For the Last Time, a Meyerland Homeowner Watches the Water Creep Inside

Mahmoud Harmouche sweeps standing water into a neat puddle in his living room.
Mahmoud Harmouche sweeps standing water into a neat puddle in his living room. Meagan Flynn
click to enlarge Mahmoud Harmouche sweeps standing water into a neat puddle in his living room. - MEAGAN FLYNN
Mahmoud Harmouche sweeps standing water into a neat puddle in his living room.
Meagan Flynn
Mahmoud Harmouche, a Meyerland homeowner, says his family lost only one car this time. A relief.

The first floor of his home only flooded four to six inches — manageable, livable — and the flat-screen TV and the furniture were thankfully not submerged. By 4 p.m., most of the water had receded from his living room and kitchen, and Harmouche had just returned from an errand to purchase more mops. The mopping, the sweeping, the removal of coffee tables and chairs and boxes of wet belongings out into the garage — it was all an old routine for Harmouche and his wife, whose home has flooded five times since they moved in.

This time around, Harmouche only shook his head.

“You’d be surprised — when you lose so many cars, when your home floods so many times,” he said, “this is nothing.”

And yet it may have been the final straw for Harmouche and his wife. Like many homeowners in the Meyerland area, the couple is fatigued — depressed, actually, Harmouche says. And despite the thousands of dollars they have invested in the home over the years, he says they can’t bear another flood. While years ago their home was worth an estimated $750,000, he says, now he’d be lucky to get $300,000 or even to sell it at all.

“What can you do?” he says, speaking in a soft manner that seems to belie his frustration. “You can’t sell this house unless you give it away for free.”

Harmouche and his wife and their two sons, now grown, moved into the home in 2003. Just as they finished making it their own — doing a little painting, some remodeling — their home flooded the first time. That year, a contractor had told Harmouche he could raise the foundation of his home, a highly sought remedy in Meyerland, for $110,000 — significantly cheaper than the thousands more it costs today, even with federal help, Harmouche says. But he turned the offer down, believing it would not be necessary — a decision he found himself regretting nine years later.

Since 2012, the flooding has seemed relentless, he said. He and his wife invested heavily in remodeling after a flood in 2012, with the assurance that the new detention pond and enlargement of Brays Bayou would mean they were safe from more flood events. But then the 2015 Memorial Day floods swept through Houston, bringing four to five feet of water into the Harmouches’ living room, sending them to live with relatives and even for a while in a small room at Harmouche’s office. Then, as they were still in the middle of fixing the damage, the Tax Day floods came through last year and ruined the home again.

Then, after finally fixing all that damage just five months ago and moving back into the home, Harmouche watched Wednesday morning as water crept back inside. At first it would slosh its way up to the kitchen’s sliding glass door, and then recede like waves on a beach. It didn’t come inside until around 5 a.m., when a pickup truck sped down the flooded street so fast that the driver turned it into a whirlpool, it seemed, and then the water came barging through the Harmouches’ side door — knocking it all the way open — as though it were an intruder.

Harmouche doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, but he says he can’t blame some residents who are so fed up with the flooding that they wonder if the city is simply not trying hard enough on purpose, perhaps because it wants everyone to move away so it can build some big new lucrative commercial developments. He chuckles a bit at the idea, but still, he can’t wrap his head around it either: If all of the drainage and bayou improvements were meant to stop flooding, why has it only gotten worse?

The question has resounded across the region, putting pressure on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration and the Harris County Flood Control District to do more, to invest in more drainage improvements and prevent flooding caused by rampant development. In the meantime, the residents have grown increasingly impatient and anxious with every rainstorm that passes through.

On Wednesday morning, Harmouche said, he awoke to the rain around 3 a.m. — the sound doesn’t soothe anymore. He and his wife went downstairs and turned on the lights, looking out at the mounting river. “We didn’t sleep after that,” he said. “We started watching the water — hoping, hoping, hoping.”
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn