Houston/ Weather & Environment
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Published on July 10, 2024
Houston Battles Flooding Aftermath as Tropical Storm Beryl Exposes Drainage ChallengesSource: Unsplash/ jim gade

Houston residents are once again grappling with the aftermath of a storm that has pushed the city's drainage infrastructure to its limits. Hurricane Beryl, downgraded to a tropical storm, brought chaos to neighborhoods with its heavy rains and strong winds, flooding homes and leaving residents to deal with the sudden inundation. Richard Reyes, a local artist from Aldine, saw nearly a foot of water pour into his home, disrupting both his residence and his artwork. According to a Houston Public Media report, Reyes was forced to start to get some of it out with a bucket, while his son tackled a fallen tree blocking their path.

Despite recent efforts to improve the situation, including the digging of 2,500 miles of roadside ditches and the introduction of large drainage pipes, residents like Reyes are left questioning the efficacy of these measures. "We almost got away with it, but we didn't," Reyes told Houston Public Media. His experience reflects a broader issue highlighted by a legal challenge against the city, in which plaintiffs claim Houston has "been illegally withholding hundreds of millions of dollars from the Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund."

The plight of northeast Houston has been captured by the story of the Medina family, waking up to find inches of water throughout their home. Seventeen-year-old Esmeralda Medina described a frantic scene as her family attempted to salvage their belongings amid the rising water. As reported by Houston Landing, areas like Medina's are blighted by poor drainage infrastructure, which, following severe weather events, often leaves residents with waterlogged homes and overfilled ditches. Activists have been advocating for improved maintenance and investment in these areas, but events like Beryl call into question whether such measures are sufficient.

Alice Liu, from West Street Recovery, pointedly noted the disparities in the city's drainage system, stating, "The divide in the drainage system falls overwhelmingly along racial and class lines here." She told Houston Landing that while the city has approved funding for maintenance, there remains a significant need for long-term investment. The recent court ruling against the city for underfunding drainage infrastructure suggests a systemic failure to adequately address the needs of communities most vulnerable to flooding events.

As locals worked to clean up and recover from Beryl's damage, the Medina family waited for the water to naturally recede from their property. Veronica Medina, reflecting on the persistent issues with the drainage system in her neighborhood, said, "These ditches are always the same," in her interview with Houston Landing