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May 26, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Newcomer’s guide to Houston floods

At Yellowstone National Park’s entrance, they hand visitors pamphlets about bear encounters and potential dangers. Houston might consider doing something similar.

Houston’s flat.

The bayous aren’t for scenic venues.

Below grade freeways serve as emergency water retention ponds and rivers occasionally

It’s not just hurricanes. Spring storms do the same. If it rains long enough in any area, it will flood.

Last night was the cup running over.

Storms drenched the already soggy city for hours resulting in massive flooding.

(Of course right as the Rockets game was ending and people were trying to get home.)

People new to the city deserve a heads-up to what natives just shrug off and whoop “weather day holiday. Get out the kayak.”

flooded garage. Houston.

Why you do not want to park on the lowest level of the parking garage. (

flooded Houston underpass with flood gauge/

It’s not a whimsical sculpture of ruler. It’s a flood gauge. Pay attention. People do drive in and drown. Notice the white car.(khou)

FLooded Freeway in Houston. Downtown in background.( Scott Ellison/

If it’s raining heavily, there’s water on the road, and you see all the cars ahead of you stopping, be alert. May mean the road ahead is flooded. Exit the road if you can. If you can’t consider parking and hiking out. Water comes up in less than 15 minutes sometimes. See the submerged car on the left? This is a major freeway with cars on the right appearing to try and climb on top of each other for safety.(Scott Ellison/

Houston. Car on bridge over flooded bayou.

Face it. You’re not going to make it home. Find a bar /restaurant to wait it out. Let someone know where you are. This car’s on a bridge over a bayou which normally has a water level 13-14 feet below the bridge. Bayous are running over 30 feet deep right now.(

Houston neighborhood street flooding/

While side streets may seem an option, be careful of the new dense construction areas in the inner city. Where once were small single story houses with yards, there are now townhouses. Less ground to absorb runoff. More concrete and buildings pouring water into old undersized storm drain. Oh, good idea to never park cars on the street outside your house. (

Houston. Floods. Car in

I know it’s only another block to your house, but really, park it and hike in. FYI: it is considered poor manners to drive across people’s yards because the street is flooded and you want to get home.

So the basics for those new to Houston:

  • Turn around don’t drown. (As the water recedes, bodies will be/are being found.)
  • Flood water really isn’t a water park. It’s polluted. There are fire ants, snakes, gators, and drenched desperate critters struggling in the brown swirling murk. Also the current to the drains is swift and strong enough to suck a person into the sewer system. The bayou currents are swift and dangerous.
  • Stay home or stay put. Park in a dry spot/tall parking garage/overpass and wait it out.
  • Do not stand out in storms like this waiting for the Metro bus or rail. The rail lines flood quickly. Find a bar and make new friends. It’s going to be a while before you get home.
  • Avoid purchasing a car for a bit. There’s going to be a lot of water damaged cars out there. Some will be shipped to another unsuspecting region for sale. (If you’re new, you may realize now why so many here insist on driving taller vehicles. Sensible)
  • Great time to shop for a home once the water starts going down. Get a tall truck, wear waders, and drive the neighborhood you are interested in. Look for the high water line on yards and houses. Walk around the yards and talk to local residence about how high the water got there. Best time to locate a home that stays dry and sits on a little taller elevation than others (Hey, here a foot higher elevation can mean a big difference. But you still are a fool not to have flood insurance if you live in this area)
  • Find a native who knows how the city grew. Learn where the spots are that alway flood even in a short downpour. (The Medical Center Hospital Complex is fine. The drainage upgrades after the 1983 rain storm worked. It’s totally dry.)
Another day. Another flood in Houston. This is Allen Parkway at by Rachelle/The Bishop on Twitter/KHOU)

Another day, another flood in Houston. This is Allen Parkway at Montrose (photo by Rachelle/The Bishop on Twitter/KHOU)

Just spring storms here. Water drains off to Galveston Bay fairly quickly.

Important to keep a sense of humor.

Great day for ducks.

Actually there’s a couple of big ducks swimming around some submerged cars on a feeder road. Show offs!

