09/19/17 11:30am

A notice sent yesterday to all tenants of the 2100 Memorial senior-living facility just west of Downtown declares that the 14-story former Holiday Inn has been rendered “totally unusable for residential purposes” in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. All 198 elderly residents have been given 5 days to remove themselves and their belongings from their apartments.

The building is a tax-credit property of the Houston Housing Authority that includes both low-income and market-rate units. The notice, which came from V.J. Memorial Corp., a nonprofit entity owned by the authority, states that the company only recently learned that the building’s electrical and fire control systems were compromised by the flooding.

“Due to the damage and health & safety reasons, the building is uninhabitable and we must exercise our right under your lease to terminate the lease effective September 23, 2017,” reads the notice, a copy of which was obtained by Swamplot. A separate lease termination document sent in by a reader declares that “the damage to the Apartment is so extensive the Apartment has become as a practical matter totally unusable for residential purposes due to health and safety reasons. Furthermore, the damage could cause health and safety hazards to you and your family, if you returned to live in the Apartment in its present condition.” Residents have until 5 pm on the 23rd to get out: “If you do not remove your personal possessions by that time. we will be forced to remove your possessions and store them at a cost to you,” the document states.

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Everybody Out
09/18/17 3:00pm

The District at Washington Apartments at the corner of T.C. Jester and Schuler in Cottage Grove now feature apron-like attachments of plastic sheeting meant to provide cover to select masonry-stucco intersections on the façade. The reader who sent the photos to Swamplot says the tarps have been up for a few weeks now, and that repair work appears to be underway:

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Flashing News
09/18/17 1:00pm

Popular yet again in Houston: The DID NOT FLOOD sign topper. Here’s a new one spotted by wandering photographer Joshua House in front of the Covington Builders 4-story townhome development at 3821 N. Braeswood Blvd., one block north of Brays Bayou and a couple blocks east of Stella Link.

Where have you spotted signs like these in Harvey’s aftermath? Please send pics and coordinates to us. Swamplot wants to know what DID NOT FLOOD.

Photo: Joshua House

Above It All
09/18/17 11:15am

The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.

The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:

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Silt Deposits
09/15/17 12:30pm

Residents of the 79 apartments in the Hogg Palace Lofts are expecting air conditioning in their units to be restored sometime today — for the first time since power went out early on the morning of August 27th. At a meeting earlier this week, attorneys for and representatives of the Randall Davis Company told tenants of the 8-story building at 401 Louisiana St. that they were aiming for Friday for the AC to be turned on, though could not guarantee it — but that work would continue over the weekend if it couldn’t.

A somewhat parallel sequence of events played out after the promised trailer-mounted Aggreko 1 MW generator pictured above was parked along Preston St. in front of the building last Friday; difficulties in connecting it to the electrical system — including a hunt for the unknown owner of a white BMW parked in a tenant spot in the parking garage that stood in the way of a hook-up — delayed the restoration of electrical power until Monday.

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Power to the People
09/14/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAKE ME UP WHEN HOUSTON’S WAKE-UP CALLS ARE OVER “The idea that the Houston area has just been complacent all this time and needs to ‘wake up’ is ridiculous. Houston has been steadily improving its situation for decades through various means (infrastructure, regulation, mitigation, response, etc.). This progression got particular boosts by these larger events and we will see the same needed boost post-Harvey. But realize these rainfall events over the last 2+ years have been off the charts and applying these lessons learned takes years.” [Rex, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Even Bigger Reason Houston Might Want To Address Its Flooding Problems] Illustration: Lulu

09/14/17 4:45pm

One hundred seventy 3-to-6-year-old students restarted their school year at the Post Oak School in Bellaire this week in one very large classroom: the school’s basketball gym. Harvey flooded the lower school campus at Bissonnet St. and Avenue B in Bellaire with 4 inches of water throughout its first floor late last month. The result: 15 classrooms and other learning spaces were temporarily closed as a result of water damage.

Five elementary-school classes were moved to Episcopal High School, which is next door to the 54-year-old Montessori school. But the Post Oak School’s 6 separate primary-level classes are staying on campus at 4600 Bissonnet — only relocated into its largest available unflooded space. Over 3 days prior to the reopening, Post Oak employees, parents, and volunteers from Austin Montessori School set up a giant six-pack of Montessori classrooms using whatever undamaged furniture and materials they could find. And — as the video above shows — they filmed it all.

More views of classes, now in session:

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09/14/17 11:00am

WEST HOUSTON CAN NOW FLUSH IN GOOD CONSCIENCE When last we (and the aircraft supplying aerial images to NOAA) left the West District wastewater treatment plant along Buffalo Bayou just outside Beltway 8 at the flooded southeast corner of Memorial Glen, it looked like this: shut down and surrounded by muddy floodwaters sorely in need of its services. That was September 3rd. As of this morning, the city’s Office of Emergency Management reports, both this plant and the one on Turkey Creek off Eldridge between Briar Forest Dr. and Memorial have been restored to full operation. This means persons in ZIP Codes 77024, 77041, 77043, 77055, 77077, 77079, 77080 and 77094 who had been following guidelines to limit their water use are once more free to shower, flush, brush, and otherwise send wastewater down their drains without special consideration of the consequences. [Alert Houston; previously on Swamplot] Aerial image of West District plant from September 3: NOAA  

09/13/17 4:30pm

Here’s a map showing the 600,000 acres in Harris County over which the Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing will be flying modified C-130 cargo planes staged from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio in order to conduct an aerial spray operation beginning Thursday evening. The marked zones to the north, south, east, and west of inside-the-Beltway Houston will be graced with a mist of Dibrom, an insecticide meant to reduce the threats posed by millions of mosquitoes arising from thousands of impromptu pools formed in Harvey’s wake. Harris County public health officials suggest persons “concerned about the exposure” — and area beesremain indoors during the nighttime insecticide-disbursement procedure, which might take a second evening to complete.

