“I actually looked inside and asked myself if it was OK to open the door,” Decker said. “I was afraid the water was going to rush in. Then it was ‘Nancy, you're so stupid. The water is already here.’ I don't know what I was thinking.”
Decker’s second thought was the absolute stillness. After spending 17 years working with the Cypress Creek Foundation for the Arts and Community Enrichment, Decker—now the organization’s executive director—had been in and out of The Centrum at all hours of the day. However, this was the first time there was no air conditioning running and no street noise—just silence.
“That was the first sort of chilling feeling like, ‘Whoa, something's really going on,’” Decker said.
This August marks the five-year anniversary of Harvey. While the properties impacted may no longer show any visible damages, many business owners and nonprofit leaders in the Cypress Creek Cultural District—a hub of arts and entertainment activities for the Cypress Creek community—will always remember what happened during that storm.
The Cypress Creek watershed total was 29.3 inches of rainfall over the four-day storm, according to the Harris County Flood Control District. This resulted in many of the structures along Cypresswood Drive in Spring to be completely flooded.
For Hasta La Pasta owner Alan Smith, Aug. 27 will always be significant because it is his birthday.
Upon returning home that day in 2017, his wife suggested he move the van to the front of the lot. Smith was confident the shopping center would not flood but still moved the van to appease his wife.
“I said, ‘In the worst-case scenario, we might get a little water in the back,’ and so I moved [the van] out front and only to find out about the next day people are streaming Facebook videos from jet skis and rowboats and stuff in front of my shopping center,” Smith said.
Hasta La Pasta had 3 feet of water inside. The interior had to be totally redone and all the kitchen appliances replaced. With the help of many loans and grants, Smith said the restaurant was officially able to reopen in March 2018.
“I would say the uplifting part, if you want to call it that, was how much positive energy and positive support we got from the community,” Smith said.
To this day, Smith claims customers are still happy to see businesses surviving post-Hurricane Harvey. Smith recalled a group of customers a few days ago that personally thanked him for still being open.
“I thought to myself, ‘That was like five years ago, but it's in their memory,’” Smith said. “It's in there, you know, since we've been around long enough and are part of the community.”
Recovering from Harvey
To better prepare for another hurricane situation, the restaurant now has flood insurance. Smith said he trusts that the community is also better prepared now with more flood mitigation projects.
“The Houston Northwest area has taken some very strategic and positive strides towards preventing another event like this,” Smith said.
Other organizations that had flood damage, such as the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts and the Barbara Bush Branch Library, were able to reopen in 2018. However, The Centrum did not reopen until spring 2021.
Decker said this posed an issue as Cypress Creek FACE ran all of its performances through The Centrum. For four years, Cypress Creek FACE had to resort to other venues. The first year after Harvey, Decker said Cypress Creek FACE was holding performances at eight different venues, ranging from local high schools to churches.
After being forced to relocate, Decker said the organization is now more comfortable hosting artists at locations outside The Centrum.
“It opened us up to the idea of being a community arts center and community arts presenters really focusing on what can we give to the community, what can we provide them, not just focused on what can we put in that building, what can we present in that building,” Decker said.
The organization recently announced its 26th anniversary season, which will begin Oct. 8. While the Star-Lit and Promenade Series will be held at The Centrum, the Free Children Series will be held at the Mangum-Howell Community Center.
The Barbara Bush Branch Library took eight months to officially reopen in May 2018. According to Branch Manager Clara Maynard, Harvey’s effects were purely physical. Library officials have since learned to house their air conditioning units on a raised platform and no longer keep books on the bottom shelves.
With the help of the community, Maynard said Barbara Bush Library Friends was able to raise $100,000 to replace children’s books ruined by stormwater.
“It was inspiring to see everyone work together,” Maynard said.