Tag Archive for: Imelda

Imelda’s Third Anniversary Brings Clearcutting into Focus

Today is the third anniversary of the day Tropical Storm Imelda flooded approximately 600 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. A major contributing factor: clearcutting 268 acres immediately upstream. Here are several pictures and videos that people sent me.

Looking NW at Woodridge Village days before Imelda. During the storm, water flowed toward the circle, bottom right, with little to slow it down. Overflow went into surrounding streets. See video below taken from ground level.
September 19, 2019. Sheet flow from the Woodridge Village development flows down Village Springs in Elm Grove.
Family evacuating through North Kingwood Forest.
Car submerged during Imelda at the end of Village Springs adjacent to Woodridge.
People living in campers while restoring their homes from the May 7, 2019 flood were flooded again.
Security cam time lapse footage in Elm Grove on east side of Taylor Gully.
Depth of flood in Elm Grove was about two feet at this house.
Elm Grove debris pile after Imelda flood.
Abel Versa had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep muck on Village Springs.
The bridge over Taylor Gully at Rustling Elms in Elm Grove caught debris flowing downstream.

Before the clearcutting, these areas had not flooded – even during Hurricane Harvey.

Lessons Lost

Lawsuits against the Woodridge Village developer and its contractors quickly followed. And flood victims won a major settlement. But the clearcutting lessons learned in court seem to be lost on other developers.

Lately, it seems that developers all around northern Harris, southern Montgomery, and Liberty Counties have employed clearcutting.

These represent just a few of the clearcutting stories I’ve covered in the last few months. So far, they’ve been lucky. We haven’t had any tropical storms like Imelda.

But still, risk remains. You’d think developers would hedge that risk by leaving some trees. They reduce erosion. Suck up rainwater. Slow down runoff. And filter water that may overflow detention basins.

But it’s their property. And your problem if we get another Imelda.

Posted by Bob Rehak on September 19, 2022

1847 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 3 years since Imelda

GLO Announces Homeowner Assistance, Reimbursement Programs for Imelda

The Texas General Land Office will begin taking applications this Saturday, April 24, for Imelda assistance. $71,604,000 is available for Chambers, Harris, Liberty, Jefferson, Montgomery, Orange and San Jacinto Counties.

.Land Commissioner George P. Bush has announced locations of regional Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs (HARP) offices in advance of the 24th. 

Applicants will be able to schedule an appointment in person in advance for the same day that applications will be available online.

Money Can Be Used For…

The money will cover repair or reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes and reimbursement up to $50,000 for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for reconstruction, rehabilitation, or mitigation.

Repayment of SBA loans is also eligible for reimbursement.

Car submerged during Imelda in Elm Grove. Photo courtesy of Allyssa Harris.

Appointments Required for In-Person Assistance

“Thousands of homes in Southeast Texas were damaged during during Imelda, devastating the livelihoods of countless Texans,” said Commissioner Bush. “In advance of the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs application being released, the GLO is announcing locations of offices to provide residents with help applying for assistance.

Evacuation from Elm Grove during Imelda. Photo courtesy of Keith Stewart.

Where to Get Help

All applicants must make an appointment before visiting an office location.

Appointments will ensure proper capacity under COVID-19 restrictions. Applicants may request additional hours.

Harris County
Location: St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
3811 N Main St, Baytown, TX 77521-3305 

Montgomery County
Location: North Montgomery County Community Center
600 Gerald St, Willis, TX 77378-3477 

Chambers County
Location: Chambers County Municipal Building
211 Broadway, Winnie, TX 77665-7781 

San Jacinto County
Location: Coldspring Area Public Library
14221 State Hwy 150 West, Coldspring, TX 77331 

Jefferson County
Location: First City Building 505 Orleans Street, Beaumont, TX 77701
Hours: By appointment only: Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
By appointment only: Saturday 8:00am – 12:00pm         

Orange County
Location: Orange County Convention and Expo Center
11475 FM 1442, Orange, TX 77630-5227 

Pop-up Intake Locations
Hours: All by appointment only
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP)     

Main Regional Office:
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP) 

Liberty County residents are eligible. An office in Liberty County may be announced in the future. For now, work through the main regional office above (in Beaumont).

Online, Email, Phone Assistance

Interested homeowners may also visit http://recovery.texas.gov/harp to apply online or download a printable version of the application.

Additionally, applicants may email the GLO at cdr@recovery.texas.gov or call 1-844-893-8937 to get help applying.” Up to date office locations and additional information are available at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp

Before You Apply, Understand These Things

A single application can be submitted for reimbursement AND repair assistance.

However, an application must be submitted along WITH required documents for consideration.

HARP is “first-come, first-served,” and all homeowners are encouraged to apply immediately.

Households applying for reimbursement that do not meet the low-to moderate-income (LMI) threshold will be processed after the first six months from application opening, but may receive construction assistance prior to then, based on their application date.

HARP is only available for the homeowner’s primary residence.  

Documents You Need Before Applying

Potential applicants should review the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs Checklist to have all applicable documents ready prior to applying.

Potential applicants can also find in-person assistance at regional HARP offices serving their area. In addition to a main office in each region, each county will have at least one application drop off location or satellite office. Additional satellite offices and application intake locations may be announced in the future and will be viewable at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/21/21 based on information provided by the Texas General Land Office

1331 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 580 since Imelda

Rosemay Fain’s Harvey and Imelda Stories

Rosemary Fain and Archie Savage live on three acres in Magnolia Estates, in far northeast Harris County just a block from the Liberty County line, about halfway between Luce Bayou and the San Jacinto East Fork. They’re more than two miles from each and never flooded before the development of Colony Ridge, one mile north. Since then, during both Harvey and Imelda, East Fork floodwater rose so high that it came through their property and started flowing down toward Luce Bayou. The water damaged their home, barn, garage, workshop, pool, hot tub, well, septic system, chicken coop and more. But they were lucky compared to neighbors who had homes swept off foundations. This interview discusses their attempts to recover and their advice for others.

Rehak: How long have you all lived here?

Fain: Archie’s lived here since 1995. I joined him in 2015.

Never Flooded Before Harvey

Rehak: Did the property ever flood before Hurricane Harvey?

Fain: No, not at all.

Rehak: OK. How far are you from the East Fork of the San Jacinto?

Fain: More than two miles.

And Then Came Harvey

Rehak: What happened during Harvey?

Fain: Well, we knew that the hurricane was coming. And we did as much as we could to prepare for high winds. But how could we prepare for that much water? We never expected that much. It just…it looked like a river.

It looked like we were sitting in the middle of a river. 

Rosemary Fain

We had people calling from all over the country to make sure we were OK. Then we lost power. Power lines went down at Magnolia Boulevard and Plum Grove Road and there were kids riding four wheelers in the water!

I have video of the water. It was coming from the East Fork and running into that gully that goes to Luces Bayou. And it was just a torrent. It was just an absolute torrent.

Video of Hurricane Harvey in Magnolia Estates courtesy of Rosemary Fain

On FM1485, people were loading boats to go down Huffman/Cleveland Road and rescue people that had their homes washed completely off foundations. And the East Fork … Oh, my God, way up here. Way up here! 

After, on FM1485, people with tractors were pulling cows out of the ditches.

Rehak: You’re kidding.

Fain: No.

Rehak: Dead cows?

Fain: A lot … dead. They found an awful lot of carcasses down in the culvert. 

