Flood Control Recommendations Submitted to Riceland Terrace Residents

By George Slaughter

This ditch runs south of Fortuna Drive and Patna Drive. (George Slaughter photo)

On Fortuna Drive, Angela Della-Calce and her family, residents for 31 years, had flooding—and some unwanted garden snakes—courtesy of Hurricane Harvey last August.

A large, blue pod sits in their driveway. Della-Calce said that other houses have had pods following Harvey, but theirs remains for now.
They saved what they could. Some items, such as black items of clothing, had bleached stains from the floodwater.

One neighbor, Della-Calce said, only recently finished renovations to her home following the 2016 Tax Day flood. The neighbor’s situation was more precarious because she was a widow.

Behind the houses on Della-Calce’s side of the street, one can see the slope of how the water flows down from behind the newer apartment complexes and homes.

On the south side of Patna Drive is a large ditch. Hughes said the water never crested in that ditch after Harvey. Not all the floodwater from either Patna or Fortuna made it there.

Keeping a Sense of Humor

For all the property damage, broken hearts, and physical hardship Hurricane Harvey caused Katy residents last year, there were some lighter moments.

Former Mayor Fabol Hughes and his wife, Paula, have lived in their home on Patna Drive for 47 years. Their home flooded like so many others in Katy. It was the first time their house flooded, he said, though their garage took on water in the 2016 tax day flood.

He said it was the most helpless feeling in the world to see the water level creeping up on your house.

The Hugheses evacuated by walking to the end of their street. An air boat picked them up and took them to a temporary shelter at Morton Ranch High School, 21000 Franz Road.

When they arrived, they were offered a change of dry clothes. While they accepted the offer, there was one glitch, as far as the former mayor was concerned.

The dry clothes set included a purple Morton Ranch Mavericks t-shirt. The Hugheses are enthusiastic Katy Tigers fans and have been football season ticket-holders since 1993. He good-naturedly asked if they had any red Katy Tigers t-shirts. He was told no, only purple Mavericks shirts.

He joked that he later called Dr. Lance Hindt, the Katy Independent School District superintendent, to ask about getting a red Katy Tigers t-shirt. Hindt, who is a Taylor High School graduate, joked that no, he had no such t-shirts, but would be happy to send Hughes a blue Taylor Mustangs t-shirt.

Meanwhile, Hughes said, unbeknownst to him, someone photographed him in the purple t-shirt and sent it to Hindt.

Light moments like these didn’t change the reality of the flooding. In the Hugheses case, they’ve been back in their home for a few weeks and are still repairing and remodeling.

Outside the house, one can see the watermarks on the walls. Vehicles normally parked in the garage are in the driveway.

Inside the garage, like inside the house, stacked boxes remain to be opened and their contents sorted. Other renovations, such as a new kitchen, flooring, and painting, have been made.

The Hugheses know they’re fortunate. Not everyone has returned to their homes after Harvey.

Costello Makes Its Recommendations

At a Wednesday night workshop at city hall, a city-hired engineering firm made its recommendations for preventing future flooding in the Riceland Terrace area.

Recommendations include improving storm water runoff rates, making subdivision drainage improvements, and redirecting the drainage upstream of Morton Road east to Morton Creek.

The city hired Costello, Inc., a Houston-based engineering and surveying company, after the 2016 tax day flood. Hurricane Harvey provided more useful data.

“They’ve done a great job on everything so far,” Mayor Chuck Brawner said of Costello.

Brawner said that money from the May 6 bond election will pay for the recommended Riceland Terrace repairs and upgrades. He said the city is applying for grants that, if approved, will pay those expenses, and the bond money would then be redirected towards other flood-damage repair and upgrade projects.

Both Hughes and Della-Calce were at the workshop and said they supported Costello’s recommendations. Presuming the bond issue passes, the design plans will be created and put out for bid.

“I think it’s great because you can’t predict hurricanes and you can’t stop them,” Della-Calce said.

Hughes said he expected to attend an upcoming city staff meeting to propose that a ditch which runs behind the houses on his side of the street be made into a culvert to help the storm water runoff rate.

Wednesday’s hearing was the second in a series of what have been styled “workshops.” Costello engineers made their presentation and the floor was opened for questions. The first workshop involving the Pine Forest subdivision was held in November. A third such workshop has yet to be announced.

The workshops focus is on what the city can do to address these issues. Meanwhile, federal officials are working to develop a Cypress Creek reservoir to mitigate future flooding. Brawner said Wednesday that the money has been set aside for the project, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wanted to conduct a three-year study.

Hughes said the Corps conducted such a study in 1940. A reservoir was recommended at that time, but it was never built.
Work to modernize the Addicks and Barker dams had already begun before the tax day flood.

Brawner said that addressing these issues isn’t on the backburner, “and it won’t be on the backburner until we’re finished.”

To see the slides from the Riceland Terrace workshop, see the city web site.

To see the slides from the Pine Forest workshop, see the city web site.