In Colorado people carry emergency sleeping bags in case of getting stranded in blizzards, should the Houston mayor insist drivers carry flotation devices for all car passengers?

Paddle on.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Houston. looking downtown. Twitter:KimMarcumTexas/

Houston. looking downtown. (Twitter.KimMarcumTexas/click2houston)


  1. Littlesundog / May 26 2015 4:24 pm

    Geez, you all have it a lot worse than we do! Keep high and dry!! We’re doing the same here. I’m glad Daisy is staying close to home these days. We are seeing a lot of mammals and turtles around since the river is out of its banks now. I always think about the critters that lose their homes.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 26 2015 4:56 pm

      It does look bad, but people just need to sit where they are until the streets drain and bayous are able to drain the water downstream. At least the houses don’t have water up to the roofs. Carpet and cars can be replaced. The lake here is already muddy and high – but the flood gates are open to the bay. People do need to be on the lookout for dislocated and disoriented critters right now. A new flood warning has been issued, but so far the rain appearing isn’t as heavy as it’s been. Better get Molly outside again while we can! Thanks for adding a comment to the raft


  2. easyweimaraner / May 26 2015 4:28 pm

    I’m so sorry for the people and the pets there… I’ve read at a blog that a lot of pets wait for their families in shelters…. hope they all will be picked up by the owners….
    I had no clue about the selling of the amphi-cars… it can be a bad surprise if a gators sits still under the drivers seat :o(


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 26 2015 4:45 pm

      Easy, in the city proper, the water drains pretty quickly – our flood gates in Clear Lake are wide open to the bay as all that city water is headed to the lake first. Cats and dogs may be sitting on kitchen cabinets in places but most are safe. (Few houses really flooded badly) – the place is built to channel water out and away, but the roads are not passable, so you just have to sit and stay.
      North of town along the rivers, many of the houses are on stilts. Pretty area, but residents know at times they have to deal with water. So far the dams are holding. The Red Cross does have crates for pets in the shelters, so people are told to bring their pets, too. (A big change, and a welcomed one) The rescue groups are also helping dislocated pets. The ones you really worry about are the strays and those chained in yards. People are out looking and helping.
      You are right, the gators are very bad drivers! Thanks for sloshing in to bark along


  3. dogear6 / May 26 2015 4:33 pm

    Your posts have so much dry humor in them, that this one was a change. It’s got good advice. I think you could package it and put it on Amazon! People need to know this and take action. We had this when we lived in Illinois. There were several low spots that you didn’t want to live by. When my husband and I moved from the western suburbs to the northern ones, we were deeply suspicious of some of the homes being sold. Although not native to that particular area, we knew enough about the river and its flooding to be wary of where we bought.

    I hope you’ve all stayed safe and dry. Molly got cabin fever yet?



    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 26 2015 5:07 pm

      You know floods, too – that’s for sure. Always have concerns for the new residents who just aren’t aware. Thanks for the kind words. I was going to just post a few pictures, but then saw those ducks swimming around flooded cars behind a reporter. The ducks reminded me of how kids are always running behind the reporter waving. Hard to believe but what was waist high water 3 hours ago on one freeway, is now dry and they are towing off cars to clear the way for traffic. Now if any additional rain is only light showers, they’ve issues another flood watch.
      I think Molly has gone into suspended animation…must go prod her to go outside while it’s not raining…which is a bit like telling a small kid, “we’re going in the car, better go now”….
      Thanks for floating in to chat

      Liked by 1 person

  4. RAB / May 26 2015 5:39 pm

    I’ve been thinking about you in the floods!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 26 2015 11:42 pm

      Although soggy, we’re in good shape as the water all drains quickly to the lake 2 blocks away.The water in Houston will be making its’ way down here over the next week or so.
      Being from here, we do watch the weather before heading out. The storms came at probably the worst time – right as the basketball game was finishing up. The smart ones stayed put and spent the night at the stadium. People forget how fast water can rise on flat land. The creeks/bayous came up some 30 feet in 2 hours last night in Houston. (The secret it out: all those below grade highways were actually designed to be dry river beds?) Thanks for wading over to check in!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Carrie Rubin / May 26 2015 6:29 pm