Imelda “Much, Much Worse”

Two years later, Imelda came along. And it was worse! Much, much worse. Kids were kayaking out on the street. That’s how bad it was.

Kayaking down the street in front of Fain’s house during Imelda

Rehak: Wow.

Fain: Archie had made it to work that morning and I called him and asked, “Do I need to start getting blankets and comforters to put in front of the door? And he says, “Honey, it’s water. Nothing’s going to stop it. If it’s coming in, it’s coming in.” And that’s when it came right up to the top step. It was within inches of coming in the house.

Video of Tropical Storm Imelda in Magnolia Estates courtesy of Rosemary Fain

Rehak: Did it undermine the corner of your house?

Fain: It messed up more than that.

Rehak: Catalog the losses for me. You lost some machinery in your wood shop.

Fain: We lost the jumper pump in our well house. Our septic system flooded. We had damage to the pier and beam foundation under our kitchen and dining room, where the foundation later collapsed – between Christmas and New Years of 2020. We had no idea how bad it was.

Part of damage caused by delayed collapse of one corner of house after Imelda
Corner of the house in kitchen that bore the brunt of Imelda’s floodwaters.

The pier-and-beam foundation and kitchen floor have to be completely replaced, as well as the bottom kitchen cabinets. We lost the motor and the heater to the hot tub, and the hot tub footings shifted, causing the hot tub to crack. We lost the motor to the pool. Our chicken and pigeon coops had to be demolished.

The neighbors behind us lost their sheep pens, but there were no sheep there at the time.

Neighbors sheep pens destroyed by Imelda.

And there’s now black mold in the well house and the garage shop.

Black mold in well house.

And, you know, by law we can’t sell this place with the black mold issues. So, what do we do? 

We can’t afford to fix it and we can’t afford to move. This house is paid for. It’s our investment for retirement. But we can’t afford to fix what needs to be fixed and sell it.

Insurance doesn’t cover black mold. 

Who would have thought we’d need flood insurance this far from the river? We have it now. But we didn’t when the floods hit.

Poorly Drained Soils Now Much Worse

Rehak: What can you tell me about the soils around here? Were they a factor?

Fain: It’s all clay-based.

Rehak: How does it drain?

Savage: Not well. These properties, if there’s a lot of water, they’ll hold it a good while to where it should percolate down. But it doesn’t. It cannot go through clay. Harvey deposited a lot of silt. Since Harvey, it just seems like the ground is constantly saturated even during the summer. And, if you dig down two … two and a half feet, it gets really, really messy.

Clay-based soil throughout area drains poorly.

Rehak: When you first moved here, did you go up Plum Grove Road and explore?

Savage: You could tell that it was a low-lying area.

Rehak: A lot of palmettos up there? 

Savage: Yeah. 

Loss of Thousands of Acres of Forest, Wetlands with Colony Ridge

Fain: The first time I came out here, it was a very pleasant, beautiful little drive. I was really impressed with the canopy of the trees and this whole area. And I’m telling you, it just is such a shame what it’s come to. It was all woods and all trees, and now it’s just nothing but tore up roads and mud.

Rehak: How did the changes coincide with development of Colony Ridge? 

Fain: We never flooded before Colony Ridge. All the problems came after they started clearing trees. I remember all the logging trucks coming up and down Plum Grove Road. And then in 2017, Harvey hit and it was just horrendous. 

Rehak: Do you feel that if the development hadn’t happened you would have been safer?

Fain: Definitely. It was scary. I mean, I wish we had taken our little flat bottom boat and tied it to that tree.

Slow Recovery and Then More Disaster

Rehak: How has the recovery been? 

Fain: FEMA came out and they cut us a check for $357.

Rehak: $357!

Fain: And there is nothing available for Imelda. Project Recovery … I’ve called them twice, emailed them, and they haven’t responded at all. 

Rehak: Are you in the City of Houston?

Fain: No, this is New Caney. But we’re in Harris County. The Liberty County line is about a block east.

Rehak: Tell me more about the damage to the corner of your house?

Fain: We just didn’t know the extent of the damage under our house after Imelda. We were just thankful that it didn’t get in. Then all of a sudden the whole corner of the house collapsed more than a year after the storm.

One day between Christmas and New Years of 2020, I walked into the kitchen to get dog food and I saw the whole corner of the house had collapsed. I went, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, Archie! There’s something going on in the kitchen.” 

Close up of corner of the house that collapsed suddenly 15 months after Imelda.

We started pulling the flooring and floorboards away. I marked the wall and it’s gotten much worse since. We just had no idea what the extent of the damage was. 

And now it looks like the window has closed for any assistance. So we’re having to repair this essentially on our own. Insurance will cover some of it, but they’re not going to cover all of it.

Refrigerator resides in front entry hall until repairs to kitchen can be made.

Disabled and Trying to Recover With One Income

Rehak: You’re disabled now? 

Fain: Yes, I can’t work anymore.

Rehak: How has the COVID situation affected Archie’s job? 

Fain: He’s been lucky. They cut him back to forty hours. There’s no overtime, but he’s been very fortunate to keep his job through all this.

Rehak: He’s the sole breadwinner. That has to make doing all these repairs tougher.

Fain: Oh yeah! 

Rehak: Is there anything else around here, besides Colony Ridge, that may have affected flooding?

Fain: Not in our neighborhood. There are no new homes going in at all. It’s been built out for a long time.

Doesn’t Want to Move, But Can’t Afford to Fix

Rehak: If you could sell this house right now without taking too much of a loss on it, what would you do? Would you find another place in the country?

Fain: We’re so close to retirement, we don’t really want to move. But if we did, it would definitely be to a place in the country. And away from anywhere with a hurricane, tropical storm or any of that.

Rehak: Until you’ve gone through a few of them, it’s hard to imagine the destruction.

Fain: Well, I’ve been through two in five years now, Harvey and Imelda. I’d never been through one before.

Rehak: Did this place flood during Tropical Storm Allison?

Fain: No. Archie told me that he could see the trees leaning, leaning, leaning in front. And then he went to the back and he’d see them lean in the other direction. But it didn’t flood.

Rehak: What about during Ike?

Fain: Same thing. Wind, but no water near the house.

Advice to Others

Rehak: If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?

Fain: If you see development going on around you or your neighborhood … get involved. Make sure they understand they’re being watched. If they don’t do things right with their drainage, it could ruin your neighborhood and ruin your home and ruin your life.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/17/2021 based on an Interview with Rosemary Fain and Archie Savage

1237 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The First Responder During Harvey Who Flooded During Imelda

This is the story of a first responder who helped rescue dozens of families during Harvey. His own home later flooded during Imelda. Then he was the one calling for help. But that’s just the start of this gripping story. A house he rented (next to Woodridge Village) had flooded months earlier in May 2019, but Camillo Properties, the management company, said it had not. Within days of moving in last September, it flooded again. And that was after being in the emergency room most of the previous night with his stepson, who was diagnosed with pneumonia. Then the management company sued him for non-payment of rent – which he had paid. You don’t want to stand next to this guy in a lightning storm. Despite all his troubles, though, he says his relationship with his fiancé is stronger than ever. For job reasons, he needs to remain anonymous. I will refer to him only as John.

Rescue of Friend Turns into 12-Hour Marathon

Rehak: You had worked for a fire department in Montgomery County before Harvey. During the storm, you got a call from a terrified friend in the Barrington who was trapped in rising floodwaters. Tell me what happened.

