Shared from the 5/10/2019 Houston Chronicle eEdition

In Kingwood, questions and outrage rise with waters

Harvey’s tough lessons applied to cleanup as more storms brew

Mark Mulligan / Staff photographer

A log jam grows under the FM 1093 bridge over the Brazos River near Simonton. Rains have inundated area waterways.

Photos by Karen Warren / Staff photographer

Sharon Schoeneck vents to her neighbor Doyle Theimer as they look at a growing stack of belongings that were soaked in the latest deluge as she and other residents in the Elm Grove subdivision in Kingwood continued to clean up.


Heather Camp helps her father, David Schoeneck, pack up his belongings. Schoeneck has lived in his home since 1986, and it had never flooded before.

Discarded couches and tables. Sopping carpet. A lifetime’s belongings hefted to the curb, and all of it smelled.

This was the scene, so familiar in neighborhoods across the Houston area, on Shady Gardens Drive in Kingwood on Thursday morning. Residents confronted all that the rain had ruined so far and braced for more to come.

“There’s a lot of upset people right now, as you can imagine,” said Jerry Happ, 71, working in a sweat-soaked shirt amid his flood-damaged belongings in the garage.

Ever since Hurricane Harvey flooded thousands of Kingwood homes and businesses in August 2017, residents of the northeast Harris County community have clamored for change. They wanted the San Jacinto River dredged. They urged responsible development.

Some initiatives to reduce flooding in the area have begun since Harvey; for example, federal contractors started dredging part of the San Jacinto River. But now, yet another spring deluge has swamped many who were spared flooding from Harvey, leaving them baffled and incensed by the rising water that so quickly ruined so much.

Across the Houston area, meanwhile, rains that had subsided for much of the day returned as a torrential hail-packing downpour Thursday evening. By 9 p.m. Briar Branch Creek in Spring was flooding, and Brickhouse Gully was poised to follow suit. Officials continued to warn of rising rivers and for motorists to stay off potentially impassable streets.

In Kingwood, Jerry Happ watched from the front porch of his daughter’s brick home as water filled the street Tuesday afternoon. He saw it creep up the sloping yard.

When it reached the front walkway, he knew it was time to go inside and see what could be done. The answer was not much. Water seeped into the house.

On Thursday, Happ’s family and their neighbors were learning how to cut out drywall. They were discovering what damage flood insurance did — and did not — cover.

This was not Harvey, but it sure felt like it. People whose homes took on water during Harvey were helping these newly flooded families who had been spared by Harvey’s record-setting rains. Everyone hoped no one else would be affected in coming days.

The flooding this time around was different. Much of the damage from Harvey in Kingwood and nearby communities came from the rising San Jacinto River. This week, it was a flash flood: too much rain, falling too fast and overwhelming drainage systems.

Rumors flying around the neighborhood pointed a finger at a new development under construction nearby that many believed changed the flow of water.

It made for a cruel game of whack-a-mole. One problem might be eased, only for another to pop up.

People were more sensitive to flooding after Harvey, said Bob Rehak, a longtime Kingwood resident who closely follows flooding issues and has pushed for solutions on his website.

“The thing we weren’t sensitive to enough was street flooding,” he said, “but this certainly dramatized the potential for that.”

Jenna Armstrong, president and CEO of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce, called this week’s event another case of “extremely bad luck.”

But this is an area committed to figuring out solutions, she said. And that process would repeat: What happened? What can be done differently?

“There’s going to be things that happen that we’ve got to constantly assess,” she said.

Whatever the cause, the result seemed much the same.

It was the drywall paste that struck Doyle Theimer, 56, a local associate pastor, whose home flooded in Harvey and who was out helping a parishioner Thursday.

The memories were coming back to him — of having so much to do, and so many decisions to make. And it all had to be done so fast.

He instructed David Schoeneck, 71, on Maple Knoll Drive, to cut a piece from his soaked beige carpet to keep for the insurance adjuster.

Schoeneck had lived in this house since 1986, and it had never flooded before.

“There’s some investigation, I think, that should be done,” Schoeneck said. “Why did it flood in an area that’s never been flooded before?”

Two women delivered pizza to another house on the street. They questioned whether enough had been done in Kingwood to alleviate flooding. But they weren’t going to abandon the place they called home.

Tami Kuykendall, 59, whose house flooded during Harvey, said all she remembered was being hungry. She remembered a cookie delivery. And red beans and rice.

Now she handed three pizzas to the Moreno family.

Her friend, Donyale Davis, 47, whose house was undamaged by Harvey, had cold bottled water.

“Anybody thirsty?” Davis asked.

They also brought encouragement, and advice, about drywall, cupboards, flooring.

Greg Moreno, 39, had eaten only a kolache that day. It was hard to stop working.

Kuykendall knew the feeling.

“Right now,” Kuykendall said, “y’all are doing good.”

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