, wet weather is returning and will last into next week. We should see a high chance (50% or greater) of thunderstorms every day for the next week.
Pattern Similar to Last Month Setting Up
According to Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner, the upcoming pattern will resemble the heavy rains of early last week and similar patterns in 2015 and 2016. Slow moving low-pressure systems over the southwest US will send multiple disturbances across Texas starting today and lasting into early next week.
Onshore winds will ensure a steady influx of Gulf moisture, high humidity and rainfall production. Disturbances will emerge from northeast Mexico into central and south central Texas nearly every day. Clusters and complexes of thunderstorms will develop and move east into the Houston region.
Difficult to Precisely Predict Heavy Downpours
“When exactly each disturbance will rotate out of Mexico is uncertain. And what state the local air mass will be ahead of each disturbance will also be hard to determine,” said Lindner.
But this pattern, he continued, “will support complexes and clusters of thunderstorms from Tuesday onward – with both a heavy rainfall and marginal severe weather threat. Some days will likely have higher threats of both.”
While our minds may be inclined to spread such totals out evenly over the course of 5-7 days, “that is usually not how it works,” warns Lindner. “At this time of year, we could see 1-3 inches fall in a few hours or less as clusters and complexes move across the region.”
Grounds are still wet from the 10-15 inches of rainfall in May. It will not take much rainfall to trigger run-off and renewed rises on area watersheds, especially as rainfall totals accumulate over time.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/1/2021, based on information provided by HCFCD
1372 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Screen-Shot-2021-06-01-at-8.49.26-AM.jpg?fit=1200%2C658&ssl=16581200adminadmin2021-06-01 09:55:452021-06-01 10:06:27High Chance of Thunderstorms Every Day into Next Week