    Interesting point about not buying a new car for a while. I hadn’t even thought of that.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 26 2015 11:44 pm

      Takes a little bit for the water damage to show up sometimes. Buyer beware. Thanks for braving the low water crossings to visit

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Paul / May 26 2015 8:26 pm

    Neat post Phil – good advice. Here in Ottawa we have a river that flows through the city. A gazillion years ago the river was much wider and had carved a bed very deep. So now , having receded, there are banks that lead down to the river on both sides. That means no flooding. We are lucky that way. One trip when I was trucking, I had a load of undersea communication cable that was going to Alaska. I took it from the manufacturer (Phillips) in Toronto to a special crating company in Seattle – where it would be crated for transfer to a ship. It was a fourth of July weekend and I had made special arrangements to get unloaded. As I waited for the receiver to arrive, an older gentleman stopped to chat. The crating company building was built on a raised rock platform, unlike all the other buildings in the industrial park. I asked the older gentleman if he knew why and he grinned. He told me that he was the owner of the company and when they built the new building, he asked about flood levels and was reassured that they were at the 50 year level. He was not impressed and told the architects to take it to the 200 year level, which they did- hence the four foot rock platform the building sat on.

    We have some communities here in Canada that flood regularly. The insurance companies got tired of this and will no longer insure them for flooding. Property value in these communities went to almost zero. Do you have that problem in Houston?

    Great and informative post Phil. Thanks.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 12:19 am

      Waterways are pretty, but they usually have risks (as well as gators, here). It’s flat. If it rains hard enough and long enough, it’s gonna flood. The major bayous rose 30 feet in about 2 hours and spilled out of their banks. This morning there was waist deep water on some of the major freeways/road, but shortly afternoon, those were dry and being cleared of dead cars.(Perhaps the highways were actually intended to function as dry river bed roads until needed for flood waters?)
      Foolish people are now discovering their homeowner’ insurance does not cover rising water damage – that’s a separate policy for storm wind and water damage. Lots of TV commercial reminding people to buy, but…
      Some places in Galveston/first property on some water/rivers cannot get insurance. Some areas along the rivers must be elevated to get insurance – but that’s definitely something you have to check before buying. We don’t usually have massive flooding except with slow hurricanes. LA Nina weather patterns always mean heavy spring storms (a major widespread flood maybe once every 8-10 years – not counting hurricanes). Houses along bayous are potentially risky (but pretty lots). Some areas did get a bad rep for flooding until flood control work was done….but it’s usually not in one or two certain areas – just where ever that storm happens to sit a long time. Places flood. Those house prices may drop some. Then people buy cheap, fix them up and after a few years sell them well as buyer seem to forget about floods…and we have so many new people moving in constantly.
      Smart guy building up like that. Down the coast one city was rebuilding after Hurricane Carla. They marked the highest water/tide surge then moved back a couple of hundred feet before starting new building. Good to learn from experience.
      Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for adding some floating remarks
      I’ve always wanted to see Alaska – one of my aunts and uncle went up there back in the early 60’s. Still pretty much of a frontier.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. roughseasinthemed / May 26 2015 9:08 pm

    Got a friend elsewhere inTexas who is having flooding problems. Crazy weather your way.

    In my parents’ village the bottom end always flooded, near the big river. Well, big in UK terms. York also frequently floods. We also have a lot of tidal rivers.

    Craziest thing ever? Building on flood plains.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 12:36 am

