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.
“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.”
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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.
“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.