Back on Saturday, August 26, I was also craving a steakburger. We pulled into the parking lot of Freddy's on Dairy Ashford only to find out that they had closed due to the approach of Tropical Storm Harvey; the first outer feeder band had rained upon us that morning. After finding another place that was open, we went home with that night's dinner. As I crossed Buffalo Bayou, I had no idea that I wouldn't see the other side of the Dairy Ashford bridge for quite a while. The previous night, Harvey had made landfall as a category 4 hurricane at Rockport and then stalled not very far away. This set up a terrible rainfall scenario where the northeast quadrant of the storm would begin acting as a conveyor belt scooping up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping it on us.
The overnight period of August 26-27 brought us three drenching thunderstorms that rocked us awake and terrified us like the ghosts out of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. After each visitation, the street intersection at our Ten Tree Corner would fill with water and then drain. Each time, the water would take a longer time to drain away. When daybreak arrived on the morning of Sunday, August 27, the website for the Harris County Flood Warning System was showing Buffalo Bayou close to top-of-bank.
|Rainfall Totals on Buffalo Bayou @ Dairy Ashford. Chart taken from Harris County Flood Warning System website.|
|Buffalo Bayou @ Dairy Ashford stream elevation|
In the week before Labor Day weekend, those of us who could were trying to return back to normal routines. Commuting was definitely not back to normal, though. Every north-south bayou bridge between the Grand Parkway in Katy to Voss Road near the Galleria area -- a distance of 17 miles right through the middle of the metro area -- was underwater. Motorists who depended on these bridges -- especially the West Sam Houston Tollway -- were making long diversions that exacerbated traffic woes in areas of town that were un-flooded. On normal days, the Galleria area is notoriously congested. After Harvey, gridlock on the westside was so bad I had dubbed it "California Traffic Simulator." One afternoon, I sat in in my car after office hours and realized that I could make a drive all the way to Austin in same amount of time that it was going to take simply to go home to the other side of the bayou -- a drive I normally make in a leisurely 30-45 minutes on local roads and bridges.
By last weekend, the outflows from the dams had been reduced to the point where the city and TxDOT were able to re-open nearly of our bridges again. I had my celebratory Freddy's burger. But my temporary traffic gripes are trivial compared to the immense losses of lives and homes. I will be looking for those small favors I can do to ease the burdens of friends, neighbors, and people I'll probably never meet in person.