      What a spring. Unfortunately the worst rain seems to have happened on a big holiday weekend so many of those caught by surprise were unfamiliar with the areas. San Antonio has been pounded for weeks it seems like. Their River Walk tourist area flooded badly – which means all the hotels and restaurants/bars/shops that lined it are a mess at the beginning of their busy season. Austin (hill, but flash floods common and there are low water crossings), Dallas – the works. But guess it’s a self correction after several dry spells.
      Someday I’d like to live some place with varying elevations. It’s flat flat. We have a (electric power) lineman friend who loves it here – all flat and the lines are strung perfectly neatly straight. Terrain makes his job so much easier.
      Since it’s unpredictable weather systems not land structures that causes flooding, it’s hard to say “this place floods and this doesn’t and is perfectly safe.” All depends on nature’s whims. We don’t have routine flooding like some states’ river valleys have. Luckily even the worse drains off fairly quickly(Houston streets took about 3-4 hours to clear today), unlike what happens in New Orleans with the levy system creating a bowl.
      The bay does have a small saltwater tide, but nothing like the ones in England. All waterfront property is valuable and highly desirable here – lake/river/bay/coast. People who build there need to understand the risks, build appropriate structures, and pay the insurance.(and some coastal properties are unable to get any insurance). Owners have to decide if the view and breeze is worth the risk. But I’d never build below a dam. Ever.
      Thanks for paddling in with a comment.


  8. Kate Crimmins / May 26 2015 9:25 pm

    Wow! We are not flat here and rarely flood. Certain areas do, but only those right by the rivers.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 12:44 am

      We get cool fronts from NW/CO/Canada running into warm fronts pushing in from Galveston Bay crashing into warm moist tropical fronts that sweep across Mexico and up the gulf coast – and it all fights it out over head. Some years we get spring floods. (Not counting hurricanes). When it rains hard for extended periods, water can’t drain fast enough to Galveston Bay and it backs up in streets and neighborhoods. Bayous and creek rose 25-30 in less than 2 hours last night. But it does drain pretty fast. The roads that were waste deep this morning were dry and being cleared of dead cars shortly after noon. There bad part is more people were out late last night with the basketball game and basketball watch parties. We’re drying out. Fingers crossed it doesn’t start all over again tonight. Molly is so bored! Walks are just not the same as running with friends in a field. Thanks for sloshing in with a comment

      Liked by 1 person

  9. shoreacres / May 26 2015 9:30 pm

    Nothing much to add, advice-wise, but I will mention that knowledge and will are two different things. I have a friend who got water this time, inside the loop. She flooded during Ike, too. When I asked if she had called her insurance agent, she said she didn’t have flood insurance. She figured since she’d flooded once, it wouldn’t happen again. Yes, she knew flood insurance was important, but…

    As I understand it, every time you flip a coin, the odds are the same. Sigh.

    I’ve noticed in the past hour the water’s rising along the bulkheads. It’s almost to the high water mark, but I doubt it will top the sidewalk. If it does, we’ll have something to take photos of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 12:53 am

      The water is headed this way – Egret Bay marsh is pretty watery. The birds and lizards have certainly been making the most of a rainless day. We’re due a break ( but it will be hotter than Hades and mosquito swarm once the sun comes out) Certainly is green this year. Tropics for sure. Thanks for sittin’ down to chat for a while


      • shoreacres / May 27 2015 1:22 am

        It is green, isn’t it? I’ve noticed that even some of the truly sad trees that were torn apart by Ike are looking spiffy. There’s a lot of not very symmetrical but enthusiastic growth!


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 12:57 pm

          Nature always plans and cultivates better. (Noticed a few of the birches are tossing up arms and littering the ground with fingertips). Would be nice if we could share some of this over abundance of rain with CA and the west.


  10. marthaschaefer / May 26 2015 9:49 pm

    Was thinking of you when I heard of the floods. Hope the Realm is dry. We could use some of that water – desperately! I can’t believe after all the snow we are facing a drought.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 1:01 am

      We are between Galveston (coast) and south of Houston. We had hours and hours of storms with constant lightning, but water drains off almost immediately to the lake 2 blocks away.
      When Houston gets these rainy years, you just have to watch the skies. It is hard to complain about rain after a few dry years. Wish a system of pumps and pipes was available to move water from one spot to another. The Romans managed it. Seems like such a waste. Thanks for floating a comment this way

      Liked by 2 people

  11. EllaDee / May 27 2015 5:47 am

    Until I read your post I hadn’t heard about the flooding… I’ve been off the radar somewhat. All your advice is sound and timely. During recent floods here 8 people were killed. I find that number quite incredible and sad. Some were washed away in sudden flooding that the like of which had never occurred in their locality but others we’re in their cars in flood waters. As I mentioned in my post, the non-availability of road information was appalling. We’d have never set our had we known we’d encounter flooded roads.

