BRYAN POLICE: PLEASE STOP DRIVING INTO FLOODWATER SO WE CAN WORK ON TORNADO PROBLEMS Dozens of roads are still closed this morning following yesterday’s heavy storms to the north and west. The National Weather Service reports that the nearly 17 inches of rain measured over 24 hours at its Brenham station would by itself beat the total for the 3rd-wettest month on station record (and fall less than an inch short of second place). Bryan-College Station’s The Eaglereported yesterday that the Bryan Police Department was urging drivers to stay off the roads, as first responders were getting tied up with sinking vehicle calls while also trying to respond to calls related to the tornado that touched down near Highway 6 and Briarcrest Dr. At least 50 houses were reported damaged and 3 destroyed; other possible tornado-related incidents reported in the area include damage to the Miramont Country Club and to the Wallace Pack Unit prison in Navasota. [National Weather Service, The Eagle] Map of road closures: TxDOT
A BETTER FENCE FOR THE AXIS APARTMENTS SITE The construction fence surrounding the burned site of JLB Partners’ planned Axis Apartments at 2400 West Dallas St. in North Montrose is receiving an upgrade — from veiled chain link to wood plank. A reader who wonders if the property still qualifies as a construction site notes that the fence still blocks the sidewalk along W. Dallas. This photo shows the current intersection of the 2 fence types along Montrose Blvd. The apartments burned during construction last year. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Here are views of a couple of holes that appeared at the eastern edge of East Montrose after last week’s flood. The sizable tire-grabber at the corner of Hyde Park Blvd. and Mason St. shown here was decorated by nearby residents who repurposed the cones and barricade from a nearby construction site, explains reader Brittanie Shey.
The parking garage behind the Mix at Midtown retail center between Louisiana and Milam south of Elgin St. is still in operation after last week’s fire, but photos sent to Swamplot yesterday from the scene show that the steel 3-level structure behind 24 Hour Fitness, Holley’s Seafood Restaurant, Piola, and other businesses facing Milam St. isn’t operating at capacity. At least a dozen parking spaces on the middle and top level are blocked off, noted as unsafe because of fire damage to the structure:
DISTRIBUTING DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS THROUGH TIRZ A reader has a question about a particular Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in Houston: “In this example scenario, the city of Houston is giving [Hurricane Ike] money to a developer for infrastructure improvements on their lot (located in a TIRZ) but the requirement is that the developer must build some affordable homes on that lot.
The twist to this is that the city would give the developer money, but only if it is given through the TIRZ. Speaking with the TIRZ board, they said that they plan to distribute that money around the entire TIRZ and not just to that single development. This of course has the neighboring residents and the developer worried about how the funds will be given.
Is this the normal process for distributing Ike funding? And can a TIRZ take money away from the developing area?” Map of area Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones: City of Houston
Remember the fire back in March at those apartments under construction on West Dallas next to the cemetery that destroyed the whole complex except for the parking garage? No big deal if you don’t, because you’d need to adjust your memory anyway. A reader notes to Swamplot that the surviving parking garage is now being demolished as well, months after the singed stick-frame structures around it at JLB Parters’ would-have-been Axis Apartments were carted away. So now you can remember the fire so bad they had to tear the whole thing down — though it took them a while to give up on the garage.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT SINKING FEELING “At 13 seconds in, those houses across the water at the top of the frame are at the end of my street, South Burnett Drive, in the Lakewood subdivision. The street rises gradually as you travel away from the water, but the low end of the street lost over 20 houses during Hurricane Ike. Some owners have rebuilt on pilings, some have rebuilt at grade, and others have abandoned the property. (My own house is further up the street, at about 31 feet elevation.) The end of the flood debris field from Ike was about three lots south of my house. So, while the name ‘Swamplot’ is amusing, to some of us it is no joke.” [Reeseman, commenting on Flying High Over the Baytown Subdivision That Sunk] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HURRICANE RITAS “I know there are people who ‘go out for Margaritas’ . . . that is, they are looking for a good ’Rita and don’t care that much about the food. However, I don’t think that means a place can succeed if that’s all they’ve got. No shortage in this town of good ’Ritas or good Mexican food or places that can do both, like Hugo’s or Sylvia’s.
On the other hand, I have a fond memory of the Ninfa’s on Kirby because they were open right after Ike when most of the city was still without power. Under those circumstances, I thought the food was awesome.” [toadfroggy, commenting on Out with Mama Ninfa’s, in with Maggie Rita’s]
The city recently bought 2 custom roll-off trailers so it could set up its brand-new fleet of 17 solar-powered shipping containers without having to hire contractors or cranes. And the method of opening the solar panels (or closing them before a hurricane hits the area) is now OSHA-compliant, says Andrew Vrana of Metalab, the local architecture and fabrication firm that designed them. (2 people on a ladder can do it pretty quickly.) The photos above show the unit installed recently at Fire Station 72 at 17401 Saturn Ln. just north of NASA Rd. 1, near the Johnson Space Center. “Yes they do produce a little power on a cloudy day,” Vrana reports.
All the units have now been delivered to their sites. In the event of a major power outage, the 140-sq.-ft. containers will become staffed disaster response centers — air-conditioned information and water-distribution centers: a place to charge your cell phone or laptop, power a medical device, or keep medicines refrigerated. In short, the kind of space it might have been nice to have nearby after Hurricane Ike hit. (As long as the solar panels are folded in and latched, the units will withstand hurricane-force winds.) In the meantime, they’ll provide additional office space and power for the facilities that host them. The container at Lake Houston Park, for example, will become an office for the new woodland archery range.
Here’s a map showing the fire stations, schools, and other locations around the city where you can now find the completely off-grid structures:
What could possibly have been worse than Hurricane Ike? Super Ike, a stronger hurricane aimed 30 miles further west, causing a larger storm surge, more deaths, and significantly greater damage to Houston’s industrial infrastructure. To protect against that hypothetical $100 billion threat, a Rice University team is recommending some bolstered defenses for the region. Included among the suggestions: a “moveable gate structure” just upstream from Baytown’s Fred Hartman Bridge, to block the Ship Channel and San Jacinto River from rising waters in Galveston Bay (pictured above); elevating Hwy. 146 along the west edge of Galveston Bay so that it forms a levee protecting much of La Marque, Dickinson, League City, Clear Lake, and La Porte; a “baywall” to protect Galveston Island’s backside from sneaky storm surge waters; and preserving a 130-mile-long stretch of existing coastal wetlands between High Island and Matagorda as a recreation area and when-needed storm barrier.