Under a mostly blue sky on Wednesday, they gathered at the edge of the Brazos River in Richmond to watch. Though the floodwaters are receding in Houston, the worst isn’t over quite yet for folks along the Brazos in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties, southwest of Houston. In Richmond, residents of the Edgewood Trailer Park came and went as the river inched toward its expected crest on Friday, swamping the 50 or so trailers and houses bit by bit.
Many folks here said the timing of Harvey was awful; they’d just finished recovering from the last disastrous flood — in 2016.
Irineo “Neo” Reyes remembers all the floods. He’s lived in Richmond his whole life, 85 years. For the last 51 years, he’s been keeping meticulous rainfall records for the National Weather Service. On a calendar he keeps in his barber shop next to the trailer park — where he lives in one of his four homes — he points to the staggering rainfall totals during Harvey: about 31 inches in all.
Reyes said his personal and rental homes were also flooded last year in a similar event, causing $40,000 in flood damage. FEMA helped him recoup about $10,000 of the losses, but the remaining cost took a toll on his savings. He said he doesn’t know how he’s going to fund repairs this time around: “We might have to find a place that’s high and dry to spend the rest of our lives,” he said.
One of Reyes’ renters is Luciano Lopez. On Wednesday, he watched from a dry spot a few feet away as muddy water seeped into his small home. The Brazos overran its banks on Monday and probably won’t recede enough for Lopez to begin mucking his place out until next week.
“When I saw it coming up, it was scary. I tried to barricade it with dirt but it just rose more,” Lopez said. He was able to move most of his belongings elsewhere and place other items up high to protect them. Now he, his wife and their chihuahua are staying with in-laws until they can re-enter the home.
The story was mostly the same for other Edgewood residents, who gathered at the water’s edge to watch as their homes were flooded. Though only about two feet of water separated people from their houses, it might as well have been an ocean. Some people seemed to be in good spirits. When I asked one resident who was lounging under a tree if he was OK, he fashioned his hands into an imaginary rod and reel, as if he were pulling in a big fish, and laughed.
An elderly woman who did not live at the park but was visiting a friend there said the floods happening in Richmond, Houston and elsewhere are Mother Nature’s way of testing Texans. “The signs in the Bible are coming true,” she said. Another woman, concerned about her aunt’s trailer, pleaded to know whether a blue house near the back of the park was above water.
The Brazos River was measured at 54 feet on Wednesday and is expected to rise to a record 56 feet before falling below 50 feet, the major flood threshold, on September 5, according to the National Weather Service. The river normally flows to the north and south of Edgewood, underneath Alternate State Highway 90, but torrential rains from Harvey pushed the river into the park. The Brazos also reportedly flooded homes in the much more affluent Pecan Grove on Wednesday, but authorities had barricaded the neighborhood.
Until the floodwaters recede, Reyes and other residents will have to hold off on assessing the damage. Until then, “All we can do is pray,” he said.