    The fallout from the Queensland floods a few years ago where housing was approved by government in known flood areas is beginning but the finger is being pointed at a company for not maintaining a dam wall. All too late know but we can, as with your advice be better prepared for the future.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 27 2015 1:03 pm

      I knew you guys were paddling water, too. People not familiar with flash floods can get caught by surprise. Unfortunately last weekend was a 3 day holiday which meant tourists were out – and there was the Rockets big basketball game downtown which meant people were out in cars much later – just as the storm hit.
      We’re hoping to get a break this afternoon.(only 30% chance of rain – storming now.)
      Stay safe (and I’ll be over to see what you’ve been up to shortly, supposed to go help a friend between downpours and must check weather radar) Thanks for swimming in to chat


  12. Robin / May 27 2015 12:57 pm

    Wow. That’s a lot of water! Good advice all around. A foot of elevation makes a big difference here, too. Just ask FEMA who decided to redo the flood maps (working with the insurance companies, and basing the new maps on faulty models of impossibilities, but that’s a long story) so that most of the people in the county will no longer be able to afford to live here due to the higher cost of flood insurance.


  13. The Coastal Crone / May 28 2015 1:46 am

    Stay safe in Houston or anywhere in Texas! Hurricane season starts June 1!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 28 2015 7:29 pm

      Whew. Hurricanes are much less trouble than spring storms. Hurricanes move in and promptly leave. (Giggles) We’ve sun today so everyone and everything is outside squinting at that bright orb.Birds are singing up a storm…wait! Stop that! Fingers crossed it all doesn’t start up again this weekend. Thanks for rafting in with a comment


  14. Spinster / May 28 2015 4:11 pm

    Went down there for the weekend to visit friends; just got back last night. Got stuck on Monday night/Tuesday morning on I-10. Happy happy joy joy. 😐


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 28 2015 9:00 pm

      It was a tourist weekend – but a bit too much excitement this year.(Survivor is no longer just a TV show….)
      I-10 is not the most entertaining spot. Glad you finally made it back to dry land. Bet there’s some stories to tell. (must wander your way shortly!) Thanks for the drive-by comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Spinster / May 29 2015 1:25 pm

        Well overdue for a new post (or two); should be back to it soon. See you there. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 29 2015 2:05 pm

          Sounds like you’re being paged for some interviews. Coool. Opportunity knocking?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Spinster / May 31 2015 6:57 pm

            Yes. Stay tuned… 😉


  15. pnwauthor / May 30 2015 12:32 am

    Whoa! How long do these floods last?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / May 31 2015 3:36 pm

      Normally the streets drain quickly – IF it stops raining. We’re having storms daily, but the bayous are back in banks. I was in town the day after those pictures with no problems…but last night there was ankle deep water downtown again for a few hours.
      Supposedly this week should be dryer. Molly can’t wait. Me either. Thanks for floating a comment into this pool


  16. jmmcdowell / Jun 2 2015 11:14 pm

    Great advice for lots of places, really. Areas with new construction of dense concentrations of tall buildings and little permeable space can easily flood even without torrential rains. Glad to see you’re drying out—even if that rain has now come over our way!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 3 2015 1:01 pm

      They have started planting flat-topped buildings with sod – even park shelters for shade here and in DC. Nice to look at, cleans the air, and is supposed to absorb water. Have to wonder how heavy that all gets after long periods of downpours, though. People laughed years ago when one old office building had a lovely garden on top – at one point in the 60’s the building was mostly empty and you could go up and enjoy it. Now that’s really fashionable. Rediscovering good stuff is good.
      Here’s something you might find interesting: a cattle drive that rounded up cattle at risk in the Trinity River bottom (just ignore the odd “pack of cattle” instead of “herd”..sigh.Young reporter who’s tag is “news with attitude” SIGH) Thanks for swimming over with a comment
      PS added the link in the next box



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