On Tuesday, May 26, Houston was submerged in water. Rivers crashed over their banks across highways. At least five people were reported dead, and the streets had long lines of abandoned and destroyed vehicles.
Brutal thunderstorms have lifted the body count and several more people have been reported as missing in Texas and Oklahoma over the past several days. Recovery teams continued the search for more people today. The search for bodies and the injured began after the rain caused the river to flow so fast and high that it brought a vacation home from its foundation and into a bridge downriver.
The floodwaters pushed from central Texas to Houston Monday night and Tuesday. Some 10 inches of rain fell overnight. Houston’s public transit system was completely suspended. The Houston Independent School District closed all their schools and offices Tuesday for 215,000 students.
People were warned that the flooding would cause hazardous driving conditions. They were also told that due to the flooded roadways, it would be difficult for emergency crews to get to anyone in need of help.
Witnesses say that sections of Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway, which run parallel to Buffalo Bayou, was a lake. Yesterday morning, several people gathered at the overpass as reports conveyed that they were astonished by the devastation. Images from news broadcast showed areas where muddied water had filled lower roadways to above road signs.
Michelle Blum gave a phone interview on Tuesday about her family’s experience in the Houston outskirts of Meyerland, which was one of the hardest hit areas. The family made it through the storm from their game room above the garage. She told her interviewer that their single story home was flooded by morning. Blum said that the house had three to four feet of water inside and the water outside was flooded to the windows of the family car.
Trent Stephens, 43, gave an account of his experience, saying that he made it to work on time without issue yesterday morning. According to his account, he used an inflatable paddle board to get to his office that was in the middle of the incapacitated Memorial Drive. Stephens is a lawyer and his office is 10 blocks from Buffalo Bayou where water was 8 to 10 feet deep.
Stephens said that he travels to work by way of the paddle board frequently; but his trip down Memorial Drive on Tuesday was different. According to his report, he passed some engulfed vehicles and had to go around them to avoid going over the cars. He also saw another person paddling to work in a kayak.
There were reports that southbound traffic had been redirected off I-45, north of downtown. These reports claimed that there was a long line of 18 wheelers through a neighborhood of old homes and oak trees. A couple of women walked along the trucks offering the drivers bottled water, relayed one witness.
Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston, confirmed two deaths at a news conference. She stated that a body was found inside a vehicle that had been flooded. Another body was found in Braes Bayou, possible drowning. The Associated Press disclosed that three more bodies had been recovered.
According to the mayor, overnight emergency teams enacted 130 high water rescues from vehicles. Once the water recedes, the city of Houston will have an immense clean-up job. There are vehicles to be towed and muddy roadways to clear.
News videos showed waters rising quickly trapping a number of vehicles on I-45. Reports also claim that some drivers were able to pull their cars to the shoulder so that they could flee to higher ground. Accounts from those that witnessed the flooding said that overpasses had become islands as drivers waited for the waters to recede.
Officials of Houston mobilized emergency operations and proclaimed a highest level emergency, the first time since Hurricane Ike. Their account stated that there were thousands of vehicles submerged in water and as the water levels dropped.
Meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, Jeff Lindner, stated that Keegans Bayou reached the highest water level ever recorded. The Braes Bayou was the highest it has been since 1983. He estimated 500-700 homes have been flooded, however, that is believed to be on the low-end.
The aggregate of reports suggest that the places that were the hardest hit were Wimberlery and San Marcos, two towns off the Blanco River and the I-35 corridor that joins Austin to San Antonio. Ciudad Acuna, off the border of west San Antonio, was hit by a tornado that completely took out entire blocks of buildings at sunrise Monday and killed at least 13 people.
The past three weeks have brought both torrential downpours and an end to the five-year Texas drought. A climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska made a statement that 72 percent of the state had experienced drought conditions a year ago. Forty three percent of Texas was under drought condition as recent as three months ago and officials believe it will drop to a single digit percentage this week. Perhaps these conditions could mean the end of the drought in Texas. Once the destruction and devastation is over, officials may be able to better determine the state’s water reserve health.
By Jeanette Smith
NY Times: Floods Bring Death and Destruction to Texas and Oklahoma
Washington Post: Texas flooding overwhelms popular bed and breakfast area
Independent I.E: Floods deepen in Houston After Rain
Photos Courtesy of:
karllehenbauer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Kaleb Flugham’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Brent Ozar’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License