Tag Archive for: Keith Stewart

Stunning New Imelda Images Show Stream of Muck Coming Down Shady Maple From Direction of Woodridge Village

Note: If you have pictures of Imelda that you would like to share, please send them in via the Submissions page on this web site. Remember to identify time, date, location and describe what’s happening in the photo.

Where Shady Maple intersects Rustling Elms in Elm Grove, Melanie Bankston and her husband captured some stunning images on the morning of September 19th as Imelda raged across the area. The images show a distinct zebra pattern in the water rushing down the street. Taken as a series, they indicate that:

  • Shady Maple (the street) initially flooded from pure rainwater, not Taylor Gully or Woodridge Village
  • Later, murky brown, sediment-laden water, streamed down the street
  • Woodridge Village did not contain its stormwater as the law mandates.

Because of the way Shady Maple curves, I’ve included this satellite image for orientation purposes. The red arrow indicates the angle of view in the photos. Bankston shot across Shady Maple toward the bridge on Rustling Elms and Taylor Gully.

At 9:37 a.m.

“At 9:37am that we couldn’t clearly see brown water,” said Blankston.

Video at 9:52

At 9:52 a.m. most of the water in the street is still running clear. Note the speed of the trash can as it floats by. Taylor Gully is in the background. You can see it under the crepe myrtle. Also note how the water in the street is rushing toward Taylor Gully, an indication that the water in the gully was lower than in the street.

By 10:37 a.m.

By 10:37 a.m., murky brown water was coming down Shady Maple from the direction of Woodridge Village, where Perry Homes had clearcut 268 acres without installing detention to hold a hundred year storm. Regulations and permits obligated them to do so. Note the distinct color difference between the rainwater that had been rising in the street and the new invading water.
This closer shot was taken seconds later. In it, you can see how the color of muddy water invading the street matches the color of muddy water in Taylor Gully behind the crepe myrtle. At this point in Taylor Gully, the water came almost exclusively from Woodridge Village.

By 11:25

By 11:25 a.m., Taylor Gully had overflowed. The two streams of muddy water merged and started to displace the clearer rainwater in the street.

Likely Path of Water from Woodridge

Erosion signs, silt fences that were pushed over, a trail of damaged homes, and eyewitness statements indicate that water from Woodridge backed up behind the twin culverts at the county line. At a certain point, the detention ponds started overflowing. That’s when water pushed into the streets of North Kingwood Forest and Elm Grove.

In North Kingwood Forest, the same types of evidence suggest that muddy water entered Right Way, then River Rose Court, turned the corner on Creek Manor toward Taylor Gully then turned again down Shady Maple toward Rustling Elms. There it turned another corner toward Taylor Gully, until the Gully came out of its banks.

Path of muddy water through the streets of North Kingwood Forest and Elm Grove toward the Bankston Home, Rustling Elms and Taylor Gully.

Emergency Evacuation for Second Time in Four Months

Keith Stewart who lives on the corner of Shady Maple and Creek Manor evacuated his family in a canoe toward Ford Road in Porter. He says the current coming down River Rose was so fast, he struggled against it.

Keith Stewart family evacuating Elm Grove on 9.19.19. Stewart had just made the turn from Creek Manor, north onto River Rose. He was struggling against the current while taking this shot. Shown in the picture are his wife Jennifer, son Gabriel, and brother-in-law Ambrose Johnson.

The water also overflowed into several surrounding streets, such as Forest Springs. There, Jeff Miller’s security camera picked up the same sudden surge of silty water.


Aside from the stunning and unusual amateur photography, the content of these images represents yet more evidence that Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors failed to contain stormwater runoff as they were obligated to do by law. Hundreds of families in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest paid for that failure.

The Perry gang had only installed about a quarter of the detention on their site before Imelda. The other three quarters of the rain had to go somewhere else and it did.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/7/2019

769 Days after Harvey and 18 after Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

The Wrong-Way Flood: Keith Stewart Interview

During the afternoon and evening of May 7, 2019, the sky opened up and streets filled up. I counted one hundred and ninety-six homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest that flooded. This was by far the largest concentration anywhere in the Kingwood area. This is the story of one home among them.

I first met Keith Stewart online. He messaged me on FaceBook the night of May 3. He was offshore. His wife was panicking. He said, “A lot of flooding for the brief period of heavy rain in Elm Grove. Was almost as bad as Harvey on my block. What’s going on?”

“Something is Wrong!”

On May 7, he messaged me again. “Didn’t flood for 3 days of Harvey. Something is wrong…something has changed.” He sent this image that his wife had sent him.

Not even a black lab likes this kind of water.

This had to terrify Keith. His family was in danger and he was unable to help. He contacted me when he got onshore and we made arrangements to meet in person.

Stewart lives at the north end of Shady Maple Drive on the corner of Creek Manor. I interviewed him to get his impressions of why he flooded and where the water came from. Neighbors’ accounts confirm physical evidence.

The Wrong-Way Flood

Even though his lot backs up to Taylor Gulley, his home did not flood from there. Instead it flooded from the front. Water rushed down the street TOWARD the gulley and its force knocked over a street-facing fence anchored in concrete.

Stewart points to a broken fence post leaning toward Taylor Gulley in the background. The water came from the camera position and pushed the fence inward toward the gulley.
Leaning fence posts show how the force of water from the front of the house (left) pushed the fence toward Taylor Gulley in the background (right). Camera is facing south.

