Moore showing how high water rose in no-name storm of 2024.

Flooded 3 Times in 7 Years in 500-Year Floodplain, But No Buyout

Daniel and Kathleen Moore live with their 8-month old baby near the East Fork San Jacinto in Montgomery County. The young couple desperately wants a buyout after their house on Idle Glen in New Caney flooded three times in seven years. But no buyout is in sight.

When they bought the home, they were told it was in the 500-year floodplain. In fact, Montgomery County flood maps still show their home is in the 500-year (.2% annual chance) floodplain.

However, that determination is based on floodplain data from the 1980’s – before the Moores were even born. And since then, the area upstream from them has boomed with new development.

New Upstream Development Invalidates Old Data

For instance, Colony Ridge, just 2.5 miles to the northeast on the other side of the river, has grown 50% larger than Manhattan since 2010 – with virtually no flood mitigation measures on the East Fork side of the area.

In one seven year stretch (2017 to 2024), the Moores flooded three times. During Harvey, they flooded to nine feet. In Imelda, they got one foot. And in the no-name storm of May 2024, five feet of floodwater destroyed everything in the bottom floor of their home.

Said Daniel, “I figured Harvey was extreme. I didn’t worry too much about that. But the next two storms were different. We just can’t afford to rebuild every two or three years.” Daniel works as a mechanic. “The pay isn’t that great,” he says. “We need to move.”

Rebuilding Without Flood Insurance

After the first two floods, they rebuilt the home with money from their own pockets – without benefit of insurance. But with a new baby, they can no longer afford that.

The Moores’ story underscores how inexperience can hamstring young couples on technical issues, such as floodplain delineation and flood insurance.

The moral of this story: before you invest in a new home, consult with a professional hydrologist about the risk. Talk to neighbors about past flooding. Look for tell-tale signs like mold on neighbors’ homes, rotting wood, and elevated structures.

And buy flood insurance. It’s available through FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program. Not all agents feel the commission justifies the trouble of handling it, especially if the home has a history of flooding, so you may get mixed signals from them. Shop around.

Moore Photos During and After May 2024 Flood

Daniel tried to return home after spending the first night with his family in a motel. He couldn’t get onto the feeder road from SH99. This picture shows FM1485 totally flooded.

FM1485 on second day of flood.
Raging waters reached the top of the street sign and nearly touched the power wires.
Floodwater jumbled the living room furniture.
Another room totaled.

Cleanup after the Flood

I took the following shots on 5/18/24. As Daniel worked to gut his uninhabitable home once again, his wife tended the baby at her mother’s home.

Living room of Daniel and Kathleen Moore destroyed by flooding in May 2024
Daniel points to height of flood waters. For reference, he is 6’5″ tall.
Possessions carted to curb and picked over by scavengers.

Scavengers feel, “What difference does it make? They’re throwing this out anyway.” But it makes flood victims feel victimized all over again. Daniel says he’s found people picking through his belongings every day since the flood.

Floodwater reached the top of Kathleen’s Tahoe. It floated during the flood and turned 90 degrees. No one knows where the phone pole came from.
Daniel, tired, bewildered, and still a bit dazed.

But the Moores’ trials and tribulations are not over.

Buyout Chances

The Moores have had a hard time connecting with anyone in Montgomery County who will offer them a buyout.

Ironically, the fact that they are in a 500-year floodplain that hasn’t been updated in 40 years could hurt their buyout chances. FEMA scoring generally favors those with higher risk.

FEMA also favors homeowners with flood insurance. That’s because buying out the homeowners would likely save FEMA money on insurance reimbursements after multiple floods.

But that’s not all.

River Rising Again

Before leaving the Moores’ home, I put my drone up and saw this.

East Fork rising again. Out of banks and flooding FM1485 (right) near 1 PM on May 18, 2024. Looking E. Note river on middle right already had risen over one road in the neighborhood. Daniel says FM1485 is totally under water now.

As of 6 PM, the National Weather service shows the river is still rising. They predict it will crest tonight just under major flood stage near 69 feet.

NWS prediction as of 5:52 PM on 5/28/24 for gage within blocks of Moore home.

That should bring the water close to the Moores’ front door again.

As I drove around his neighborhood, I marveled at the number of abandoned and flooded homes. One can only wonder whether this neighborhood will survive.

Please pray for the safety of all who live there.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/18/24

2454 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 2 Weeks since the No-Name Flood of 2024

Earnestine Henry and Dawn Buckingham, GLO Commissioner

“Thank You, Lord!” and “Thank You, GLO!”

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.

Henry left, Buckingham right.

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.

She never thought she would recover from Harvey and couldn’t believe her beautiful new surroundings.

Before/After Photos

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.

Better, Safer

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).

In accordance with federal law and City of Houston codes, new homes located in a flood plain are elevated to 2 feet above base flood elevation.

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%.

Buckingham, upper right, applauds her team and contractors who commemorated the occasion with Ms. Henry.

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

January Flooding along west fork of San Jacinto

HCFCD Issues Reports on Late January Flooding, Tornados

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.

Overview

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.

From Harris County Flood Control District report.

Total Amounts

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.”

“Cool season” events tend to be short in duration with the majority of the rain occurring in 6 hours or less,” says Lindner.

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.

Homes surround by floodwaters near West Fork San Jacinto on 1/30/23.

Tornado Impacts

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.”

Damage assessments as of February 7, from the cities impacted indicate approximately 1,635 single family homes were damaged, 855 multi family units, and 15 mobile homes. The tornados ranged from EF0 to EF2 in intensity. EF2 winds range from 111-135 mph.

Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist

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.

Roof and walls torn away by winds. Note sheet metal twisted around tree in upper right. That came from a neighbors home several hundred feet away.
Sheet metal from same building shredded the power lines in this 23-second video.

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