John: Six to eight hours before calling me, she posted to Facebook saying she was in her living room, watching a movie, sipping wine, and “Everything is normal.” Then she called at 2 a.m. asking if I had any contacts who could rescue her.

Every back-channel contact was overwhelmed. So, I went down there in my Jeep to see if I could make it in. When I arrived, it was a lot deeper than I thought. Then a gentleman showed up with a huge aluminum boat – the kind that HFD uses for water rescues. 

He said, “Hey, I’ve got a couple of friends back here, too. Let’s go see what we can find.” This was just before dawn. We got everyone into the boat. Then we started looking and realized, “It’s not just a few people who didn’t evacuate.” There were hundreds upon hundreds back there.

That’s about when rescue organizations started showing up. Eventually, there were dozens of boats pulling people out.

Rehak: How many times did you go back in?

John: I couldn’t say. But I didn’t leave till about four that afternoon.

Rehak: You evacuated people for 12 hours!

John: We had to stop when we ran low on fuel.

Rehak: Could you estimate the speed of the current in the Barrington?

John: No. But I’ll tell you that it got real hairy, real quick, even with a 150 horsepower motor. 

Delayed Emotional Impact and Navigating Hidden Dangers

Rehak: What was it like emotionally as the day wore on?

John: After the fact, it was like…”Holy crap! How many people just lost everything that they had?” But at the time, we were too busy to think about it.

Coast Guard Rescue in Barrington filmed by John during boat rescue.

John: Coast Guard Seahawks were doing hoist rescues in areas boats couldn’t get to. And we were dodging submerged obstacles. We hit a couple of communal mailboxes. Those aren’t typical hazards you think about when operating a boat.

Rehak: Were there any other dangers that made things hairy?

John: Desperate people. Many weren’t thinking clearly. Some families didn’t want to leave, including those with kids.

Rehak: Were they in two-story homes?

John: Yes. But they had no access to resources past the initial push. Food, fresh water, working toilets.

Rehak: It was unsafe.

John: And water was creeping up to power meters. CenterPoint had not yet killed the area.

Rehak: Were there cars under water, too?

John: Oh, yeah. You could barely see the tops of some. 

Rehak: Any other stories stand out in your mind? 

John: Some families with kids had to make decisions about who would get in the lifeboat first and who would stay behind. It was heartbreaking.

“No. No. No. That House Never Flooded”

Rehak: Let’s talk about YOUR flood experience now in September of 2019 during Imelda.

John: We had been leasing an apartment at the front of Kingwood. The lease was coming up for renewal. So, we started looking at houses to lease and found one in North Kingwood Forest. It looked brand new even though the neighborhood was several years old. Looking back, that should’ve been a red flag. 

Camillio owned many properties on the street where John lived. Photo taken 12/22/2019, after homes had been repaired from Imelda on 9/19/2019.

Rehak: What attracted you?

John: It had more space. It was affordable, and there were many young families with kids. We applied, were approved within a couple of days, and set a move in date. As luck would have it, that turned out to be just SEVEN days before Imelda.

Rehak: Your pictures looked as though you weren’t even fully unpacked when the flood hit. 

Still unpacking after move when flood hit.

John: We had only unpacked essentials. And we had just done a big Costco run with cases of water, six-packs of chili, everything you need to stock a pantry. And then…

Rehak: Before you signed the lease, did you ask whether this place flooded before?

John: Unfortunately, we asked just after signing. My dad talked to our neighbor next door when we were moving in. She asked him whether they told us that the house had flooded in May.

View of street from John’s garage during Imelda

Rehak: Surprise!

John: So, I called the landlord and asked, “Did that house ever flood?” I was told, “Oh, no, no, no. That never flooded. Only the other side of the neighborhood flooded.”

8 days after the flood

Relocation to Spring Triggers Landlord Lawsuit

Rehak: Did that become a point of contention between you and the owners?

John: Not immediately. The landlord offered us another place in Spring. It seemed like they were trying to be accommodating. So, I didn’t really call out their lie at the time.

Rehak: What happened later to change your mind?

John: Towards the end of October, beginning of November, we got a letter from them saying that we had not paid our rent at the Spring location. Of course, we had, so I called them and said, “Hey, this is an error.” I sent them copies of bank statements showing the rent payments cleared. We had even paid through their online portal. They said, “OK, we’ll look into it.” 

Fast forward, two weeks later, a Constable serves us with an eviction lawsuit. This was a couple months after losing 70 percent of everything we owned.

Rehak: What did you do?

John: I contacted an attorney friend and he began calling them. They fed him the same line, “Oh, we will need to look into it.”

My attorney called me two days before court and said, “I have not gotten any response from them. We’ll have to go to court.” 

There, we met Camillo’s representative from Nationwide Evictions. We showed her our bank statements. But their paperwork showed only a move in and then nothing being paid. The judge found our evidence overwhelming and ruled in our favor. That was the end of that. But it left a sour taste. 

At that point, I thought to myself, “As soon as our lease is up and we can get away from this management company, we’re going to.” And we did.

Impact on Relationship

Rehak:. You have a fiancé who is a paramedic. How did this affect your relationship? 

John: I tell people, “After two moves in 10 days, on top of a flood, you’re either going to split up or you’re going to last a lifetime. We’re still together! 

Trip to Emergency Room Night Before Imelda

John: To top it off, the night before Imelda, he developed pneumonia. We were in the Kingwood Emergency Room with him until the wee hours. Fast-Forward to 9:30 or 10 the next morning. My fiancé woke me up and said, “We’re flooding.” 

View out front door when John woke up.

Rehak: What went through your mind?

John: I felt this has got to be a nightmare. That’s what she told to me later – that I rolled out of bed half awake and said, “This has got to be a nightmare.” Then I stepped down into water. That woke me up real fast!

Water flowing between John’s house and neighbor’s during Imelda.

From Pneumonia to “Water Park”

John: You’d think my stepson would have been sad or scared. But like a typical 4-year old, he thought it was a freakin’ WATER PARK! I can’t help but think that contributed to his pneumonia. It took him two weeks to get over that. There were a lot of sleep-deprived nights for us. We were mentally drained.

Rehak: So, on top of the flood, you’ve got a sick kid during your second move in two weeks! How did the people at your workplace react?

John: They came together. I have to say. They gave me time off work. They established a “go fund me.” Financially, they took care of us. They did right by us. 

“Start Taking Out Fence Pickets”

Rehak: Tell me more about what happened during the Imelda flood after you woke up.

John: We reached out to family and friends and started stacking things on couches, countertops, anything to get stuff up off the floor. Then we called Camillo and said, “We are actively flooding. What do we do?”

She said to start taking out fence pickets to allow the water to flow around the house versus through the house. That’s when I suspected that they knew this house had a tendency to flood. Otherwise, why would you say, “Take out fence pickets”?

Fence slats removed from neighbor’s house in May 7th flood. Photo taken May 24, 2019.

Water Coming From Back, Not Street

Rehak: Your video shows water flowing quickly from the back yard toward the street. How deep was the water in your back yard?

John: About a foot above my knees. It was that much higher in the back than on the street side. There was sand and silt throughout the house after the water receded. 

Sand and silt in garage as flood receded.

Rehak: That didn’t come from the street. 

House where John lived in relation to Woodridge Village construction in background. Photo taken 7/15/2020. Note fence repairs. Every home in this photo flooded.

John: Nope. There was only one place it could have come from. The 268-acres they had just cleared next to us.

