07/10/17 11:45am

THE TIME MY BROTHER AND HIS FRIENDS ALMOST BLEW UP A GAS PIPELINE IN THE BAYOU One Houston summer in the early 1960s: “My brother and his friends were playing, pretending they were WWII soldiers and they were running around shooting fake machine guns and then they would go over and jump in the bayou pretending it was a foxhole. And I went over and I heard them talking . . . they were going to build their own bomb. And I told them you know you better not do that. . . . The next thing I know I see them in the garage and they’ve got a bunch of my dad’s leftover firecrackers and they’re splitting them open and pouring them into this big prescription bottle. I tried to find my mother. And she ended up being next door. When I ran next door I was standing in the backyard and I heard this loud boom and looked at where the explosion came from and it was right where my brother and his friends had been playing. I heard sirens in the distance and a helicopter started flying real low over the pipeline. . . . Shortly after that there was a knock at the door and it was the police. . . . they said that the magnitude of this explosion had blown an almost-6-ft.-deep hole right above the Shell gas pipeline [that ran along the bayou] and it could have blown up our whole neighborhood had it been a little bit more than that.” [Texas Standard] Photo: Adam Baker [license]

06/29/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SOME ADVICE FOR WHEN THE TRAIN ISN’T MOVING AND YOU NEED TO CROSS THE TRACKS FOR SOMETHING SUPER IMPORTANT “Some ‘stalled’ train advice: 1. Never crawl under. Always climb over the coupling. 2. NEVER CLIMB OVER THE COUPLING! I was with my bike team waiting for a stopped train in this part of town. Beer was on the other side of the train, so after some time some of the cyclists started discussing crawling under or climbing over. I said not to do it, that it was too dangerous. I was assured that when the train started it would do so ever so slowly and gently. One of the cyclists started to get between the boxcars to climb over the coupling (see #1) when the train VIOLENTLY LURCHED into motion and scared the crap out of everyone. It turns out the train starts very slowly near the front, but very quickly near the end.” [Memebag, commenting on Where Lyons Ave. Will Go Down, West St. Won’t Go North, and Fifth Ward Trains Will Continue Through] Photo: Ruben Serrano, via Swamplot Flickr Pool

06/22/17 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WATCH FOR TOMORROW’S FLOODING TODAY! Homeowners in the area would be wise to keep a keen eye as to the elevation of the current Fiesta property, document with photos and watch as the builders elevate the ground of the property two or more feet above existing grade. This elevation of property will push water off the commercial property and onto lower lying homeowners and existing small businesses. I attended a talk this week with a flooding expert from Texas A and M who pinpointed development as the primary driving cause of Houston’s flooding. This was a highly intelligent and well regarded college professor and researcher. He says he gets phone calls from first time flood victims and always asks if anything was recently built in the area. Often they will say that a Wal-Mart or something similar was built immediately before their flooding problem started. This is real, everyone. Document your lawsuit evidence today.” [Tired of flooding, commenting on H-E-B To Scoot Groundbreaking Back to End of Summer Break, Scoot Building Up Toward N. Shepherd] Illustration: Lulu

06/16/17 2:00pm

“The movie finally makes a reasonable amount of sense now” after 4 years of work on it, writes producer Joseph Graham on the Indiegogo fundraising page for Nothing Really Happens, a new independent feature film from local production company The Monster Closet. What is this filmed-in-Houston movie about? It’s not entirely clear from the trailer. If you blink a couple times in the middle of it though, you’ll miss a couple of images from a scene filmed at the Wind Chimes Shopping Center on Westheimer at Eldridge, where a vacant storefront was apparently dressed up as a locked-up mattress store for filming. A notice posted to the front of the shuttered shop from a Houston “Department of Health” flashes by too fast, but if you freeze-frame it the words on the official-looking document may — or may not — help a little bit to explain the movie’s plot (emphasis in the original):

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Great Moments in Houston Cinema
06/17/15 3:45pm

SHAKING AT THE TOP OF A HOUSTON SKYSCRAPER IN THE MIDDLE OF A HURRICANE Wells Fargo Plaza, Downtown HoustonHoustonians who were around for Hurricane Alicia in 1983 might remember that the Wells Fargo Plaza tower downtown — then known as the brand-new Allied Bank Plaza — ended up losing more than 3,000 glass panels in the storm. But did you know that the building that night became the site of one of the few live wiggling-skyscrapers-in-a-storm experiments ever conducted? Engineers Robert Halvorson and Michael Fletcher spent the night of the hurricane in the 71-story tower’s unfinished top floor, just to see how much the building would sway; more than 30 years later, they described their experiences to Washington Post reporter Emily Badger. The peak acceleration of 43 milli-g’s they recorded — enough back-and-forth and twisting to make it impossible for them to walk upright — turned out to be “give or take, exactly the same thing that had been predicted by the wind tunnel” before the structure was built. [Gizmodo] Photo of Wells Fargo Plaza: Jackson Myers

06/11/15 1:00pm

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.

