Today, it wasn’t Republicans vs. Democrats. It was humans helping humans. And how refreshing it was!
86-Year Old, Mobility-Challenged Woman Gets New Home, New Life
Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and her staff gathered to turn over the keys to the newly rebuilt home of Earnestine Henry. Ms. Henry is an 86-year old African-American great grandmother who relies on a wheelchair and walker to get around. Hurricane Harvey displaced her from the 79-year old home she owned for 50 years.
Neighbors, friends and family – the entire street – all joined in the festivities. It was the 1000th such home that the GLO built in Houston and Harris County in the last two years.
When Commissioner Buckingham gave Ms. Henry a bouquet of flowers as a housewarming gift, Ms. Henry began to cry tears of joy.
Then, the deeply religious Henry threw up her arm and went silent for a second.
Finally, she shouted “Thank you, Lord.”
She was so overcome with emotion that Commissioner Buckingham reached out to steady her in case she started to fall.
The room went silent as she sobbed and dried her tears. Everyone else dried theirs, too, including seasoned journalists. Yes, even I sniffled.
Then Ms. Henry flashed a beatific smile. The gracious and grateful octogenarian then took her guests on a tour of her new home as she thanked all the GLO staff in attendance.
Here’s what the home looked like before the rebuild.
And here’s what it looked like today, including the handicapped ramp. All homes built through the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance plan meet the needs of the residents with mobility challenges. Not only is the homeowner’s investment protected, their safety is as well.
Ms. Henry had originally applied to the City of Houston for help after Harvey, but reportedly never heard back. Her daughter and granddaughter helped her reapply to the GLO when the GLO took over the program in 2021.
JW Turner Construction built the new home, which is fully code compliant and energy efficient. The rebuild happened as part of the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP).
Property Values Increase, but Not Taxes
On average, homes rebuilt through the Homeowner Assistance Program increase the value of the property by more than $85,765. To address concerns about increased property taxes, in 2019 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 812 to protect homeowners from drastic increases after the GLO reconstructs homes.
The GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program reaches the hardest hit, low- and moderate-income, vulnerable families and individuals.
1000th Rebuild Part of a Continuing Effort
Of all approved applicants, nearly 90 percent identify as Black or Hispanic. 89 percent are considered low-to-moderate income. And 63 percent make less than 30 percent of the area median income.
The GLO currently has another 1000 homes under construction in the Houston area.
“No other state or territory has performed like Texas in the recovery from Harvey,” said Buckingham. “A large part of that credit goes to the GLO. In two years, GLO has rebuilt 18 times as many homes as Houston and Harris County combined.”
“Texas stands to lose billions of available federal disaster recovery dollars if we do not use them before they expire in August 2026,” she added.
“Programs administered by the GLO in assisting the poorest Texans have significantly outperformed the federal requirement,” said Buckingham. 80% of GLO disaster recovery funds help those most in need, even though the US Department of Housing and Urban Development only requires 70%.
Thank you, Lord, for people like Ms. Henry and all the others above. They remind us that we’re all in this together.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/16/2023
2025 Days since Hurricane Harvey
Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, has issued a report on January flooding, heavy rainfall and a significant tornado on January 24, 2023. He also released intensity tables for 24th to the 31st. They help us understand the cumulative impact of back-to-back heavy rainfalls on the 24th and 29th.
Says Lindner, “Early on the 24th, surface low pressure developed over south-central Texas. It helped draw a warm front northward. It eventually formed a line from near Sealy to Downtown Houston to Chambers County. This warm front when combined with strong lift, impressive low level wind shear, and winds changing direction, resulted in the formation of supercell thunderstorms along a line from near Victoria to Sealy to Conroe.
They trained across northwest Harris County. Rainfall amounts southeast of US59 ranged from 1-2 inches, but 2-6 inches northwest of 59.
One of the storms along the front produced a tornado over southern Fort Bend County. Another formed over northern Brazoria county near Pearland. Rotation increased as it tracked through SE Houston, Pasadena, Deer Park and Baytown.
Duration and Rates
The heaviest rainfall occurred over portions of west, northwest, and northern Harris County in a 3 to 6 hr period. Several locations in northwest Harris County recorded 1.0-3.0 inches of rainfall in an hour during the late morning hours. Additionally, as the line of storms moved eastward, numerous locations recorded 1.0-2.0 inches of rainfall in 15-45 minutes. That resulted in rapid street flooding over many portions of Harris County during the early to mid afternoon hours.