Woodridge Village on 11/4/2019. Arrow shows approximate location of John’s home. In this photo you can feel the slope in the land that funneled water toward Taylor Gulley behind the twin culverts near the far tree line.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/18/2020

1054 Days after 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.

“Sand Mines Destroyed Our Lives”

Randy Reagan is tough. He grew up in the Conroe oil fields and riding bulls. But nothing prepared him for flooding five times in four years and the series of events that followed.

Reagan raised his family on a 5-acre lot in Bennett Estates. That’s a neighborhood between the San Jacinto West Fork and FM1314, just south of SH242. He made a modest living for himself as an oil-field technician by repairing turbines, first for a local company and then for GE. He harvested all the meat his family ate from his own property and the surrounding forests. Life was good.

Built Home Above 1994 High Water Mark

Bennett Estates rises up from the banks of the San Jacinto West Fork through the 100- and 500-year flood plains to even higher ground. Reagan’s slab is a foot above the high-water mark from the 1994 flood, which at the time involved a massive release from the Lake Conroe dam. So he figured he was safe for anything the future brought. Wrong!

Reagan lives between the sand mines east of the river, just above the mine at the bottom, in the aqua-colored 100-year flood plain. Source: FEMA.

A Happy Life, Until…

While Reagan was never destined for riches, he led a happy life. Until the sand mines came. Then everything changed.

Reagan now lives in a neighborhood five blocks deep – sandwiched between three sand mines comprising almost 1500 acres.

Despite being in the 100-year flood plain, his property has only flooded twice from the San Jacinto – in 1994 and 2017 during Harvey. However, in the last four years, he says, it has also flooded four times from sand mines – twice in 2016, once in 2018 and once in 2019 during Imelda.

As the sand mines have grown, they’ve removed forests and wetlands that used to slow water down during rainfalls.

Now the water rushes through sand pits largely unimpeded. While the mines like to tout how they offer detention capacity in storms, aerial photos show that they offer little. That’s because they are often filled to the brim…even before storms. So, it doesn’t take much to make them overflow in heavy rains. 

Water level in LMI Pit to south of Reagan. Photo taken 2/13/2020 during a mild drought shows little room for more water. This is the mine cited by the TCEQ for discharging 56 million gallons of white gunk into the West Fork last year.

Water flows down into the mines from higher ground and quickly fills the pits. The pits can then spill over into the river and surrounding neighborhoods.

LMI Pit to the North Sends Water South into Neighborhood

That’s what Reagan contends happened with the LMI pit to the north of him. 

  • During Harvey, a satellite photo in Google Earth shows the water blew out the mine’s perimeter road, sending water gushing into Reagan’s neighborhood. 
  • During other recent events, Reagan has ground-level photos that show silty, sandy-brown water coming from the direction of the mine, not the river. 
LMI breach into Reagan neighborhood on 8/30/2017 during Harvey. Five HVL pipelines are now trying to repair damage caused when this mine mined too close to them.
The LMI mine to the north of Reagan on Feb. 13, 2020. In heavy rains, there’s little to keep water from the mine from escaping into Reagan’s neighborhood out of frame at the bottom of the photo. Photo taken in moderate drought conditions.

Hanson Pit to South Backs Water Up into Neighborhood

The mine to the south of Reagan affects him in a different way. Twice, says Reagan, the mine has built walls that blocked the flow of ephemeral streams that used to run through his neighborhood.

The mine dug a ditch to the river in 2011 to let the water drain to the river. That worked for about five years. Then the ditch became overgrown and the volume of water coming from the northern mine became too much. Reagan flooded on Tax Day and Memorial Day in 2016, 2018, and Imelda in 2019. Not to mention the 93 inches he got during Harvey in 2017.

Dirt wall erected by Hanson Aggregates between their pond and Reagan’s property. The drainage ditch in the foreground that they dug in 2011 is no longer any match for water flowing south from the LMI mine behind the camera position.

Problems Grow as Sand Mines Grow

“The sand mines have destroyed our lives,” said Reagan. “We’ve lived here all our lives. This all used to be woods for acres and acres and acres. The first problem I had was back in the 90’s when the sand pits were getting bigger.”

“As they started developing more ponds, they started interrupting the natural runoff.”

Randy Reagan

“When we moved here in the late ’90’s, we had our homesite raised four feet. That’s where FEMA drew the line for insurance at the time. We figured if we built higher than the high water mark from 1994, we would never have to worry. Because in 1994, we had Lake Conroe releasing all that water on us.”

“There was another flood in 1998, but it never affected us. We were high and dry here. LMI still had not built the mine to the north of us at that point,” said Reagan. 

“Now we’ve got water coming at us up from the river, downhill from one mine and backing up from another mine. Sand from the mines even blocks the street drains that lead to the river,” said Reagan.

“All this used to be woods back here with natural creeks and natural drainage. It’s just all gone now. These sand pits done tore it out,” said Reagan. “They’re like giant lakes with no water control.”

Memorial Day Flood in 2016 invades Reagan’s shop.
Memorial Day Flood in 2016 nearly invades Reagan’s home. Note color of water. 93″ of floodwater took this home in Harvey one year later.

“In 2016, we got a lot of rain, but the river never got out of its banks much,” he continued. “The people that live next to LMI (on the north) tell me that the LMI walls keep breaking. The water rushes through their property, coming from the sand pit. In 2016, we had milky brown, silty water sweeping through here. It was so swift that it almost took my truck off the road. I got about 20 inches in my garage during Tax Day and Memorial Day storms. But it never got in my home at that point.”

“The Tax Day Flood in 2016 was our wedding anniversary. We tried to celebrate our anniversary while our garage got flooded. That was LMI. And then we got flooded again on Memorial Day. That was LMI,” said Reagan. “In 2016, the river here was NOT out of its banks. We got flooded from the sand pits.” 

“Then came Harvey. We might have been fine if all we got was the rainwater. It came close. But then they opened the gates at Lake Conroe. And the sand mine upstream of us broke loose again.

Floods Cause Cascading Series of Problems

“Not only did we lose our house, I lost my job and I lost my health. We really hit bottom.” 

“I’ve got breathing problems,” says Reagan. “Everybody in our family has breathing problems.” 

“I was still trying to recover from Harvey, the day I lost my job in 2018. I was admitted into the emergency room because of my breathing that same day.” 

“In the meantime, we were living in a used camper. And it caught on fire. We didn’t have insurance on it,” said Reagan. “My mother had just died. So we were going through that grieving process. Then the camper burns!”

Never-Ending Noise and Vacant Homes

“It used to be quiet here,” he says. “The sand trucks used to run during the days, but never on weekends and never at night. Now they run 24/7 it seems.”

The sand mines and floods took more than Reagan’s health and home. When long-time residents fled to higher ground, they left behind vacant houses. He worries about a criminal element coming in now.

During Harvey, Reagan says water reached 93 inches in his shop. That’s above the door frame.
Reagan yard during Imelda. Note color of water…again.

 “We’re living in my shop now. Everything we have left is in there.” 

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/3/2020

917 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 166 since Imelda

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.

Part II: When Is A Detention Pond Not A Detention Pond?

Q: When is a detention pond not a detention pond?
A: When it’s just a wide spot on a stream.

The defining characteristic of a detention pond is an “outfall” smaller than the inlet. The pond holds back rain in a storm and releases it later at an acceptable rate. This reduces downstream flooding.

