[polldaddy poll=9440524]A torrent of stormwater this spring has caused extensive damage to area schools, homes and businesses. The April storms caused Klein and Spring ISDs to close for a full week; businesses were closed and major thoroughfares were deemed impassable.
On April 18, the Harris County Flood Control District reported storms were producing up to 16 inches of rainfall. Cypress, Spring and Willow creeks were spilling past the banks and onto area roads, HCFCD’s Public Information Officer Kim Jackson said.
“The county received—particularly in the northwest and west parts of the county—between 14 and 18 inches of rain,” she said. “Some of it flooded because of the rain itself, and then the creeks ran high and caused the flooding in the structures.”
The more recent storms in May affected Spring and Klein homeowners and businesses with more flooding. On May 28, 3.56 inches of rain fell at Cypress Creek and Stuebner Airline Road, and another 6 inches fell on June 3.
Effect on schools
Klein ISD reported water damages in 23 classrooms from the April 18 flood, including $3 million to $4 million in damage at Klein Collins High School, said Robert Robertson,
Klein ISD associate superintendent for facilities. Students missed five days
of school following the storms.
The greenhouse roof and contents were damaged by a pole penetrating the roof of the building at Klein Collins, said Judy Rimato, associate superintendent for communications for KISD.
“All in all, the district was very fortunate that the damage was not more extensive and no school suffered flooding from rising waters,” Robertson said.
All of the interior work is completed, and final drywall finishing and painting will be done after school is out, he said. The district has insurance and has filed a claim for the damage.
At Klein Forest High School, another $10,000 in damage occurred to the baseball field fence, Robertson said. The fence is awaiting final insurance determinations, Robertson said.
While the district was closed for one week, Spring ISD schools and facilities did not experience any major damage, SISD Director of Communications Karen Garrison said. The district reported minor issues, such as wet carpet inside doorways and minor roof leaks in temporary buildings.
Damage to businesses
Several Spring businesses and homes were affected by the flooding, and some remain closed as repairs continue. Atria Cypresswood, an assisted living and memory care facility on Cypresswood Drive, remains closed because of extensive damage. The community evacuated 46 residents, said Abby Figueroa, regional vice president of Atria
Residents were transported temporarily to hotels, and the majority have since been relocated to Atria’s sister communities, with some residents opting to stay with family, Figueroa said. It is due to reopen this summer.
Several businesses in the shopping center on Stuebner Airline Road across from Cypress Creek were hit hard by the storms as well. The storm caused the water to rush past the concrete
5-foot sidewalk at Eden’s Cafe on Stuebner Airline Road and into the restaurant, causing $60,000 in damage, owner Ulises Larramendi said.
“Tuesday [April 19] it kept raining, and it went in about 2-3 inches,” Larramendi said. “That’s enough water to destroy all the drywall, sheetrock [and] my wood floor. Some of the furniture was damaged, but we had a lot of the chairs on up the table, so that saved some stuff.”
Larramendi said he has flood insurance, but he never expected a flood this consequential to occur, so his deductible is high to keep the premium cost low. He also lost any money he would have received in the course of business during the four weeks he was closed.
In the same shopping center as Eden’s Cafe, Mellow Mushroom reopened after being closed for two weeks, and Sun & Ski reopened after 10 days.
“The good news is we only took in 2 inches of water,” said Brad Sondock, president of The Retail Properties Group, which owns the shopping center. “The bad news is that any water you take in is a disaster.”
Sondock has owned the properties for eight years and renovated the property—installing a 5-foot-high sidewalk—to protect it from flooding. He said the floods, which damaged many homes in the surrounding area, could deteriorate the quality of the community.
“They really need to look at doing something about creating more water capacity in the Cypress Creek area,” he said.
Spring Gardens Nursery on Gosling Road, next to Willow Creek, reported at least $2 million in damage, owner Richard Gieseke said.
The nursery was closed for a week and lost $100,000 worth of sales, he said. Gieseke, who has owned the business since 1993, said flooding like this has not happened before. He attributed the floods to increased development, including the Grand Parkway.
“It’s going to happen again,” he said. “What they said about it being a
500-year flood—they changed that to a hundred-year flood. Well, it will be a five-year flood.”
Land development, preservation
The gradual conversion of wetlands to concrete over the past decade may have had a significant effect on the rainwater absorption rates during the April storms, said Jennifer Lorenz, the former director of the Bayou Land Conservancy who stepped down in April.
“When you develop the land and you put in concrete, you have an impervious surface with immediate runoff,”
The preserved areas are located and designed with flooding in mind, said Jim Robertson, chairman of the Cypress Creek Greenway Project.
“As part of the effort within the Cypress Creek Greenway Project, we are seeking to preserve the undeveloped and mostly forested corridor within the floodplain along Cypress and Little Cypress creeks,” he said. “The preserved areas and parks functioned as they should during the flood event and were submerged under several feet of water.”
To prevent further disasters, HCFCD sends out crews immediately after storms to assess damages and identify neighborhoods affected, Jackson said. The agency looks at bayous and creeks to see what damage was caused.
“During that process, we look to see ‘Hey, is there something we need to tweak—is there something that we’re learning because of these last two floods?,’” she said.
HCFCD’s master plan for the county includes billions of dollars worth of projects to prevent flooding throughout the county. The district was recently given $60 million in bond funds from the proposition that passed in November, while the Capital Improvement Program for 2015-16 provide $60 million for projects and studies throughout the county, including several within Precinct 4.
Many of the Precinct 4 projects include feasibility studies for flood risk reduction. In addition, the county has implemented a Cypress Creek Overflow Management Plan for $2.2 million for the Cypress Creek watershed. A plan was completed for the project in 2015, and HCFCD is considering the next steps before beginning construction.
HCFCD plans to widen the channel between North Eldridge Parkway and Huffmeister Road just west of Spring.
“The outcome will be that it will take more water away from the neighborhoods when there’s a heavy rainstorm,” she said.
Jackson said a basin already exists near the project that will hold the backwater. When the creek gets high, the water will overflow to the basin, she said.
“The two in combination will take the potential flood waters away from the neighboring community,” Jackson said.
For all precincts in Harris County, HCFCD has slated projects to create wetlands and acquire land.
She said the district has partnered with the city of Tomball for flood mitigation for Willow Creek and is focused on flood plain preservation for Spring Creek.
Programs to help homeowners are in place, such as grants that allow people to elevate their homes to current standards, Jackson said. The district also has a buyout program called Voluntary Home Buyout, which was instituted in the ’90s. The district has bought nearly 3,000 homes regularly affected
“With all of the projects, basically it’s based on years of studies and knowing how all of the creeks and bayous run,” Jackson said.
Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj