April rain flooded 2,300 homes

Storms seen as highlighting need for flood insurance

By MIKE SNYDER HOUSTON CHRONICLE

May 13, 2009, 7:01PM

Late last month, Burton Barnes worked on bailing out the sunken living room of his brother-in-law’s home in the Bear Creek subdivision, one of the area’s that flooded in the torrential downpours of April 27 and 28.

About 2,300 Houston-area homes flooded during downpours April 27 and 28, among the highest totals since Tropical Storm Allison pushed water into 73,000 homes in 2001, officials said Wednesday.

The figure includes about 1,350 residences in Houston, 800 in unincorporated Harris County and the rest in other towns and cities within the county, said Heather Saucier, a spokeswoman for the county flood control district.

More than half of the flooded houses were not in a mapped flood plain, a reminder that every property owner in Houston and Harris County is at risk for flooding and should purchase flood insurance, Saucier said.

Ditches can back up

Flood plain maps show risks only from bayous or streams that overflow their banks, she said. They don’t show the potential for flooding from overloaded ditches or storm sewers.

“Oftentimes, we see streets filling up with water and inundating homes long before nearby tributaries and bayous reach their capacity,” Saucier said.

Residents of neighborhoods where many homes flooded said they’re still waiting for word on whether Gov. Rick Perry would seek a disaster declaration that could free up funds for temporary housing or other assistance.

State and local inspectors were still in the field this week assessing damage, and Perry will make a decision about what assistance is appropriate after that work is complete, spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said.

Melanie Hogue, a teacher in the Spring Branch school district, said the late-April rainstorms flooded her family’s house in northwest Harris County for the second time in seven months. More than 11 inches of rain fell within a few hours in some parts of the Houston area.

‘Twice within a year’

“It is very scary to wake up to a flooding house,” Hogue said in an e-mail message. “It is very sad to finally have our dream house only to be torn apart twice within a year.”

Major local floods since Allison include storms that flooded 2,000 homes in 2002 and 3,370 homes in 2006, Saucier said.