From the Montgomery County Drainage Criterial Manual

That’s the theory, at least. In practice, sometimes things don’t always work out that way. It often depends on maintenance.

Unrestricted Outfalls

On 2/13/2020, I reported on one Woodridge Forest detention pond on Ben’s Branch that had an outfall LARGER than its inlet. Harvey and Imelda blew out the pond’s outfall.

This week, I discovered that a second pond immediately upstream also apparently has an unrestricted outfall.

Two tributaries of Ben’s Branch come together in the foreground pond. The pond also collects runoff from surrounding commercial and residential areas. Photo taken 2/13/2020.
Water flows toward exit in upper right. Photo taken 2/13/2020.
Note height and width of exit. Photo taken 2/13/2020.

The low area in the picture above measures more than 200 feet wide in Google Earth. That’s far wider than the combined inlets. Net: this pond provides little if any detention capability.

Same Problem with Second Pond

Neither does pond beyond it that I highlighted last week provide much detention capacity.

Note how Ben’s Branch flows both through and around the next pond. Direction of flow is from bottom to top of frame. Photo taken 2/13/2020.
Reverse angle looking NW. Direction of flow is now toward camera. Note how the outfall (foreground) is larger than the inlet. Also note how runoff from residential streets (upper right) is channeled outside the pond. Photo taken 2/13/2020.

Both Ponds Provide Little Detention Benefit, If Any

Both of these ponds provide little detention benefit, if any.

Neither pond has a maintenance road around it, even though Section 7.2.8 of the Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual specifies that “A 30-foot wide access and maintenance easement shall be provided around the entire detention pond.”

Sometimes, what looks like a detention pond is really just a pond. Or a wide spot in a stream.

Recent Surge in Downstream Flooding

During the May 7th and Imelda floods in 2019, water flowing through these ponds then flowed over Northpark Drive and flooded homes in North Woodland Hills. It also flooded numerous homes and businesses downstream on Ben’s Branch between Woodland Hills Drive and the San Jacinto River West Fork.

One wonders whether those damages could have been averted if the ponds had detained water.

As Harris County Flood Control conducts the Kingwood Area Drainage Study, engineers must consider the possibility that this area may be dumping more water downstream than planned.

The Woodridge Municipal Utility District apparently is responsible for these ponds.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/16/2020

901 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 150 after Imelda

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.

Kingwood Storm-Water Line Inspections Update

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced that Kingwood Storm-Water Line Inspections will continue and improve. 

Houston Public Works will inspect junctures more critically. Martin’s office elaborated no further. 

How It Works

“Most inspections already conducted have been clear,” said Martin. “Only a few spots needed debris removal.” The City, he says, addresses areas with debris in the lines prior to moving on to the next neighborhood. They use specialized equipment and “confined-space” personnel to remove the debris. To date, the City has inspected nearly 150,000 linear feet, or approximately 28 miles, of storm-water lines.

Order of Priority

The City has completed Elm Grove, Hunter’s Ridge, North & South Woodland Hills, Bear Branch, Forest Cove, Greentree Village, and Kings Crossing. This week, Houston Public Works started on Kings Point. Houston Public Works now expects to complete one community each week. 

When Public Works finishes in a community, they post photos from their storm-water line inspection to Council Member Martin’s Facebook Photo Albums. If you see Houston Public Works crews conducting an inspection, Martin invites you to please say “hi” and watch how they work.

Houston Public Works has prioritized villages in Kingwood by the number of homes impacted during Imelda. The Department hopes to complete the project by June 1, 2020, weather permitting. 

Working with HOAs to Alert Residents

Prior to Public Works moving to a new Village, Martin’s office will work directly with the affected HOA to make them aware of the impending storm water-line inspection.

How You Can Help Avoid Streets Flooding

Martin encourages the community to participate in the City’s Adopt-A-Drain program. 

Other ways residents can help:

  • Make sure trash cans don’t tip over before pickup.
  • Dispose of yard clippings and leaves properly.
  • Clear gutters before bad weather.
  • Never throw trash down drains or inlets.

Just In Time for Storms Next Week

Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner warns, “Widespread rainfall amounts Sun-Wednesday night look to average 1-2 inches across much of the area.” However, also says we could see totals of 3-4 inches or even higher along and east of I-45 if a surface low tracks over the area next Wednesday.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/7/2020

892 Days since Harvey and 141 since Imelda

Life at Ground Zero in Elm Grove

Nancy Vera and Edythe Cogdill live across the street from each other at the northern end of Village Springs. They moved to Elm Grove to build an idyllic life for themselves and their families. For years, it was a quiet, peaceful neighborhood filled with friends and block parties. Kids played in the streets and rode their bikes to schools on greenbelts. From their front porches, they could look north across the Montgomery County line and see forest laced with streams and trails. Then the bulldozers came. And spring rains. Suddenly, they found themselves at ground zero in a battle with Mother Nature, corporate giants, and a neighboring county that cared more about development than protecting downstream residents from flooding. Each woman flooded twice last year. As I interviewed them together, they shared their thoughts on every aspect of the experience.

Cogdill and Vera live at the tip of this 268-acre clear-cut funnel created by Perry Homes. See white dot for approximate location. Perry still has yet to install 75% of the promised detention.

Rehak: How badly did you flood in May and September?

Cogdill: We had about nine, 10 inches, in May. And 22 inches outside the fence during Imelda, but only 12 or 13 inches in the house. Our fence deflected a lot of water. 

Edythe Cogdill looks with worry at Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village. Her home and camper are behind her. Her home flooded twice last year from Woodridge. She captured the harrowing ordeals on video to share with the world.

Rehak: And Nancy, in May, how much did you get?

Vera: We got two feet.

Rehak: And in Imelda? 

Vera: Three.

Impact of Flooding on Neighborhood and Home Values

Rehak: We walked your block and discussed each house. All but one flooded. And you are the only two original families left. It’s like you’re living at ground zero.

Vera (left) and Cogdill (right) fret about the impact of renters on their once idyllic neighborhood.

Cogdill: Yes.

Rehak: Most of these other houses have sold to investors?

Cogdill: All with the exception of the one that has a brother living in it now. That family has to keep the house because they just bought it last year; they can’t afford to sell. 

Rehak: Talk to me about property values in the neighborhood. 

Cogdill: The house next door sold for $93,000. Our appraisal last year was $214,000.

Rehak: So it went for about half?

Cogdill: Another sold for $105,000. 

Vera: It was appraised before the floods at over $200,000.

Rehak: Again, about 50 percent. Would that be a fair estimate for these others up and down the block?

Vera: That’s what I’ve been hearing. My son’s friend’s house sold for eighty. That’s on the next street over.

Vera: Most people are getting $80,000 to $100,000 now.

Homes on their block seem to have been in a perpetual state of repair since last May.

Rehak: And what would that one have gone for before?

Vera: $160,000 to $200,000 depending on square footage.

Rehak: Still, about 50 percent. 

Vera: Yes. 

Remodeling Right Before Flood

Cogdill: We totally remodeled our house in March of 2018, a year before the flood. All new paint inside and out. Totally gutted the bathroom and redid it. Added a very expensive back porch. And then it flooded. 

Rehak: Did you have flood insurance?

Cogdill: We did.

Rehak: You did, too? (To Vera)

Vera: We did not have flood insurance in May. But I got flood insurance within a week after the first flood. 

