Houston 101

Mayor Turner Calls for Disaster Declaration After Floods Consume Houston

(See update at the end of this post)

Mayor Sylvester Turner called for a disaster declaration Monday afternoon after the city and surrounding areas saw ten to 15 inches of rainfall in a matter of several hours, underscoring the extent of damage Houstonians woke up to this morning.

Turner reiterated his request that people stay off the road unless it's an absolute emergency. The worst-hit parts of town include the areas along Greens Bayou, Brays Bayou — both of which are at their bursting points Monday afternoon — and a sector of northwest Houston near Acres Homes, Inwood and Little York. The Houston Police Department is currently responding to 70 calls for help, none of which are life-threatening. However, Turner said that, earlier, one man was found dead in his car underwater in northwest Houston on Imperial Valley Drive; Turner said officials don't yet have enough information to directly link the man's death to the weather.

As of now, 94 intersections throughout the city are closed because of high water, and Turner added that some are so bad that not even the high-water rescue vehicles can get through. There have also been more than 44,000 power outages, Turner said. As for structural flooding, Turner has received 72 reports of flooded homes or businesses, but he added that may be an understatement. In fact, Turner estimated more than 200 homes in the Braeswood area, specifically, are flooding. A few apartment buildings in northwest Houston flooded so badly that more than 1,000 people had to be relocated to shelters, including Jersey Village Baptist Church and Campbell Education Center. 

"There’s nothing you can do, whether you’re the city or the county, to stop that amount of rain," Turner said. "I regret anyone who’s having to go through the flooding of your homes again. If your home flooded over Memorial Day weekend and you’re seeing water in your home again, there's nothing I can say that will help your situation."

Turner also reminded everyone that, oh great, taxes are also due today, and you're not off the hook, unfortunately. He said he has tried to reach out to the governor and the IRS to ask for an extension, but as for now, nope, you'd still better find a way to get to the post office.

Hopefully you own a boat.

Update 5:40 p.m.: 

Update: Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for Harris County, along with eight other counties. The IRS has also agreed to grant extensions to people who still need to send in their taxes but live in flooded areas. Harris County officials say this is the most significant flood event the county has seen since Tropical Storm Allison, after roughly 40 billion gallons of water descended on the county since it started storming late Sunday night. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said that, in areas of Houston that recorded up to 17 inches of rain, this is the worst rainfall event ever.

Nearly all the bayous have jumped their banks, and County Judge Ed Emmett said he estimates more than 1,000 homes in the Meyerland area have flooded; he estimates that will jump to more than 2,000 by the end of the day. Emmett also said there have been four fatalities in the county; the Houston Chronicle reported another, in Waller County. Greenspoint was another of the hardest-hit areas, and Mayor Sylvester Turner said dozens of apartment complex residents had to be relocated to various shelters because of extreme flooding. While officials said rain is expected to slow down for the rest of the day, it is still expected to continue intermittently over the next few days, meaning flooding is expected to continue as well. For that reason, Turner is still encouraging people to stay off the roads.
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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