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Fourth Ward
06/03/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE NEW BIKE TRAIL SYSTEM BE THIS SHOCKING? Biking Along a Powerline Easement“Here’s something a little off topic but has to do with putting trails on power easements. Has anyone ever experienced what happens when you ride under the lines down the dirt road in Memorial Park? The electromagnetic field actually shocks you where you are touching the frame or handlebars especially during peak Summer usage hours and when sweaty. Not sure if that’s ever been addressed.” [j, commenting on FPSF Moving Next to the Astrodome; I-10 Toll Hike Delay; Secrets of the I-45 Redo Plan] Illustration: Lulu

06/02/15 1:30pm

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

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.

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What Lies Beneath
05/27/15 3:15pm

Flooded Cars on I-45 North at Patton St., Near Northside, Houston, May 26, 2015

If you’re compiling a list of best photo spots for during or after another one of Houston’s every-dozen-years-or-so never-seen-anything-like-it flooding events, you’ll probably want to make room on it for the stretch of I-45 North between the N. Main St. and Patton St. exits. Back in 2001, images of cars and trucks floating along an insta-lake in this same spot made national news. And yesterday, pix of the automotive flotilla pictured above found their way to Facebook feeds and front pages around the globe.

But the low spot just north of Downtown wedged between Brooke Smith and the Near Northside was also a tough place to be when the water started rising, reports the Chronicle‘s Dane Schiller. Drivers found an early morning traffic jam in the rain changed nature quickly: “A surge was coming at them, squeezed by high barrier walls into the confines of the interstate. In less than 15 minutes, there was nothing to do but abandon ship.

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05/27/15 11:15am

Flooding at AMLI 2121 Apartments, 2121 Allen Pkwy., North Montrose, Houston

Flooding at AMLI 2121 Apartments, 2121 Allen Pkwy., North Montrose, HoustonA resident of the bayou-side North Montrose apartments at 2121 Allen Pkwy. now known as AMLI 2121 (and formerly as the Bel Air; see the pictured monument sign) has cataloged a few of the nicer cars that were likely totaled yesterday as they took on water in the lower level of the garage of the complex. Included: a Lexus IS250, a Nissan 370z, and an Audi A4.

The pop-up lake that appeared on Allen Parkway and the adjacent Buffalo Bayou Park has already subsided considerably, though underpasses are still filled with water. Liquid levels lowered in the garage too, which sits underneath the apartment structure, just east of Montrose Blvd.

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Wet Spaces
05/26/15 11:30am

Burnt Home at 116 Westheimer Rd. at Bagby St., Montrose, Houston

Burnt Home at 116 Westheimer Rd. at Bagby St., Montrose, HoustonWhile much of the rest of Houston is recovering from — or still dealing with — high water after last night’s torrential rains, the long-vacant house at 116 Westheimer Rd. is showing off the scars it incurred from a disaster of a different sort. A fire raged through the structure Friday night.

The 1904 building is adjacent to the Jus’ Mac macaroni and cheese outlet in the 106 Westheimer strip center at the corner of Bagby St. A Swamplot reader sent in these photos showing the home as it appeared this morning:

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Fire This Time
05/22/15 3:30pm

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, Houston

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, HoustonThe 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:

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Stand Back
05/15/15 4:15pm

Hole in Paving, White Oak Dr. at Beauchamp St., Woodland Heights, Houston

Hole in Paving, White Oak Dr. at Beauchamp St., Woodland Heights, Houston

Heavy equipment is back on the scene — and a metal plate on the way, a reader tells us — at the corner of White Oak Dr. and Beauchamp in Woodland Heights, adjacent to White Oak Bayou, where a hole suddenly appeared in freshly spread asphalt just hours after the street was resurfaced yesterday.

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That Sinking Feeling
03/31/15 3:15pm

Scene of Auto Accident at Baron St. and Bayou St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Townhomes Under Construction, 400 Bayou St., Fifth Ward, HoustonAs a cautionary demonstration of the hazards of the kind of wacky old-roadway-meets-new-driveway construction found in front of a set of under-construction townhomes at the corner of Bayou and Baron streets in the Fifth Ward, the accident pictured here doesn’t quite hold up to extended scrutiny. Sure, it might be tough for a vehicle to stay on the asphalt when a stretch of roadway suddenly disappears and new concrete driveways stretch across it (as illustrated in the second photo above). But here the damaged Escalade appears to have crashed into a stationary hazard on the opposite side of the street.

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Dude, Where’s My Road?
01/06/15 1:30pm

Variance Sign for Living Green, MDI Superfund Site, 3617 Baer St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Signs have gone up around the former metal foundry site at 3617 Baer St. in the Fifth Ward indicating that a hearing is scheduled for this Thursday to get city approval for the latest rejiggering of homesites on the 35-acre tract. Developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, InTown Homes, and a few other local builder brands plans to put a total of 538 homes (down from 589) on the EPA-monitored property, known as the MDI Superfund Site after the last owner of the metal-casting operations, Many Diversified Interests, which shut down in the early 1990s (previously, the plants were owned by TESCO). The property, which lies just south of I-10 about 2 miles of east of downtown, was listed on the EPA’s list of priority Superfund sites in 1999, after tests showed the soil and groundwater was contaminated with lead and other hazardous metals.

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Living Green