Vera’s living room has been reduced to “life with lawn furniture.” She has lived this way for almost a year. She and her husband have so little faith in Perry’s promises to fix Woodridge that they postponed repairs until after hurricane season.

Flood Insurance Experiences in Back-to-Back Floods

Rehak: Talk to me about your flood insurance experiences. You said one of your neighbors had a problem. Even though most of the house was rebuilt after the first flood, they didn’t get credit for that?

Cogdill: The adjuster merged the claims because they did not have their inspection complete before the second flood. They were going to get something out of the second flood, but it didn’t nearly cover the loss. They had to redo everything. And they weren’t reimbursed for everything. 

After the second flood in five months and hassles with insurance adjusters, Vera’s neighbors gave up. An investor bought their headaches for 50 cents on the dollar.

And then they took a $10,000 loss on their camper. They bought the camper to live in after the May flood. They were days away from moving back into their house. And then everything – house AND camper – flooded again in September. So they were upside down. Her insurance gave them $10,000 less than what they owed on it. 

Never-ending Parade of Contractors

Vera: I just want to get everybody out of my house, because every day, every day, every day, somebody is there.

Rehak: You have no privacy anymore?

Cogdill: You have contractors that say, “We’ll be there at 7:00 a.m.” And then they don’t come. Or you might take off work to let someone in and they don’t show. 

Vera: And I had to buy cameras to put in my house, so I can see them. 

Cogdill: The lady with the camper worked from home. And they would pound on her  door every time, “Well, we’re here.” And she would be on a conference call. She just said, “I can’t do this anymore.” They’re gone now.

Managing Repairs and Full-Time Jobs

Rehak: I hadn’t really considered the “time off from work” aspect of all this. Nancy, you and your husband both work.

Vera: He can’t really take off because he’s overseeing a massive construction project. So I’m doing all the taking off.

Rehak: Where do you work?

Vera: I work for an insurance company. We handle benefits for school systems that we sell insurance to.

Cogdill: I was the construction manager on our rebuild. We were completely done with the remodel from the first flood.

Rehak: How long did it take you?

Finishing First Repairs Then Flooding Again

Cogdill: We finished two weeks before the September flood.

Rehak: How did that feel?

Cogdill: I sat down and I cried. It was exactly like the May flood. I was home alone and calling my husband every ten minutes, and then … then when it came in the back door, I just started bawling. And nobody could get home until right before dark. It started like eight o’clock in the morning.

Home Alone in Rising Waters

Rehak: What does it feel like when the water is coming up? 

Cogdill: Everybody’s telling me on the phone, “Do this and do that. Put this up and get the dogs. Be sure you get your medicines. And I’m just looking around like, wow, OK, the dogs are walking through puddles … in the house. We lost our car in the first flood. It was in the driveway.

Postponing Rebuild and Wondering

Rehak: Nancy, after the May flood, you were a little skeptical about what Perry was  going to do. So, you didn’t rebuild immediately. 

Vera: We lived in a house with no walls, nothing all summer. We put up that Tyvek paper on all the walls. So that kinda helped. My house never got too hot. We were lucky; our air conditioning was brand new. It held up when everybody else was losing theirs.

Rehak: So, when the second flood came, you didn’t have demo to worry about? 

The Vera kitchen after two floods, the first without insurance.

Vera: Partially. We had more damage the second time. A lot more.

Rehak: That’s right. You said it went up another foot. When did you make the decision to renovate and why?

Vera: We waited until hurricane season was over. And we said we would try to get it done as soon as possible. I was my own project manager to save money. We’re still on the fence as to whether we should sell and walk out.

I Bought This To Be My LIFE

Rehak: Let’s talk about that. Do you think Perry will sort this out?

Vera: You want to have hope.

Cogdill: You hope that they’re human. You want to keep your home.

Vera: This is my home. It’s not an investment. I bought this to be my LIFE. 

Cogdill: This is where I wanted to raise our kids. That’s the reason I live here. 

Vera: I don’t want to give up hope because in my gut I don’t want to sell my house. But then do you trust that they can fix it after you flooded twice … and you see that they’re not actually out there doing ANYTHING to problem solve?

The Cogdill and Vera families fret over the Perry detention pond that seems to be under perpetual construction. Building additional detention capacity that might help prevent future flooding does not seem to be a high priority for Perry. Meanwhile, they live in a state of perpetual fear.

Cogdill: It’s fixin’ to be, you know, flood season and all that. Why have they not been doing anything? 

Rehak: What would you like to see done out there now?

Cogdill: This is such a hard question because there have been so many things out there that people have said could happen, may happen. The most recent one is to make a 300-acre lake out of it if Harris County Flood Control takes over. But I have worries with that, too. Look at all the places that flood in Harris County.

Vera: Right now, we’re very gun shy about anything. We don’t have the correct answer either, because we’re not experts. All we know is that we don’t want to flood again.

Biggest Fear for Neighborhood

Rehak: Beyond flooding again, what’s your biggest fear for the neighborhood? 

Cogdill: Renters won’t take care of property as much as homeowners. They’re not going to keep up their yards. They’re not going to care about landscaping.

Rehak: Beyond your block, how many homes in this area have flipped or are up for sale.

Vera: Close to a hundred.

Ten homes in a row for lease in North Kingwood Forest by the same company. These are directly across Taylor Gully from Vera and Cogdill.

Cogdill: I would say 40 percent. 

Rehak: How many more homes do you think flooded the second time than the first? 

Vera: About 200 flooded the first time. At least 400 the second.

Living in a State of High Alert

Rehak: What would make you happy at this point?

Cogdill: We just want things back to normal.

Rehak: What do you consider normal? 

Cogdill: Not living with the fear. To have everybody’s homes that have been destroyed fixed, repaired, restored back to the original. 

Cogdill can never escape the fear of living with the development in the background. She worries about flooding a third time before someone fixes the problem.

Vera: Not to worry every time there’s a storm coming. We were up all night last night, even though we were told we were not going to flood again. But everybody was still glued to the TV, because we’re always on high alert. We ARE going to flood again because nobody has solved this problem. What do I want? To NOT live with anxiety all the time. But it’s always there.

Cogdill: I want to get back to a place where everybody is not whining, complaining, or scared. I want everybody’s homes fixed and to say, “Hey, we’re having a block party this month.” I just want to live in a normal community that’s not consumed with fear. 

Accountability and Oversight

Rehak: What role do you see Montgomery County Government playing in all of this?

Cogdill: Montgomery County should be liable. City of Houston should be liable. And once these people start being held liable over this stuff, maybe they’ll stop letting it slip through the cracks. You know, it’s just somebody somewhere along the way pushed a bunch of stuff under the rug. And all of them shut their eyes to it. They all should have been involved. But my understanding is that Montgomery County won’t come inspect it. They have a job. And they should do it. 

Vera: My biggest concern is that I don’t know what we can do about it. And we get a lot of spring rain.  

Running Out of Hope

Rehak: Have you considered raising your foundation?

Vera: It was going to be like close to a hundred thousand dollars to do it.

A never-ending story: Once immaculate lawns and proudly maintained homes have given way to trash piles.

Rehak: Last question. What do you feel about the way Perry Homes has handled this?

Vera: I think they’re sick. 

Such is life at ground zero in the flood zone.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/4/2020 with thanks to Nancy Vera and Edythe Cogdill for sharing their experience

890 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 139 since Imelda

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.

