Oh What A Night

No surprise that I’ve been humming this song all day today.

I’ve heard from some friends and family around the country today so I know that the storm that caused massive flooding in Houston last night has made more than just local headlines. We’re dry and safe here at Chez Drott but it was a doozy of a night.

Tropical Storm Allison (1989) had more rain over multiple days and Hurricane Ike (2008) was more frightening with the high winds, but I’m not sure I have ever heard and seen such steady thunder and lightning for five solid hours.

Here’s a lightning strike map that somebody tweeted:

lightening

Houston’s pretty much dead center on that map which looks more like artwork and less like useful data.

It all started getting really heavy at about 9 o’clock last night. The NWS was right on target with all its watches and warnings. Local weathermen are always accused of sensationalism, but one actually confessed on air, “Dangerous weather tonight, we say this often, but this time we mean it.”

We never lost power at Chez Drott, so we could follow what was happening with the help of the TV and social media. Actually, the TV news was relying heavily on social media, too, from the general public as well as from their own staff who were caught in the middle of it just trying to get to and from work and home, not even sent out intentionally to cover the storm.

And then everyone saw the pictures this morning, the most dramatic being the freeways that turned into rivers.

The rain moved out of the area sometime after 2 am, which was when I finally fell asleep. The husband was supposed to be on an 8 am flight out of Hobby Airport but at 6 am he realized there was no driveable route to the airport so he changed to a late afternoon flight and went back to bed. I had a few cups of coffee and caught up on the news of the flooding and finally ventured out at about 8:30 to check out the ‘hood.

Our neighborhood is bounded to the south by Buffalo Bayou which is the waterway that flows thru downtown Houston and eventually becomes the Houston Ship Channel, flowing into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Chez Drott happens to sit on one of the highest streets of the neighborhood and we have never flooded, but other houses in the neighborhood did flood during Allison and sometimes from less historic rains. Over the past 10-15 years the powers that be have done a lot of work improving storm sewers and creating storm water retention basins along the bayou. Happily, all that work paid off as the entire neighborhood looked dry this morning.

So the ‘hood looked good, but what about the bayou itself?

sign

The area alongside the bayou has been sculpted into a very nice greenspace. There is a paved hike and bike trail that sits about 3 foot higher than the actual banks of the bayou, which is usually runs a good 10 foot below the top of the bank. The sign you see in the above picture has some trail rules and the top of it is probably 6 foot high. The actual bayou is on the other side of those trees. The area that is flooded here is about 30 foot wide and carved into a deep bowl before it rises up to the edge of our neighborhood. There is another gravel path that runs along this top side of the trail, and although it was not completely underwater this morning, there were places where it was too muddy and wet to traverse.

bridgewest

This picture is from the same location, but looking west toward Dairy Ashford, a major road that bounds our neighborhood to the west. The water is only about 4 foot below the bridge, and you can see water marks that show it was at least a foot higher. Dairy Ashford had some flooding north of the bridge. Although it was possible to drive thru the ponding this morning, I did see 4 cars that had stalled out trying to make it thru earlier.

bridgeeast

This is the other side of the bridge. The green way over here is not carved out for storm water retention. The main path rises a little higher as you can see along the white guard rail. About 1/2 mile further west a small creek flows into the bayou, but it had flooded over the walking bridge and I couldn’t go any further. This view lets you see the normal maximum width of the bayou, typically between the two sets of pillars supporting those pipes in front of the bridge.

bench

I accessed the bayou hike and bike again about 1/2 mile east out the back of our neighborhood. The bench you see is not at trail level, it is actually about 1/2 way up a fairly steep embankment. Obviously, the storm water retention area is not as wide thru this stretch as in the earlier photo. You can see were the bayou should be again, on the other side of those trees.

It’s hard to get a good feel for the extent of the flooding from these pictures, but some of you know the area and have walked down there. Buffalo Bayou is actually dammed about 5 miles west of us. The dam and the huge flood plain behind it is operated by the Corps of Engineers. The purpose is to protect downtown Houston so no water was being released from the dam yesterday or today. All the flooding  you see above is from very localized rains. When I started my walk I was surprised by how little flow there was in the bayou; no water was coming from upstream and there was really nowhere for the water to flow. But in the hour that I was out, I did notice the flow starting to pick up. It is astounding how quickly the city can drain. I haven’t taken another walk this evening, but I think most of the bayous thruout the city are back in their banks.

So that was the scene from near Chez Drott. I wasn’t going to go wading thru any of this water, even tho it might not have been flowing fast, there’s a good chance that there were plenty of poisonous snakes and floating fire ant mounds in those waters. The rain gauge at the bayou and Dairy Ashford officially recorded 7.5″ of rain. About 4 miles east near the Daughter’s apartment they had 10.25″. Not every one in the city came thru this as dry as we did, so we’re thanking our lucky stars. And hoping for a stretch of dry weather.

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