Comment of the Day: Where Houston Stayed Underwater After the Memorial Day Flood

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE HOUSTON STAYED UNDERWATER AFTER THE MEMORIAL DAY FLOOD Flooded Home“Was there ever any kind of press writeup on why so many homes in Meyerland did not come back from this last flood? I’m saddened by all the vacant lots, and on some streets off Endicott, there are clusters of teardowns. Was insurance plus flood insurance essentially useless for all of those homeowners? Or was it the new city building requirements? Genuine questions, because I’ve been in the area 30 years and this [flooding] seems to have been so much more devastating than Allison (and Ike).” [Heather, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: As Is, Where Is] Illustration: Lulu

20 Comment

  • There are three reasons that I have seen over and over. 1.) the requirement for raising the building if the repair cost is 50% or higher of the property value. 2.) Some original, older homeowners may not have the energy or cash flow to repair, and 3.) Some other homeowners have flooded a couple of times including Allison and have given up on the location.

  • @Heather – Here is the article I read (hopefully, you can see this; I think it’s behind the Chronicle’s pay wall). Many of the flooded homes – if they are to remain intact – will need to be elevated in order to meet new flood codes, and many people in Meyerland cannot afford that (lots of retirees on fixed incomes). It apparently costs at least $100,000 to elevate an existing home, and this is not covered by flood insurance.

  • Many people simply took buy-outs from developers for lot value and then used their flood insurance payout to combine with the proceeds from selling their property to purchase a new home – elsewhere. It’s really sad how the city of Houston has operated in this manner. Meyerland used to be a historically Jewish enclave and now it seems like that has been weakened considerably by corrupt Houston mayors in the past who won’t enforce building codes that prevent the flooding of historic neighborhoods. The democratic mayors have had plenty of help from crooked republicans also. It’s a big bi-partisan money grab.

  • The flooding in this area was much worse than during Allison and Ike. We helped elderly friends clean up who were forced to move out by this flood because they couldn’t handle everything involved with the remediation process. Their house had never flooded anywhere near this badly. Their lot has value, but I wouldn’t waste any money renovating. Raising the foundation ~4 feet would be necessary. Building new and building higher will ultimately be a better use of money for the kind of new construction owners that area has been attracting the past 10-15 years vs gutting a 60 year old home.

    There is a local theory that the completion of the willow waterhole project may prevent future storms from hitting this hard, but I’m not sure whether that’s just wishful thinking.

  • Marmer, it’s actually 50% of the value of improvements which is far lower than 50% of property value. The people I’ve met simply didn’t want to go through it again or worry every time some big rain event is predicted.

  • The strict re-build requirements are mandated for any community participating in the flood insurance program. Houston of course participates in this FEMA program. Most of these houses did have flood insurance and will get a payout however most of these policies are being subsided by the federal government. The idea for mandating elevating or teardown at 50% damage is overtime these homes deep in the floodplain will be removed and stop draining the FEMA budget… Most of these people are not paying actuarial insurance rates which could be over $10,000 a year. Typically these older homes are grandfathered in at cheaper rates no private company would ever give (and is also why no private company could ever compete with FEMA).

    Also this flooding was more devastating than Ike and Allison to Meyerland because it rained harder and faster over this area than it did during those other storms.

  • Floodee; How could it be “corrupt politicians” that are at fault? If someone builds a home where it floods, isn’t that on them? And what does any of this have to do with it being a jewish enclave? Did the floods change that or building codes change that? I don’t understand where that comment fits in with your point.

  • Cody – the neighborhoods that flooded didn’t until new box stores were put in that added millions of pounds of impermeable concrete but no place for the water to go except on people’s homes. These developers finance most city hall candidates though they didn’t finance bill king who seemed to get the issues

  • Meyerland has been flooding for decades. Everyone in the neighborhood knows which streets/houses have flooded over and over again. Rebuilding in the floodplain is beyond stupid when taxpayers have to foot the bill for your subsidized flood insurance. Government shouldn’t be incentivizing people to make poor decisions.

  • @Floodee That’s preposterous. Your “reasoning” is faulty – post hoc ergo propter hoc (look it up). Meyerland received 10″ of rain in about 12 hours. There’s not a spot in Houston that could sustain that kind of rain and not experience significant flooding. I know because I live nearby and mine was the first house on my street that didn’t flood.

    The other piece of this is that land values inside the loop have increased sufficiently that the land under these older homes is now worth more than the homes themselves; many homeowners in the area where able to get “whole” between insurance proceeds and a lot-value sale. The upside is in 12-18 months we’ll see a dramatically increased tax base in the area.