From Drought to Floods: The Decade in Review

Jeff Lindner, the Harris County Flood Control District Meteorologist compiled this Decade in Review. After a very dry start, the decade ended incredibly wet. We started with five years of below normal rainfall (2010-2014). Then rains and floods returned in 2015 and continued through 2019. For the period from 2010-2014, the rainfall DEFICIT for BUSH IAH was -56.70 inches. For the period from 2015-2019, the rainfall SURPLUS was +69.78 inches.

Five Deficit Years…

2010: 42.72 (-7.07)

2011: 24.57 (-25.2)

2012: 43.32 (-7.45)

2013: 38.84 (-10.93)

2014: 43.72 (-6.05)

Followed by Five Surplus Years

2015: 70.03 (+20.26)

2016: 60.96 (+11.19)

2017: 79.69 (+29.92)

2018: 56.02 (+6.25)

2019: 51.93 (+2.16)

The decade featured one of the most significant droughts since the 1950’s across the state of Texas and a series of floods that rivals any period of flooding ever experienced in this state.

Jeff Lindner, Harris County Flood Control Meteorologist

1. Hurricane Harvey (2017)

Harvey made landfall at Port Aransas on August 27, 2017 at 10:00 pm as a category 4 hurricane with 130mph winds producing extensive wind damage across portions of the Texas coastal bend. A maximum wind gust of 132mph was recorded at Port Aransas and 118mph at Copano Bay. Harvey would then meander slowly east-northeast across portions of southeast Texas and the extreme northwest Gulf of Mexico producing record breaking rainfall and flooding.

A maximum total rainfall of 60.58 inches was recorded at Nederland, TX with over 10,000 square miles receiving over 35 inches of rainfall.

Across Harris County, on average 33.7 inches of rainfall occurred, resulting in record flooding along many of the bayous and creeks. In additional inflows into Addicks and Barker Reservoirs resulted in record pool elevations (exceeded Tax Day by 6.0 feet) in both reservoirs and significant flooding of structures located within the flood pools. Water flowed around the north end spillway of Addicks for the first time since the completion of the dams in the 1940’s.  In Harris County alone over 154,000 homes were flooded and statewide over 250,000 homes were damaged from either flooding or wind. An estimated 500,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed.

In the counties of Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, and Tyler upwards of 110,000 structures were flooded which is about 33% of the total number of structures in these four counties.

The highway 96 bridge over Village Creek near Silsbee, TX was completely washed away. In Fort Bend County over 200,000 residents were asked to evacuate due to flooding from Barker Reservoir, the Brazos River, and local drainage issues with some 8,700 homes being flooded. Over 9,000 homes were flooded in Brazoria County and over 7,000 in Galveston County. Many of the creeks, bayous, and rivers in southeast Texas surpassed previously held flood records by several feet.

More than 100,000 residents were rescued across southeast Texas by both government and civilian resources with more than 40,000 sheltered in over 150 shelters.

Over 336,000 customers lost power during the hurricane mainly across the coastal bend from wind related damages, but also in the Houston and Beaumont areas from flooding.

Harvey resulted in 125 billion dollars in damage making the hurricane the second costliest hurricane in American history (behind Katrina 2005). Harvey is the worst flooding event to ever impact the United States and resulted in the highest death toll from a landfalling tropical system in the state of Texas since 1919 with over 68 direct fatalities (36 in Harris County alone).

2. Drought/Wildfires (2011)

One of the worst droughts to impact the state of Texas and southeast Texas occurred in 2011 resulting in widespread mandatory water restrictions, the loss of millions of trees, and significant wildfires. High temperatures during the drought were some of the warmest on record and exceeded the extreme heat of the summer of 1980.

For the period from February 1 to August 18, Hobby Airport only recorded 6.36 inches of rainfall breaking the previous driest record from those dates by 6.25 inches. On August 27, 2011, Houston IAH reached a high temperature of 109 at 2:44pm which tied the hottest all-time temperature from September 4, 2000 for the city of Houston.

Over the Labor Day weekend of 2011, primed vegetation from the drought combined with strong winds of 30-40mph on the western side of Tropical Storm Lee over Louisiana produced one of the most devastating wildfire events in Texas history. The Bastrop fire burned over 35,000 acres and some 1600 homes and is the single most devastating wildfire in Texas history.

The tri-county fire (Waller, Grimes, Montgomery Counties) burned over 19,000 acres and some 100 homes. In September 2011, the statewide PDSI index fell to -7.97 or its lowest values ever, indicating the 2011 drought was nearly as equal in severity as the drought of record in the 1950’s.

For 2011, Tomball averaged a rainfall deficit of over 40 inches. Overall statewide water storage fell to 58.78% at the end of October 2011 and Lake Conroe fell to -8.0 feet below its conservation pool. Lake Travis fell to -54.61 feet below its conservation pool or (34% capacity). 644 jurisdictions across the state were under mandatory water restrictions.

The City of Houston also recorded 47 days above 100 degrees (previous record was 32 in 1980). Huntsville recorded 72 days above 100 (previous record was 43 in 1980). The incredible heat of August 2011 was estimated to be a 10,000 year return event for the City of Houston.

3. Tropical Storm Imelda (2019)

Tropical Storm Imelda formed 15 miles off the coast of Brazoria County and made landfall near Freeport on September 17, 2019. Imelda would slowly drift north-northeast across SE TX during the 18th and into the 19th.

Early on the morning of the 19th an extensive band of heavy thunderstorms producing extreme amounts of rainfall developed from Jefferson County to east-central Montgomery County.

Rainfall rates under this band frequently exceeded 4.0-5.0 inches per hours with a few locations receiving over 6.0 inches per hour.

This band of excessive rainfall drifted south-southwest in Harris County by mid morning. 31.0 inches of rainfall was recorded in just 12 hours at Fannett, TX near the Chambers/Jefferson County line with a storm total of 44.29 inches of rainfall at that site.

The 44.29 inches recorded at Fannett, TX makes TS Imelda the 4th wettest tropical cyclone in Texas history and the 5th wettest in US history dating back to 1851.

A 48-hour rainfall total of 29.1 inches was recorded in northeast Harris County near Huffman with 30.4 inches recorded in southeast Montgomery County near Plum Grove. 6.5 inches of rain fell in just 1 hour over the Aldine area of Harris County.

The resultant flooding in Jefferson, Liberty, Chambers, and portions of northeast and north central Harris County equaled and in some cases exceeded that of Harvey.

While overall storm total rainfall amounts were less than Harvey, the duration (intensity) at which some of the rainfall occurred in certain areas was much greater for Imelda than for Harvey yielding in certain instances areas that would flood in Imelda and not Harvey. 3,990 homes flooded in Harris County alone. Several thousand flooded in Montgomery, Liberty, Chambers, and Jefferson Counties.   

4. Tax Day Flood (2016)

On April 17-18, 2016 a slow moving to at times stationary cluster of thunderstorms producing excessive rainfall rates developed over portions of Waller, Austin, northern Fort Bend and western Harris County. Over the next 12 hours rainfall amounts of 12-24 inches would occur from southern Waller County into portions of western Harris County resulting in extensive and severe flooding.

The flooding resulted in 9 fatalities in Harris, Waller, and Austin Counties (7 in Harris County) with an estimated 40,000 vehicles flooded and 9,840 homes flooded in Harris County alone.

A maximum 14.5 hour rainfall rate of 23.50 inches was recorded in Pattison in southern Waller County with 19.30 inches occurring at Monaville in 10 hours.

