Sunday, February 22, 2009

Flood buyouts: Residents in flood-prone homes face uncertain future

Houston Chronicle: Gazing into her backyard, a stone’s throw from White Oak Bayou, Judy Callaway can still see her daughters running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day or laying out in their bikinis trying to get a tan. She chokes back tears, remembering birthday celebrations, graduation parties, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a kitchen so tiny it was a wonder two people could squeeze in to it to carve the bird and pour the iced tea.

Those memories made it almost impossible for her to imagine accepting the Harris County Flood Control District’s offer to buy her flood-prone northwest Houston home. But other memories made it equally difficult to turn such a deal away. She has memories of propping up her couch on her kitchen pots every time a tropical storm headed for Houston. And teaching herself to remove and install drywall when Tropical Storm Allison filled her house with 16 inches of water….

Now, she and dozens of other homeowners participating in the district’s most recent buyout program are trying to figure out where to go when the homes they poured their hearts into building are gone….The flood control district has spent $200 million purchasing and demolishing about 2,200 houses since 1989, restoring the land to its natural flood-plain state. About half the money has come from Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, with the district covering the rest. Most of the buyouts are voluntary, though about 600 homes had to be razed to make way for district building projects….

Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou Confluence and Main St. - 06/09/01. NOAA Photo Library

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