Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Flood of 1994

I was 26 years old in October of 1994. My son had just turned 2 and I was engaged to my current husband. My ex- and I shared visitation every other weekend. It was his weekend when it started to rain. We had little food in the condo I owned in Crosby but I spent most weekends with my fiancĂ©, who lived in Woodforest. We heard the weekend was to be a rainy one so we went to the store for food for several days and rented movies. This was the days when VHS and VCR’s were king. The movies were always 1st come, 1st serve so you had to be there early on Friday afternoon (before 6pm) to get the new releases. It not only rained that weekend but for days and everything started to flood. It came within inches of flooding my fiancĂ©’s house and it was on a hill. We were so crazy in love with each other we didn’t even notice much. His aunt told us about “the San Jacinto River blowing up.” The truth was that a gas pipeline was moved by the flooding and the leak erupted into flames. It was on the news and you could see the smoke billowing for miles. The news also said we received over inches of rain in our area in 4 days. All the rain caused the flooding since it rained faster than it could drain off. The rain was not a tropical disturbance. The insurance companies had to pay tons of claims and after that they called the places that flooded the 100-year flood plain meaning that these areas only flood once or twice every 100 years. They sent surveyors to decide who lived in flood areas. Those in flood areas insurance doubled. Some areas had FEMA buy out their houses. This had a lot of people fuming mad. FEMA only pays 40 cents (if that) on the dollar. So if you paid $100 thousand for your house FEMA gives you a check for $40 thousand and tells you to start packing. The insurance companies wouldn’t pay claims on FEMA buy-outs and the houses were condemned as uninhabitable. Today, over 15 years later you can find among the weeds and overgrowth concrete foundations where houses once stood at McClelland Sorters Road off of Highway 59. The subdivision was built too close to the San Jacinto River. The developers and the permit folks didn’t care. The victims were the people with mortgages to pay in a house that you couldn’t live in and couldn’t sell. The mortgage companies came after those people for the difference they owed. I’ve never heard of anyone’s mortgage being “forgiven.” It could have happened but I never heard about it. In Houston it’s not a matter of where you live if it will flood. It will flood eventually. The city was built up to sea level in the late 1800’s to provide drainage but rumor has it that time has eroded all of that. City Hall and the Harris County Emergency Management (HCEM) are always trying to figure out solutions to the drainage and flooding problems. Most solutions are too expensive or just won’t work so for years there have been tons of ideas. There are also tons of groups protesting them no matter what they do.

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