By Matt Hollis
As Imelda’s floodwaters kept rising, residents in Winnie-Stowell and Hankamer began to fear the worst.
“There were snakes coming into the house,” said Wilton Albritton, a Winnie-Stowell resident. “I was rescued by airboats. It is awesome. If it wasn’t for them, who knows? The water got higher every 15 to 30 minutes and got into the house. It didn’t stop rising until 4 a.m.”
Imelda’s was a weak tropical storm when it came ashore Tuesday, but it brought with it heavy rains and flooding to many parts of Chambers County. The Winnie-Stowell area received 36-inches of rain. This caused local bayous to overtop their banks and flood the land. Preliminary estimates indicate about 800 homes and businesses sustained some level of damage from floodwaters, Chambers County spokesman Ryan Holzaepfel said. Emergency personnel rescued about 400 people during the deluge, mostly from homes, he said.
Jamie Granger, a Winnie-Stowell resident, was able to get out of his house on a boat.
“Once (the water) got so high, we got the boat out and waded through it,” Granger said. “My parent’s house is next door, and they are a little higher, so we were safe there. I also got my dogs and cats out.”
Granger said he just moved into the home two weeks ago.
“It is sad,” he said.
James Revia of Hankamer and his four children ages 8 to 14 were rescued by the local fire department. They had to relocate to the American Red Cross shelter at the White Park Community Center, 225 White Park Drive, Anahuac.
“Yesterday morning, we were out on the porch and observing the water, and we saw fire trucks at the end of the road,” Revia said. “We kept watching the water rise, and I told the kids I wasn’t sure if I was going to go. So, we kept watching it. And then I saw my huge 100-gallon propane tank was floating. It shifted somehow, and it broke the line. When it did that, propane started coming out of it. The fire department came up about that time, and they shut the valve off. They said you are going to have to leave because the propane could come in the house and cause an electrical fire. So, I decided to leave.”
Revia said more rain started falling, so he and his family packed up a few belongings, hopped on the back of a fire truck and headed out.
Despite having also gone through Harvey’s floods and now this, Revia said he is not planning to move.
“I have lived in the area for 40 years,” he said. “When it comes to the weather around here during hurricane season, everything is unpredictable. Even a hard thunderstorm could drop a lot of rain. There is no use packing your family up and moving off somewhere. You have to look at the heartache of all of that, so there is no use in moving. So I’ll stick it out. If it happens again, it happens again.”
Revia said he is grateful for the American Red Cross folks and what they are doing at the shelter.
“This place is very good,” he said. “They are getting us food, clothing, and accommodating everyone’s needs here. Everyone is getting along good.”
As far as how long he will have to stay at the shelter, Revia said he has no idea.
“It is almost like a fishbowl,” he said. “You put a crack in the bottom of it, and it will leak out. It has to go somewhere. With water being everywhere around here, and with the bayous flooded, it will take time for it to run toward the Gulf. It could take weeks.”
Chambers County Pct. 4 Commissioner Billy Combs said for many of Imelda’s flood victims, it was like déjà vu since they had gone through the same thing after Harvey.
“There is nowhere to really go to escape it,” Combs said. “If it dumps 36-inches of rain overnight, it will flood. What they are going through right now is nothing compared to what they will have to go through in the next six months.”
Red Cross shelter volunteer Tisha Booker said the shelter will stay open until it is no longer needed.
“But everything is running smooth, and we are still getting a lot of people in,” Booker said. “We are trying to make them as comfortable as we can. And help get them to the next step. We are taking in animals as well. They are kept on the back where owners can visit them and feed them.”
Booker said the main things needed at the shelter are towels and socks.
“Some have donated these items, but we will need more,” Booker said.
Holzaepfel said if anyone wants to donate towels or socks to the shelter, call 409-267-2440 first.
There had been a total of three shelters open in the wake of Imelda’s floods, one in Mont Belvieu and the other at the East Chambers ISD Dome. However, Holzaepfel said they are being consolidated to one, the White Park shelter. He added once the consolidation is done, the shelter will house 134 people, under the 150 limit.
High waters and torrential rainfall caused a number of drivers throughout Chambers, Jefferson and Harris County to abandon their vehicles. Those vehicles may have been towed in an effort to re-open roads.
Chambers County spokesman Ryan Holzaepfel said those drivers can contact county governments where the vehicle was abandoned to track it down.
Chambers County — 409-267-2450
Jefferson County — 409-835-8668
Harris County — 713-755-6042
Chambers Co. transitions from response to recovery
The transition from response to recover began in Chambers County Saturday while officials waited for a Presidential Declaration of Disaster. Once declared, residents will be able to sign up for FEMA assistance.
Currently, all shelters have been consolidated to White’s Park. There are 113 people at the shelter. In terms of debris, residents can place debris from homes beside the roadway. There are currently plans to remove debris from county right-of-ways. The county cannot go on private property or remove commercial debris. More details will be forthcoming.
In terms of roads, I-10 is still closed. As for other roads;
SH 65 has eight inches or less of flood water in areas from Monroe City to Winnie.
FM1985 has 20 inches of flood water.
SH61 is clear from IH10 to SH90.
FM1406 is clear from Winnie to 365 Nome.
FM1663 has about 6 inches but is receding.
FEMA damage assessment teams are planning to be in the affected areas Tuesday morning to begin detailed assessment of damages.
— The Baytown Sun