'Taken out by boat': W. Houston residents recall aftermath while rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey

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Saturday, August 27, 2022
Some W. Houston neighbors willing to gamble on staying 5 years after Harvey
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Eyewitness News is revisiting neighborhoods that were memorably impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In west Houston, neighbors recall the trauma they experienced as reservoirs were opened during the storm.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston westside residents Jodie and John Combs have lived in the area for 30 years. They never worried about severe flooding until Aug. 17, 2017

It was two days after Hurricane Harvey had pummeled parts of west Houston. The Combs, like their neighbors, thought they escaped the worst. They, unfortunately, were wrong.

"We were taken out by boat," Jodie Combs recalled.

"Our entire downstairs was gutted. It was a mess," John Combs said.

RELATED: 5 years after Hurricane Harvey, some Houstonians are still recovering, UH report says

The Army Corps of Engineers released waters from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs into downstream neighborhoods, fearing the dam would collapse.

The area is south of I-10, west of the Beltway, and east of Highway 6. Thousands of west siders who thought they escaped the worst of Harvey found themselves submerged in several feet of water overnight.

RELATED: Hurricane Harvey survivors demand better investment, attention to drainage issues in NE Houston

"I feel like somebody panicked with the dam, and they hit the button and released the water," Combs said. "I understand we were sacrificed for the greater good, and I guess I can live with that."

"It was a crazy time," says Shannon Robinson, who lives next to Rummel Creek. "You just took what you could carry, hopped on a random person's boat. The kindness of strangers really saved our neighborhood." Robinson estimates that 90% of her neighbors had their homes flooded.

Frustrated by the slow recovery, Robinson started a non-profit called Project Memorial to help her neighbors get necessary supplies as they rebuilt.

It's not been easy, but the growth was evident when Robinson took ABC13 on a tour of her neighborhood. Most homes were either newly built or refurbished, and only a few empty lots remain.

"I think people are moving on and still frustrated at things that happened," she said. "I don't think anyone will ever be the same after Harvey."

RELATED: Feds: Houston's slow Harvey aid, left residents 'without the help they needed'

There are ongoing lawsuits with the federal government as residents on the west side work to recover some of their losses. But for the most part, people are looking ahead.

As for the Combs, they gutted and rebuilt the inside of their home. But the outside, and the character of the neighborhood, have endured.

"We're native Houstonians. We love our neighbors," said Jodie. "We love what the city stands for, so we're here."

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