How’s Bayou? Not So Well, Thanks for Asking.
There is something fishy and smelly (literally and figuratively) going on with the bayous these days.
Before the flood, the bayou was a place to ride my bike, watch wildlife, and see other neighbors walking or biking.
Bayous before the flood evoked John Fogerty songs and Linda Ronstadt songs that I sang along to without knowing they could cause destruction.
Before the flood, bayous kept water in, not the opposite.
As many of you have been reading, we flood victims in Houston of the Memorial Day Flood, that impacted 4000 residents in my area of town, and decimated my beautiful neighborhood, are grieving for our lost homes and possessions. We are grieving for the safety and comfort as we previously knew it in our area of town, is gone now. We are grieving being homeless and displaced, living in strange quarters, or shells of our former homes.
Part of that grief process as I already wrote about in a previous blog is anger. The anger rises within us when we least expect it, kind of the way the water rose in our homes when we least expected it.
There are a huge number of homes that never, ever flooded from the bayou before – particularly in my neighborhood north of the bayou. I was just consoling a woman in her mid 80’s who lived in a house about fifteen paces away from me who has never flooded in the 40 years she has lived in that home. She planned to reside there permanently, but her plans had to change now.
40 years of comfort, living without a flood. 40 years of development around her. However many years of work on the flood management system in Houston. However many years of improvement to the bayou with retention basins added, flood gates and the like. All for naught.
It was a weird event that evening of the flood. The weathermen weren’t shouting at us to evacuate. The city didn’t warn us. The rain kept coming and before long, entire neighborhoods were under water. And most strange is the feeling that it should not have happened, that something in the infrastructure went very wrong to have this occur.
Chris Bell, a politician here and current candidate for mayor is demanding an investigation. Here’s a link to a story. There are many of us whose anger is mainly directed at the City of Houston and at the Harris County Flood Management District. They aren’t doing their jobs properly to protect us. They left us vulnerable. They allowed neighborhoods to be destroyed.
I remember the outrage at Katrina. Well, I feel something of the outrage on a more minor scale going on around me in that victims want answers to the above, and they have not been forthcoming. In the meantime, government is trying to make it difficult to rebuild, to get on with our lives.
My husband posted this: “I think that the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has FAILED MISERABLY and I am calling for the directors to resign. They were created to accomplish one thing, KEEP THE CITY FROM FLOODING. Pretty obvious they’ve failed and should all step down so some competent leadership can fill the roles they’ve failed at. Elon Musk started SpaceX years after the HCFCD was created. He now sends rockets into space and delivers supplies to the International Space Station. And in a far longer existence, the HCFCD hasn’t been able to figure out how to have water flow from west of the city to the ship channel. What a bunch of total losers. I ask for everyone to call for all of them to resign.”
There are rumors that funds were diverted from the bayou project to something else during the drought years. There are rumors that flood gates were closed in the medical center, which pushed all the water out to us. There are rumors that the work that was promised to be done after Tropical Storm Allison (2003) still hasn’t been completed.
The reason rumors are so rampant is because there are no answers. No one will speak to this, answer questions, investigate it properly. I laud Chris Bell for wanting an “outside” agency to investigate, because personal “Katrina” of ours should not have happened. We all know that.
It was odd, right before the scare of Tropical Storm Bill, after the Memorial Day Flood, an intersection was flooded up to the pavements again, just a half mile down our street or less after a 30 minute rain storm. We used our teamwork and voices to demand attention to that drainage area, never cleaned or attended after all the nearby homes and businesses there flooded. The crew found backups and silt and other issues and spent two days addressing the issue because we yelled and screamed to the right political people. Otherwise, any ordinary rain would have flooded that area again.
Likewise, there are probably areas like that all over the stretch of the bayou that need attending that have not been fixed. There is storm debris, garbage, remnants of peoples homes, silt, and all kinds of things blocking the flow of water. You would think politicians would prioritze that task after our “Katrina” but they have not.
Addendum and Update: Here’s what one astute reader and Meyerlander researched and found out:
Cory Giovanella To elaborate on what my wife, Carley Giovanella was saying, I went to the Harris County Flood Warning system’s website. There are sensors on the bayou measuring the height of the water. You can see both real time and historical data. There is a sensor at Rice & Braeswood. I pulled up the data from the night of the flood and throughout most of the time it was raining, the bayou level rose pretty steadily, but between 9:45 and 10:30, the bayou rose ELEVEN inches. From 10:30 – 11:30, it rose 5.5 inches and from 11:30 – 12:30, it rose 3 inches. No matter how hard it was raining, I find it very difficult that the bayou could go up 11 inches in 45 minutes solely from rain and run off. I have seen several postings about reports coming out soon from the city/ county and from people at Rice University. I look forward to reading what they have to say. (thanks to both!)
We demand answers AND attention to this problem. As we begin cleanup, we demand that the city and county clean up its act of inaction and silence and give this problem the attention it deserves.