Map: Harris County Public Health

 

 

09/13/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE EVEN BIGGER REASON HOUSTON MIGHT WANT TO ADDRESS ITS FLOODING PROBLEMS “People in Houston need to talk with people in other parts of the country to be able to understand the need for funding massive improvements in our flood control infrastructure. I had friends and family from LA to Philly telling me to get out of the city and come stay with them as soon as it was possible to travel out of the city. My sister even offered to drive her minivan over 1,200 miles to come rescue me. I still have family asking me whether they should cancel plans to visit over Thanksgiving for fear that hotels will be full and no rental cars are available. It is easy to get all worked up about taxes when you did not get flooded and go into the usual red state “don’t tax me, tax that guy behind the tree” mode. But much more is at stake for Houston than whether parts of the city keep flooding. We run the risk of being seen as a city that is not worth the risk for existing and prospective businesses. People in Houston are getting used to these flood events and are not pressed into action by aerial footage on CNN showing Buffalo Bayou turning into a raging torrent. But everywhere else in the US, people see that and are completely freaked out by it. If we continue with applying band aids and do not make any big dramatic moves to improve our flood control infrastructure, we will not only be risking future catastrophic flooding but will also be risking losing current and future business to cities that are on higher ground away from the path of hurricanes and tropical storms.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Abandoned Neighborhoods Make Great Detention Ponds] Illustration: Lulu

09/13/17 10:15am

Yes, there are spots where Harris County public health officials have determined it’s still not safe to drink the water. And here they are: Areas still under drinking-water advisories are marked in red in the above interactive map; areas where advisories issued after flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey have already been lifted are marked in green. Click on each area and a popup or panel will provide details. The county promises to update the map every 24 hours. A full-browser-width version of the map is available here.

Map: Harris County Public Health

Harvey Maps
09/12/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RENTING AFTER HARVEY “What if a rental tenant brings to the attention of a landlord that the sheetrock and flooring need to be replaced in order for the home to be habitable. Then, the landlord agrees and ends the lease, deems the costs associated with repair to be uneconomical and tears down the house. The family living there has no place to go as every rental property in the same price strata has been leased. What then? This is not a rhetorical question. I have TWO close friends with young children in this situation. Landlord wants to tear down the homes because repairs too costly. Both families have money to pay rent, but can’t find a home to rent. Advice is welcome.” [Nice Neighbor, commenting on A Flood of Eviction Notices; Meyerland, Before and After; Here Come the Mosquitoes] Illustration: Lulu

09/11/17 3:00pm

The headline suggestion in a 6-page policy paper published last week under the banner of Rice University’s Baker Institute comes in item 2 of a helpfully numbered list of 15 things Houston might want to do or think about to make future never-seen-this-before flooding events a little less catastrophic: Author Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney, pioneering Houston-area naturalist, and longtime let’s-not-flood advocate, proposes a “fair but extensive home buyout and removal program” targeted at homes that have been flooded 3 or more times since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001: “It is unlikely we can develop strategies to protect them from severe rainfall events that are much more frequent than labels such as ‘100-year’ or even ‘500-year’ rainfall events suggest,’ he writes.

Among the less radical proposals put forward in his list is the suggestion to map and categorize the Houston region by its propensity to flood: “safe” areas that didn’t flood — and should therefore become “the backbone of the Houston of Tomorrow” — “transitional” areas (only “single-event” flooding); and “buyout” areas — which can be targeted for parks and “future green infrastructure.”

Other ideas and issues from the paper that Blackburn hopes will “initiate a conversation” are summarized here:

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The City That Floods
09/11/17 10:45am

WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO THINK TWICE BEFORE EVEN APPLYING FOR AN SBA LOAN AFTER HARVEY As lines begin to form at the 3 new disaster recovery centers opened today at the Katy Mills Mall, Greenspoint Mall, and Baytown Community Center, people seeking assistance from FEMA or the Small Business Administration after their homes or businesses were damaged by the storm may want to know about a little HUD rule passed in 2011. Intended to prevent victims from receiving assistance for the same disaster from 2 separate agencies (which had cost the government $1 billion after Hurricane Katrina and the Midwest floods a few years later), the rule ended up going a little further than that: “Every dollar for which disaster victims are approved for an SBA loan is a dollar less they can receive from a federal grant,” reports Danny Vinik in Politico. “In other words, if a victim who is eligible for $120,000 in assistance is offered a $90,000 SBA loan, she can only receive grants worth $30,000—no matter if she accepts or declines the loan.” Complicating the issue for some: low-interest-rate SBA Disaster Loans can provide funds within a few weeks; any outright grants from FEMA would take much longer. [Houston Chronicle; Politico] Photo of ATM at Katy Mills Mall: Cindy D.