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Receding Floodwaters Reveal Extent Of Houston Area's Post-Harvey Destruction

04/09/2017 5:36 AM AEST | Updated 04/09/2017 11:13 AM AEST
JOSEPH RUSHMORE FOR HUFFPOST
Damion Lasker, 24, stands next to debris on Sunday taken from his mother's flooded home in Katy, Texas, west of Houston. Houses on every street in this town have similar piles waiting for pickup.

HOUSTON ― Recovery and repair are going to take a long time.

There were still roads and neighborhoods in the greater Houston area underwater after Hurricane Harvey and its remnants unloaded dozens of inches of rain on southeastern Texas over the course of several days. Some local residents told HuffPost on Sunday that they still couldn’t get into their homes.

But as the water continues to recede in and around the city, many have had the opportunity to assess the damage and begin the long process of repair.

In Katy, about 30 miles west of downtown Houston, 24-year old Damion Lasker was standing on his mother’s lawn, deciding what he’d clean up next. Piles of flooring, roofing, carpet and other debris lay in piles near the street, waiting for pickup. Looking down the street both ways, similar debris spanning entire front yards were piling up.

Joseph Rushmore for HuffPost
Crews of volunteers help locals in Katy rip out damaged furniture, roofing, flooring and wood from homes.

“A lot of people are having to rip up their homes. It’s just sad,” Lasker told HuffPost on Sunday. “None of this stuff is replaceable — we had to get all of it out of the house. Luckily, though, everyone got out of here safe when the water started getting real high.”

At Harvey’s peak, the water levels reached four-feet-high in some parts of Houston and surrounding communities, submerging vehicles, downing power lines and flooding many roads, homes and other buildings. Much of that floodwater is still stagnant in some neighborhoods, and crews are constantly seen pumping water off main highways like Interstate 10.

A silver lining for people like Lasker comes in the form of volunteers. When he was able to get back to his mother’s home, a crew of good Samaritans dropped by and ripped out the waterlogged furniture, flooring and roofing alongside him. The whole process took only three hours, he said.

Down the street, a crew of about 10 with the engineering agency Oceaneering was helping to clear out a colleague’s home, which was hit with about a foot of water. These impromptu operations are now seen everywhere, and can take days.

Joseph Rushmore for HuffPost
Crews of volunteers at work in Katy.

“Pretty much everybody is helping out in their own way, all over the place,” said Rob Letona, one of the crewmen.

Asked whether many of these homes will be considered a total loss, he said, “They’re salvageable as long as you do it in time, get rid of all the sheet rock and insulation, air out all the wood and framing, and cut everything out up to the water line. Otherwise it’ll rot out the wood and make it unstable and dangerous for living.”

Lasker says the cleanup and repair process for his mother’s house could take nine months or longer.

As work on residential properties proceeds, an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 students from the Houston Independent School District will need to be temporarily relocated from their storm-damaged schools to alternate facilities. As of Sunday morning, some 200 HISD school buildings had standing water, including 53 with “major” damage and 22 with “extensive” damage, according to Brian Busby, the district’s chief operating officer.

Many small businesses throughout the region will also need to be rebuilt or repaired. Unfortunately, it’s common for business owners in the area to opt out of having flood insurance unless it is required by their mortgages or leases, according to Reuters.

After hitting Texas, the storm made landfall again in Louisiana on Wednesday. The death toll from the disaster is feared to be approaching 50 people, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. 

  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    A volunteer from Texas A&M University helps to clean up flood damage in the house of an alumnus in Houston on Sept. 2.
  • Joe Raedle via Getty Images
    Artemio Tamez and Franco Tamez sit in front of Franco's house on Sept. 2 after spending the day cleaning it out after torrential rains in the wake of Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding throughout the Houston area.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Children pick through toys in a trash pile on Sept. 2.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Patrice Laporte looks to see how much water is in his house on Sept. 1.
  • Adrees Latif / Reuters
    A man disposes of drywall while salvaging through belongings from his home on Sept. 2.
  • Joe Raedle via Getty Images
    Axa Alvarez (holding coat) and her family sort through clothes on on Sept. 2 as they clean out their house, which had been inundated with water.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Jay Jackson adds to the pile of trash from Harvey flood damage.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    A man tears out damaged parts of a home.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Church volunteers work in a damaged home.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Nancy McBride collects items from her flooded kitchen as she returns to her home on Sept. 1 after the record-breaking rainfall in Houston.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Church volunteers work help clear out a damaged home.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    A man adds to a pile of trash.
  • Joe Raedle via Getty Images
    Ernesto Ramirez pauses as he cleans out his house.
  • Jim Tanner / Reuters
    Damaged furniture, carpets and flooring are piled at a curbside on Sept. 2.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    The Sam Houston Parkway was still completely covered with Harvey floodwaters as of Sept. 1.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Carl Ellis talks to his daughter stuck in Canada, while standing in front of her house surrounded by Harvey floodwaters on Aug. 31.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Giant mounds of trash from flood-damaged homes line a sidewalk on Sept. 2.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    A girl sits amid giant piles of trash on Sept. 2.
  • Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Pete Schroeter surveys his flooded garage on Aug. 31 for the first time after his house was flooded.

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