When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25 between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, as a Category 4 storm, Houstonians braced for the worst – and yet the massive rainfall which flooded thousands of homes was a shock. A year later, residents are still wary, and wondering how future damage can be prevented.
For many, it’s not their first go-round.
Karen Goodwin remembers riding her bike in the dark clouds down the streets of Oak Forest before the rain and wind of Hurricane Carla. “[I remember] losing electricity, using candles in the little tin pans pot pies came in, reassuring my dog and seeing my parents keep their composure as the storm took down trees around us.”
Still, she said nothing prepared her for Harvey.
“We ended up with four and a half feet of water in our home, [and] had to be rescued by boat,” said Goodwin, who now lives in Norchester on Cypresswood between Jones Road and 249.
“We just got back into our home in June and are still trying to get unpacked and settled. The first few storms we had when we were back in our home, all I could do is sit and cry, shake, and fear the rain. Gradually it got better. I still get nervous but it’s getting better each time. With the upcoming bond election, you bet I’m going to vote for it as well as my husband and family.”
“I’m completely traumatized and still grieving the loss of most of my photos, slides, artwork and personal writings of 50 years,” said artist Kiki Neumann, who lost much of her work in a flooded storage unit off of 43rd Street. “It’s painful to think of all that history I had carefully boxed and had in storage – and placed on top of everything else – now lost since the whole storage unit flooded.
“It’s getting old,” said Donna Woodard Smith. “I’ve flooded two times in Shady Acres in 21 years, my parents have flooded six times in the Inwood Forest area in 53 years and we’re tired of losing everything we own. Something has got to be done in Houston about this.”
Oak Forest’s Emily Zihlman said that she loved that she has her home repairs done but doesn’t like what happened to her insurance premiums.
“My flood insurance went from $400 to $2,400,” she said. “We don’t even live in a flood zone.”
Heights resident Alison Schmieder says she’s coming to the end of a long rebuilding process – which she wouldn’t have anticipated a year ago.
“While we thought we were safe in the Heights and did not flood, Harvey revealed that our home was built 18 years ago without properly installing or sealing any of the windows,” said Schmieder. “Our walls were rotten. During the storm we had a water blister near the fixture in our dining room on the first floor from water coming in our east wall. The ‘Adventure with Insurance and Contractors’ that ensued is only now drawing to an end.”
Some in the area lost their homes and left their neighborhoods for good.
“No way a year ago would I thought we would have moved from our home in Candlelight Forest to the East End of Houston, just blocks away from Minute Maid Park,” said Amber Ambrose. “After flooding two times in less than a year and half, we knew we couldn’t handle it emotionally or physically. We were fortunate to be insured, to get the house fixed in a reasonable amount of time, put it on the market and sell it before insurance went way up on flood policies in the area. But we felt forced out, and almost like we didn’t have a choice. [We] ended up in a great place that we truly love, just not in the way we would have chosen.”
That sentiment is echoed by Adam Blumberg, who had a house in Meyerland and watched the storm from afar in Colorado during what was supposed to be the family’s vacation.
“We had 20 inches of water in the house,” he said. “Our entire life was thrown out in the front yard.”
A friend who was a realtor and knew that Blumberg and his wife had been talking of moving before the storm told him that if he wanted to get out of the neighborhood, he should do so before there were a glut of properties on the market. By mid-September, Blumberg put his house on the market as is and moved to a rental in Garden Oaks before buying a house in the neighborhood.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to do it,” said Blumberg. “But we love the neighborhood and the people are really nice.”
Timbergrove Manor was a hard hit area and resident Courtnie Hays said that it has been quite the whirlwind of emotions.
“It’s the typical shock and awe when you lose everything, and worry when you don’t know what exactly you’ll do and then the normal contractor issues,” Hays said. “However, being back home has brought a newfound respect for our home. It was a great opportunity for us to take our 1950’s home down to the studs, replace HVAC, electrical and plumbing and open up the floor plan.”
“It feels like it can’t possibly be coming up on a year but at the same time seems like ages since it happened,” said Samantha Anderson. “We’ve moved twice since the storm and are finally feeling a sense of normalcy again.
We knocked our home down and are completely rebuilding so we are excited, nervous, anxious and grateful.
We’ve really bonded with our other flooded neighbors while going through this process and it makes us glad to be a part of such a wonderful community.”
Ashley Mudder says that residents are trying their best to change the way things are being done by way of development around Timbergrove Manor.
“There are a few of us who are working hard to ensure the City of Houston has a plan and solutions in collaboration with the County to utilize funds to prepare for our future and prevent future flooding,” she said.
“It’s been a long road and we are nowhere near the end of the tunnel but it’s absolutely progress.”