It was a terrible flashback for many when parts of the Lake Houston area went underwater three weeks ago. Hurricane Harvey decimated the community in August of 2017, leaving hundreds of homes destroyed by floodwater.
The significant rain event last May brought the community to a drenched standstill with hundreds of homes being flooded, many in the Elm Grove and Woodland Hills areas that had never flooded before.
And just days ago, it returned. The remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda dumped vast amounts of rain onto the community Sept. 19 and the painful experience of soaked homes, destroyed walls and misery came surging back for at least 400 Kingwood homeowners. Affected homes were also in Huffman, Porter and beyond.
Once again, the community, Kingwood in particular, has sprung into action to help those affected.
Richard and Sandy Abram, Elm Grove residents who flooded in May and again in September, organized a community relief center at the Elm Grove Community Room where volunteers manned the site from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for several weeks. Generous Kingwood residents drove up loaded with food, cleaning supplies, diapers and mosquito spray where volunteers unloaded and sorted it all. Elm Grove residents stopped by to pick up what they needed.
This was posted on Facebook:
Today I visited the Elm Grove Community Center to drop off donations for the families who flooded. I had the privilege of meeting Richard Abram, the amazing man who is organizing the relief efforts in that neighborhood. He is a true godsend, as are the ladies who are helping! If you feel moved to assist these families (many of whom have flooded twice since May) they are in need of breakfast/protein/granola bars, mosquito spray (especially the type that’s safe for children) and insect repellent for outdoor use. Richard and the ladies I met today are selflessly volunteering sooo much of their time and energy — I witnessed the best of humanity today! If you’re able, please help by donating flood relief to Elm Grove!
On social media, the offers of free assistance were overwhelming. One woman posted that she would be at the Elm Grove Apartments at 7 the next morning with sack lunches for children until she ran out. Others posted they were cooking barbecue or other hot meals and would deliver to anyone who needed them.
Students from both Kingwood high schools went into the Elm Grove neighborhood to help and several churches opened recovery centers. Both Elm Grove and Woodland Hills elementary schools held family nights where those affected could have a hot meal and visit tables of donated goods. Creekwood Middle School held a fundraiser with students paying $1 to wear a hat or their pajamas to school. Principal Walt Winicki raised more than $5,000 for affected families by spending the night on the roof of the school.
St. Martha Catholic Church kept a list of helpful resources as does Kingwood First Baptist Church.
Sarah Hartley, a member of the Baptist church, said that the church was ready for a crisis this time.
“During Harvey, we had dozens of people literally stepping off of boats, soaked and scared. We took them in and did what we could. But after Harvey, we decided to get official training.
“Several dozen church members attended a Red Cross training where we learned how to handle the situation. Things like registration and protecting privacy, and how to give people what they needed to take the next step,” she said.
In the last flood, several dozen took shelter at the church, which had cots, food and volunteers ready.
Harris County sets up Kingwood center
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced additional recovery resources available to survivors of Tropical Storm Imelda. Local Recovery Centers (LRCs) opened Monday, Sept. 23, to provide residents an additional way to learn about various recovery programs that may be able to assist them in recovery efforts. The center in Kingwood opened at the Kingwood United Methodist Church.
At the LRCs, staff answered specific questions about recovery programs and resources. This included information about where residents can find access to food and temporary housing, support for cleanup and debris removal, and legal services and guidance on how to file insurance claims. The centers were staffed by representatives of the Harris County Community Services Department and a wide array of nonprofit organizations supporting the recovery, including the Red Cross and Baker Ripley. Recovery resources and information continue to be available at ReadyHarris.org.
"As we begin our recovery from Tropical Storm Imelda, we want to make sure survivors have all the information they need to recover as quickly as possible," said Hidalgo. "We know recovering from disasters is never easy, but what we can do is make sure we're doing everything possible to help residents navigate the wide array of resources being made available by our community. If you or someone you know needs help, we encourage you to visit the Local Recovery Center near you or visit ReadyHarris.org."