  • Most of Houston has been redeveloped, with lots of impervious cover added over the past decades, and yet Bellaire/Meyerland floods much more readily than the rest of the city. It’s in a low spot. I’ve heard that there’s been subsidence associated with overpumping of groundwater, but don’t have a source.

    It’s not in the city’s remit to subsidize flood-prone development. They can, and have, taken steps to mitigate the impact of flooding, but there’s only so much that can be done when you have multiple square miles that have literally sunken since the homes were first built on them.

  • Most of the houses that were built there were not in the floodplain when they were constructed. Upstream development gradually increased rapid storm water runoff through the area. That is why FEMA has to constantly re-draw the flood maps. Subsidence can contribute, but this area is not a known significant problem area (the worst of those are along the coast line and Jersey Village). Another factor could be aging underground drainage systems, such as collapsing pipes, clogging with mud/debris, and additional construction-related tie-ins that overload the design of the system. I have a strong suspicion that this is the cause of so much flooding in Montrose during heavy rains.

    @Txcon – There actually are a few places in Houston that have never flooded and never will, due to strange and highly-localized factors. My house is one of those. I am up above the Hwy 288 pit between 59 and Brays Bayou. Even during the worst floods, when cars were floating down there, the water would have had to come up another 25 feet, completely filling the pit with God knows how many acre-feet of water, before my street would have been under water. Even then, the water would have had to climb another 5 feet up the hill in my front yard to reach my elevated house. This protection is a combination of close proximity to a huge man-made sink, the elevation of the grade of my lot when my house was constructed, and restrictions upstream that cause flooding in Meyerland but more controlled flow downstream because of the upstream pinchpoints.

  • @Bernard: “Meyerland has been flooding for decades.”
    Really? I’ve been living nearby for 15 years and I can’t find any evidence of this. Sure, there has been some street flooding, but nothing like we saw last year.

  • @Memebag, Bernard is correct. Meyerland — former rice fields — has had street flooding at least since the early 1970’s (my earliest direct experience). Though nothing like the 2015 Memorial Day inundation, there were fairly frequent, inconvenient-to-significant flood events long before massive upstream development in the Brays Bayou watershed, the creation/paving of the flood-prone Meyerland Park & Ride area, the creation/paving of the Wal-Mart shopping center and apartment complexes just southeast of the 610/S Post Oak exit, and construction of the sound-barrier “bathtub” wall between the easternmost part of southern Meyerland and the S Post Oak exit feeder. Superdave’s suspicions about poorly maintained underground drainage infrastructure are spot on, too.

  • First, its worth noting that flood insurance in a 100-year floodplain is only mandated for persons with federally-insured mortgages. Some of the newer Meyerland mortgages probably are not subsidized. The older residents may not have mortgages. Many people that are faced with the mandate to carry flood insurance are not in compliance. Second, to the extent that many of these homes are insured and subsidized under the NFIP, those subsidies are going to burn off over a period of time pursuant to Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act and the National Flood Recovery and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, resulting in higher premiums for some — particularly if floodplains get remapped in a way that is adverse to Meyerland. Third, if you use the insurance proceeds to repair a home that sits on a lot that will be lot value with or without those repairs…why bother?

    As to Meyerland’s plight, yes subsidence was a big issue until about 1990, long after Meyerland was built out. By that time, most of the upstream land area that was developable had already been built-out and the municipal water supply was dominant. And what has been built since then has mostly been subject to new development regs, unlike Meyerland itself. Below is a link to a subsidence meter located near Chimney Rock & W. Bellfort:

  • Brook – the streets were designed to flood. Street flooding in the past is not residential flooding. Txcon – you nailed it buddy: flood out the older houses and get more tax dollars. You probably have a city hall IP address to figure that out.

  • Hey Niche, thanks for the link. That’s pretty cool. Looks like the area has subsided about 19 inches since those old Meyerland homes were built. That’s not insignificant.

  • Thank you, everyone! And thanks, Swamplot, for putting the Comment in its own thread to generate the discussion.

  • Last night I rode my bike over to an area of Meyerland that I kept seeing listed in the daily demolition report. This is the pocket just south of Braeswood, west of S. Post Oak.
    It was worse than I imagined. Many houses have been removed. Many others are still standing but vacant. A few have been rebuilt or are in the process of being rebuilt. These are all two story “McMansions” and elevated. Visually, it’s a weird looking place. The new houses stick out because of their scale to start with, and putting them up on pedestals next to empty lots exaggerates the effect. When the floods come again, they will be surrounded by a giant McMoat.

  • The National Flood Insurance Program didn’t exist until 1968, by which time substantially all of Meyerland had been built out. Before then there wasn’t really much of anything in the way of mapping flood plains, much less regulating building in them.