Total 6-hr rainfall amounts ranged from 3.0-6.0 inches from north of Katy along west/north of FM 1960 into the Humble and Kingwood areas. The highest amount was at John Paul Landing Park in northwest Harris County where 5.48 inches was recorded in 3 hours. Unfortunately, most of this rain fell on grounds that were still wet from heavy rainfalls on January 8 and 9. This maximized runoff into area creeks.
Lindner points out that, “Heavy rainfall and flooding can occur every month of the year in Harris County and there have been other recent heavy rainfall events in January. Compare rainfall duration and intensity in the table below.”
Interestingly, all of the January flooding events listed above had identical contributing factors: a surface warm front, high moisture levels, and training movement over the same area.
Rainfall amounts for the 1- and 3-hour time periods ranged from 2- to 10-year rains on the Atlas 14 scale. For the most part, channels could accommodate the rainfall. No widespread house flooding occurred although streams came out of their banks at numerous locations and came dangerously close to homes. See below.
The tornados were a different story, though. As they swept across the southern part of the county at 40 to 60 mph, they produced significant damage.
Lindner said, “Video obtained from the City of Deer Park indicated a tornado heavily shrouded in heavy rainfall with very little if any visibility of a condensation funnel or lofted debris. Unlike tornadoes in the Great Plains, many of the tornados along the US Gulf coast are hidden within heavy rainfall and very difficult to observe.”
For a complete listing of rainfall intensities and damage assessments at different locations through the county, see Lindner’s report here. It contains an interesting history of tornados in Harris County.
The pictures below were taken by a retired Kingwood resident, John Knoerzer, who owned a business in one of the hardest hit areas. They illustrate damage in Pasadena at one of his former employee’s home and shop.
Never Bet Against Mother Nature
Lindner’s report and these images provide powerful reminders of why we should never take flood or wind risk for granted. And why we need to see flood-mitigation projects through to completion.
These were only 5-year storms. But remember. Those exceedance probabilities are like odds on a Las Vegas roulette wheel. I once saw the same number come up six consecutive times!
Don’t bet against Mother Nature. Insurance gives you much better odds.
To explore historical rainfall in your area, consult the Harris County Flood Warning System.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/8/23 with thanks to John Knoerzer for his images and Jeff Lindner for his reporting
1989 Days since Hurricane Harvey
On October 28, Royal Pines flooded a neighbor on less than an inch of rain. Two months later, on December 29th, the same thing happened again. The video below provided by the homeowner shows the volume of water funneled across her property by the developer.
This video and the previous one from October demonstrate the dangers of clearcutting and redirecting drainage without first constructing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.
Altering Landscape Accelerates Runoff Toward Homeowner
The homeowner who shot the video lives adjacent to the left border in the photo below. Royal Pines has apparently sloped its property toward that corner where contractors will eventually build a stormwater detention basin.
Land now slopes toward where video was filmed at left corner. But that area used to slope in the opposite direction. See details below from the USGS NATIONAL MAP and the developer’s plans.
There used to be an 8-foot drop east of the homeowner’s property. But now, instead of water flowing directly north to White Oak Creek, it flows northwest.
The general plan for Royal Pines (below) shows the same V-shape in the proposed detention basin (upper left). The line represents the edge of the floodplain and confirms that the developer A) knew about the slope and B) changed it.
Silt Fence, Trench Ineffective Against That Much Water
The video above and the photos below show that silt fence makes a terrible dam against even small rains funneling toward a point from such a large area.
Unfortunately, the developer plans to build homes there, not another detention basin.
0.88 Inches of Rain Fell in Two Hours
The graph below from the Harris County Flood Warning System shows that .88 inches of rain fell in the two afternoon hours before the homeowner shot the video.
The table below shows that that much rain in two hours constitutes less than a 1-year rainfall event.
That’s consistent with actual observed events and climate records. According to the National Weather Service, on average, we can expect rainfalls greater than 1 inch 14 times per year in Houston. That’s about once per month.
Woodridge Village Revisited
The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked the developer’s engineering company to revise its plans. The homeowner says that according to the engineer’s office, not even a 6-7 foot tall berm around that portion of the property would be enough to stop all the water flowing in that direction.
So, what lessons can we learn from this example? As with Woodridge Village, don’t clear and grade this much land before constructing detention basins!
The first sentence of Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states that “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in the state, or permit a diversion … to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/2023
1963 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.