In addition to the opening of the LRCs, additional resources continue to become available, including support for residential cleanup. Residents who need cleanup assistance are encouraged to register their home with Crisis Cleanup by calling 844-451-1954. Crisis Cleanup is an online database used by local faith-based organizations and disaster relief agencies to coordinate cleanup efforts after a disaster. There are no guarantees for service, but all disaster survivors with cleanup needs are asked to register. The Crisis Cleanup line will be open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Residents can also call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to leave a message and receive a call back.
Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have also established the Imelda Assistance Fund for residents who want to help the recovery effort. The fund was established to meet the needs of those who have suffered damage during Tropical Storm Imelda and the flooding that followed. To learn more and to donate to the Imelda Assistance Fund, visit ReadyHarris.org.
Reporting storm debris and structural flooding
Houston Councilmember Dave Martin wants to make sure Kingwood and Lake Houston area residents are reporting storm debris and structural flooding to Houston 311 by calling 713-837-0311. It is imperative this information be reported to the City of Houston so there is a clear record of homes impacted and the appropriate departments can respond as quickly as possible.
The City of Houston Solid Waste Department (SWD) began storm debris pickup in the Kingwood and Lake Houston area Monday, Sept. 23. Impacted residents should begin placing storm debris at the curb as soon as they can. Make sure the debris is not placed near mailboxes or blocked by vehicles as this will impact SWD's ability to access and remove the debris. Roadways should be kept clear to ensure SWD vehicles can pass through the neighborhoods. Avoid street parking if possible.
In addition to reporting storm debris, structural flooding must be reported to Houston 311 so the City of Houston will be made aware of those impacted.
Church member Hartley, a native of England, said she is overwhelmed at the generosity of Kingwood residents.
“I have never experienced any community like this one in my life. It is truly good people doing good things.”
Additional information has been provided after this article was initially written:
City of Houston Files Cease and Desist Against Perry Homes, Double Oak and Figure Four Partners
Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin would like for Kingwood residents to be aware that the City of Houston has filed cease and desist orders against Perry Homes, Double Oak Construction, Inc., and Figure Four Partners, Ltd. for the discharge of stormwater from the Woodridge Village development site. These cease and desist orders were issued in response to the discharge of sand, silt, sediment and debris from the development site into the Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) on Sept. 19, 2019.
This discharge is in direct violation of City of Houston Ordinance: Aarticle XII.-Storm Water Discharges, Division 5-Illicit Discharges and Connections, Section 47-741-Discharge to MS4 Prohibited: (a) A person commits an offense if the person threatens to introduce, introduces or causes to be introduced into the MS4 any discharge that is not composed entirely of stormwater.
This discharge has caused severe damage to the City of Houston's MS4 and to the property of the citizens of the City of Houston. As a result of this discharge, the City of Houston started a 12-week extensive investigation of the stormwater system located within Elm Grove and other affected communities within the far northeast section of Kingwood. This investigation is currently 10% complete as it started last week (Sept. 28).
Another update on this investigation will be provided during Martin's Kingwood Town Hall Meeting to be held Thursday, Oct.17 at 6:30 p.m. located at the Kingwood Community Center (4102 Rustic Woods, Kingwood. Martin has been working diligently to see this type of action over the last week and is actively pursuing additional measures to be taken to further protect the residents of Kingwood.
HAAM rushes to help after Imelda
Houston Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM) reported that immediately following Tropical Storm Imelda, they distributed 57,377 pounds of food to 3,455 individuals in three days! They provided food and household supplies to impacted clients along with clothing and household vouchers. HAAM also provided behavioral health and disaster recovery case managers to assess needs off site at emergency centers and St. John the Cross, distributed basic supplies and water from St. John the Cross, held a disaster relief food and supply event in Huffman, provided fresh produce at two food fairs, and coordinated with Meals on Wheels to provide client check in and safety checks on homebound seniors in the impacted area.