As we talked, we stood on the east bank of Taylor Gulley looking toward the 260+ clear-cut acres to the north that comprise the soon-to-be Woodridge Village. We can see where constrictions in the flow of the gulley likely split runoff and forced it out of the creek.

The Woodridge Village area is in the background. Eyewitnesses, grass patterns, debris, and erosion suggest that these two outflow control devices, in the absence of detention ponds behind them which had yet to be built, split the runoff and diverted it into adjacent neighborhoods.

No More Wetlands

Rehak: Tell me what this property to the north looked like before it was clear cut.

Stewart: All that acreage that has been clearcut… When we moved here two years ago, I bought four wheelers for me and my son. That’s where we rode four wheelers. And no matter how dry, or how much of a drought, or how hot it was in the middle of the summers, back there, you could always find water. It was low. It was always swampy and stagnant water back there.

If we wanted to get wet and a little muddy, no matter how dry it was, we could ride the four wheelers back there.

Rehak: Now when you say back there, there are two sections: the northern and southern. Are you talking about one or both?

Stewart: There were four wheeler trails on both sides: the north AND the one closest to Elm Grove. But a lot of woods were torn down and there’s no standing water back there any more. So they’ve built everything up apparently. There are no swampy areas anymore.

Flood Did Not Come from Taylor Gully

Rehak: How high did the water in this ditch get relative to the top of the bank?

Stewart: I was offshore, but pictures show that it got to the top of the bank. I was comparing it to Harvey. My neighbors who have lived here for 30 years say the water has never even gotten Taylor Gulley three-quarters full. It was three-quarters full during Harvey at its peak…after three days of solid non-stop rain. My neighbor said that Taylor Gulley has never come close to overflowing in his experience. He said, “That’s not the direction water will come from if we get it.” He said, “It will come from a different direction.”

Never Flooded Before Despite Living Next to Taylor Gulley

Rehak: Was your wife home during the May 7 flood when you were offshore?

Stewart: She was at jury duty downtown. And when she got back to Kingwood, she had to pick up my high school kid. We had two dogs and two cats in the house. She thought, “As long as I can make it home, we’ll be OK. We don’t flood here. Never have. Never will … uh … until now. During Harvey, we watched it for three days and it never got close.”

Rehak: How are the dogs and cats?

Stewart: They’re physically OK, but a little distraught. We’re looking for a place to live and it’s hard to find someone that will take four animals. We don’t want to put them in kennels.

Rehak: Where are you living now? You mentioned something about going house to house. Staying with friends?

Stewart: Family members.

Rehak: What do you see as your future here? (Note: I’m thinking 5-10 years out. His answer surprises me. He’s still in shock and dealing with the crisis moment to moment.)

Stewart: I have ten days to see what I can get done here before I have to go back to work offshore. So I have to try to get everything set up for my family before I leave. And my high school kid is going through finals right now.

Rehak: Finals! What a rough ride for him!

Stewart: He’s in ROTC and his uniform got flooded. I just took that to the cleaners. But hopefully that will get straightened out for him.

Stewart worries about his insurance payout and has stacked damaged items he may be forced to salvage “if the numbers don’t work out.”

We walk toward his house from Taylor Gulley and I ask him about the furniture he has piled on his side deck. Pointing to the sinks and countertops, he says…

Stewart: We don’t know what the insurance numbers are going to be yet, so I’m keeping some damaged stuff in case we’re forced to salvage it.

What’s left of the Stewart living room.

Rehak: How much water did you get in the house?

Stewart: Nine inches. And the Friday rain before that … remember I messaged you and said somethings wrong … it came up higher than Harvey!

Remnants of a bedroom. Note how floor and walls on right are still wet.

The satellite image below shows the direction of flow described by Stewart. A neighbor told him the water flowed out of River Rose Drive and down Creek Manor toward his house. He did NOT flood from an overflow of the gulley.

As we were talking, two workers from City of Houston Public Works were checking street drains for blockages. They invited us to see what they saw on their camera. Mounted on the bottom of the pole, it sent a wireless image back up to the iPad that the woman was holding. Stewart is on the left.

The camera showed a trickle of water at the bottom of an otherwise clear drain. Conclusion: blocked drains did not cause the Stewart home to flood.
Regardless of where the water came from, it could be weeks to months before Stewart’s home dries out enough to start replacing wallboard and insulation.

Crowdsourcing Some Detective Work

Stewart always thought that if he flooded, it would be from Taylor Gulley. But something changed. The flood came from the wrong direction. The same thing happened on the opposite side of the gulley. You can see Abel Vera’s home on Village Springs from Stewart’s back yard.

Vera found flood debris plastered to the inside of his fence, but none on the gulley side. Like Stewart, Vera flooded from the street.

Video on Village Springs shows water rushing out of the clearcut area to the north down the street. But I am not yet aware of comparable video or still images from North Kingwood Forest showing whether water came from the clear cut area.

Please Help

Did floodwater come from BEHIND the homes on Right Way and make its way down to River Rose? Please help fill in the gaps in our collective knowledge of this event. If you have any images or video that shed light on this subject one way or the other, please contact me through this web site. I will post the material and credit you.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/22/2019

631 Days since Hurricane Harvey