E&E News | Daniel Cusick For 70,000 residents of Kingwood in northeast Houston, it doesn’t matter that Imelda wasn’t a hurricane. The misery is the same: flooded homes, forced relocations, shattered lives. Sharion Haynie and her husband, James, are for the second time in two years holed up in their 1977 mini-camper. They are parked at a neighbor’s house as they wait for officials to assess their 1,650-square-foot home that was swamped by 3 feet of water last week. Hurricane Harvey was worse — it flooded their house to the rafters — but the Haynies are no better off today. “I wanted to move after Harvey, and my husband didn’t want to, so we just decided to rebuild,” Sharion Haynie said in a phone interview Monday. “But now it’s time. The memories, whatever. I’ve got to get past all that. We’ve got to go.” Flood fatigue has hit a breaking point in northeast Harris County, where residents of Kingwood and neighboring communities have endured not one, not two, but three major floods in two years. Climate change is exacerbating the problem, experts say, as hurricanes, tropical storms and other extreme weather draw more energy from warmer oceans and air temperatures. “Harvey catapulted the flooding issue to national attention in 2017, but the Houston area has been dealing with
flooding for a very long time,” including major floods in five consecutive years between 2015 and 2019, said Anna Weber, a senior policy analyst focused on climate change and water for the Natural Resources Defense Council. […] Taxpayers spent roughly $360 million helping Kingwood residents recover from Harvey, most of it through National Flood Insurance Program payouts, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency data analyzed by E&E News. More than 1,300 Kingwood homeowners made NFIP claims to rebuild after the 2017 megastorm, according to the data. […] Rather than navigate a web of FEMA bureaucracy, owners of such properties often pay out of pocket to repair or rebuild their homes. Others try to sell flood-damaged properties to individuals or developers who simply scrape damaged homes off their lots and build new ones, passing flood risk to the next owner. […] A third option, advocated by many climate adaptation and resilience experts, is government buyout programs that provide pre-flood market value to owners of high-risk homes, often in exchange for converting subdivisions to wetlands, parks or other green space.