Modern day record flooding occurred along Cypress Creek and in portions of Addicks Reservoir (only to be exceeded a year later by Harvey).

Significant flooding occurred along the lower Brazos River, only to be exceeded a month later when 20 inches of rainfall fell near Brenham, TX. Addicks Reservoir peaked at its highest level ever recorded at 102.65 feet (only to be exceed by Harvey the following year).

5. Memorial Weekend (2015)

Devastating flooding impacted the state of Texas over the Memorial Day weekend in 2015. The initial onslaught began with excessive rainfall and resulting catastrophic flooding along the Blanco River at Wimberley where the river rose over 30 ft in less than 3 hours. It reached a peak elevation of around 40.2 ft (flood stage 13ft) and exceeded the previous record of 33.3 ft (an 86 year old record).

The Blanco River at San Marcos rose 17 ft in 30 minutes and over 29 ft in 2.5 hours.

Over 1000 residents were displaced and over 350 homes in Wimberley destroyed and washed away. The storm killed 13 persons including 8 from a single river house that washed away. The Ranch Road 165 and Fischer Store Rd bridges across the river were completely destroyed and the Ranch Road 12 bridge sustained significant damage.

The following day, a line of intense thunderstorms would originate in central Texas and move into southeast Texas and slow over southwest Harris County. A total of 8.0 inches of rainfall would fall in a 3 hour period.

11.0 inches fell in 12 hours north of US 59 and Beltway 8 resulting in extensive flash flooding. The first ever Flash Flood Emergency was issued for Harris County at 10:52pm. There were 7 fatalities in Harris County (4 from submerged vehicles at underpasses).

Statewide a total of 27 people died in flash flooding. Flooding along Brays and Keegans Bayous was the most extensive since September 1983 and along Buffalo Bayou since March 1992 and TS Allison (2001).

A total of 6,335 homes flooded in Harris County and an additional 3,540 multi-family units flooded. Some of the same homes would be flooded a year later with the “Tax Day Flood” and all would flood again during Harvey 2 years later. 

That’s the decade in review! If you weren’t browning, you were drowning. Any time your friends and family in other states start complaining about the weather there, send a link to this page to them.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/31/2019

854 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 103 since Imelda

2019 Weather: Year In Review

Jeff Lindner, Harris County Flood Control District Meteorologist compiled this “Year in Review” summary. My thanks to Mr. Lindner and all the other folks at Harris County Flood Control who work so hard to make us aware of and protect us from extreme weather. On average, we had an extreme-weather event somewhere in the county every other week during the year. Some will be tough to forget.

Only 25 Days of Extreme Weather in 2019

January 1: Widespread dense fog with frequent visibilities under .25 of a mile and several locations recording zero visibility develop just after midnight and lasted into the mid morning hours. Air quality sensors recorded extremely unhealthy levels during this episode due to fireworks smoke being trapped near the surface.

January 19: severe thunderstorms produced wind damage in Wharton and in portions of Galveston County. 

January 23: back edge of ending rainfall mixed with and changed over to light snow/sleet. Some very light accumulation on rooftops.

February 5: Galveston experienced over 24 hours of sea fog.

April 6: several reports of baseball size hail over Houston, Madison, and Brazos Counties

April 7: Large bow echo produced wind damage over much of SE TX. 62mph wind recorded on Galveston Is and 63mph in Brazos County. EF 1 tornado touchdown in Pasadena destroyed one building. Strong winds overturned several travel trailers at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula.

April 13: EF 3 tornado strikes Weches in Houston County killing 1 person with a path length of 15 miles and width of 800 yards. EF 3 tornado touches down in Lovelady, TX in Houston County with a path length of 3.9 miles and width of 100 yards. Damage was significant along the tracks of both tornadoes. These tornadoes were part of a larger outbreak that included the Hearne, TX and Franklin, TX tornadoes. Dime to golfball size hail was reported from Bunker Hill to Spring Branch.  

April 24: Tornado touches down 4 miles east of Bryan, TX producing damage to 1 house and 4 commercial buildings. The tornado was rated EF 2 at maximum intensity.

May 3: EF 2 Tornado strikes LaGrange, TX. EF 0 Tornado in Eagle Lake, TX, EF 0 tornado near Tomball TX. 62mph wind gust at Eagle Point.

First Large Rain in Lake Houston Area

May 7: 10-12 inches of rainfall across portions of Kingwood and Fort Bend Counties leads to flash flooding. Over 400 homes were flooded in both areas.

May 9: 4-6 inches of rainfall in a short period of time across central Harris County led to flash flooding. Baseball size hail damaged several properties on the north side of Downtown Houston

June 5: 9.25 inches of rainfall occurred at Lane City and 7-8 inches in western Fort Bend County. US 59 in both directions was inundated at Kendleton, TX and homes flooded. Flash flooding reported in Wharton, Boling, Bay City and Pledger. 

June 6: 61mph wind gust recorded at San Luis Pass TCOON site. 18-wheeler overturned on I-10 around Columbus due to strong winds.

June 16: 64mph wind gust recorded at Bryan, TX. Glass door blown out of a building on TAMU campus.

June 23: Heat fatality. Child died from being left in a hot car on Bolivar Peninsula.

June 24: 58mph wind gust recorded at Crab lake WeatherFlow site. Lightning strikes caused 2 house fires in western Harris County.

June 25: 70mph wind gust reported NNE of Eagle Point over Galveston Bay.

June 29: 61mph wind gust reported at Galveston North Jetty. Large portions of Bolivar Peninsula were without power.

July 13: Hurricane Barry makes landfall along the south-central Louisiana coast. Impacts to SE TX included elevated seas and tides and a few showers in the western side of the circulation

July 23: a rare summer cool front dropped lows into the 60’s

August 8: the overnight low at Galveston failed to fall below 86 degrees and an afternoon heat index of 117 was recorded requiring a rare Excessive Heat Warning for the extreme coastal areas of SE TX.

August 14: 3 construction workers in Iowa Colony were injured when the house they were working on was struck by lightning. Lightning also struck an apartment complex off Almeda-Genoa Rd resulting in an attic fire that destroyed 1 unit.

The Big One for Everyone

September 17-19: Tropical Storm Imelda makes landfall over Brazoria County and meanders northward across SE TX producing tremendous rainfall and flash flooding. Early on the morning of the 19th an extensive band of heavy thunderstorms producing extreme amounts of rainfall developed from Jefferson County to east-central Montgomery County. Rainfall rates under this band frequently exceeded 4.0-5.0 inches per hour with a few locations receiving over 6.0 inches per hour. This band of excessive rainfall drifted south-southwest in Harris County by mid morning. 

31.0 inches of rainfall was recorded in just 12 hours at Fannett, TX near the Chambers/Jefferson County line with a storm total of 44.29 inches of rainfall at that site. The 44.29 inches recorded at Fannett, TX makes TS Imelda the 4th wettest tropical cyclone in Texas history and the 5th wettest in US history dating back to 1851. A 48-hour rainfall total of 29.1 inches was recorded in northeast Harris County near Huffman with 30.4 inches recorded in southeast Montgomery County near Plum Grove. 6.5 inches of rain fell in just 1 hour over the Aldine area of Harris County. A total of 3,990 homes were flooded in Harris County alone with an additional several thousand flooded in Montgomery, Liberty, Chambers, and Jefferson Counties.  

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 31, 2019

854 since Hurricane Harvey and 103 since Imelda