As thousands of people in flooded areas around Houston, Texas, struggle to deal with flood damage from Monday’s record rainfall, new storms are coming in off the Gulf of Mexico, swelling streams, rivers and bayous and adding to their misery.
At least eight people have died as a result of the flooding that followed heavy rains beginning late Sunday. Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for nine water-soaked Houston-area counties. The nation's fourth-largest city remains mostly closed for business.
Rescue crews have saved more than 1,200 people who were left stranded by floodwaters, and their work continues as the latest rainfall, combined with runoff from areas farther north, causes some rivers to overflow their banks and flood low-lying areas.
In some parts of Houston, there are piles of broken drywall outside apartment doors, as well as carpets and warped wood from floors and doorways. (G. Flakus/VOA)
More than 1,000 homes have been damaged by the floods, and many areas have no electrical power or access to other services. The problem is even worse for people living on the first floors of large apartment buildings, where many of Houston’s poorest people live.
When the rains stopped for several hours Tuesday, residents pulled out water-damaged carpets, furniture and other belongings, leaving piles of debris outside their doors. In some places, there were piles of broken drywall outside apartment doors, as well as carpets and warped wood from floors and doorways. Landlords are faced with costly repairs, which they cannot even begin until the flooding stops. Many tenants are frustrated.
WATCH: Houston Struggles to Recover From Flooding
Joshua Lewis rents a water-damaged first-floor apartment in the Greenspoint area of north Houston. He told VOA his landlord had not spoken to tenants about what repairs would be done but still expected tenants to pay their monthly rent by May 1.
Lewis said, “I am not paying my rent until I can walk into my apartment and smell brand-new drywall, brand-new tile, carpet, whatever.”
Omar Delfin says he and his wife and child will stay with relatives who live outside the flood zone to avoid exposure to health-threatening mildew and mold, which has already started growing in carpet and on walls in flooded apartments. (G. Flakus/VOA)
Omar Delfin, who lives in another apartment complex nearby, is in a similar fix, but his landlord has committed to replacing soaked carpets.
“But we are going to have to pay for our furniture and everything like that,” he said.
As is the case with many people in this area, Delfin does not have insurance. He and his wife and small child plan to stay with nearby family members who live outside the flood zone to avoid exposure to health-threatening mildew and mold, which has already started growing in carpet and on walls in flooded apartments.
Another big problem for people in the flood zone is transportation. Although there is some bus service in the area, most people in this sprawling city rely on automobiles to get to and from work, and hundreds of flooded cars are sitting in parking lots here, useless. Tow trucks move in and out of apartment complex parking lots, removing cars that will not start.
A mechanic named Jerry has been helping his neighbors clean out their flooded vehicles in hopes that he can get them to start, but he said many of them will be a total loss if the water damage is extensive.
A mechanic named Jerry has been helping his neighbors clean out their flooded vehicles in hopes that he can get them to start, but he said many of them will be a total loss if the water damage is extensive. (G. Flakus/VOA)
“The newer-model cars are more electronic-type cars,” he said, “and when that water gets up there to a certain level, it messes up the electrical system. So it is pretty much totaled.”
Lending a hand
In some cases, people have used battery cables to jump-start neighbors' cars. If a car will start, there is a good chance it was not damaged too badly, but such vehicles can have problems later if there is damage that is not detected.
This is a big challenge for the mostly low-wage workers who live in Greenspoint, especially for those who are temporarily out of work as they wait for their employers to reopen.
Another person left stranded by a flooded vehicle was Lyriic, 23, who moved to Houston from Michigan and has no family members nearby.
Lyriic, 23, a Houston resident who moved from Michigan and has no family members nearby, is relying on friends' help for now, "but I am just going to have to work very hard for the next couple of weeks and try to get another car." (G. Flakus/VOA)
“Right now I have friends helping me,” she said, “but I am just going to have to work very hard for the next couple of weeks and try to get another car. … I am just going to have to do my best.”
She works at a local bar and also does tattoo art, but the bar remains closed and she cannot get around with her equipment to serve potential clients without a car.
Many businesses, schools and government offices remain closed in the Houston area as the rain and flooding continue. Forecasters expect the rain to taper off by the weekend, when sunshine could return to help dry out the region.