Alex Afolabi woke up about 6 a.m. Monday, in this city miles from downtown Houston, to a call from a friend and a warning: Evacuate.
“We thought the rain was going to come, but not flood,” said Afolabi, who lives here with his wife and two children, on Tuesday.
The family evacuated, but Afolabi’s assumption was wrong. His home was a total loss, his subdivision a river. Harvey’s destruction had struck, even this far from Houston.
“I got my clothes, my kids’ clothes, a couch, four TVs, documents — I got my whole life in there,” Afolabi said. “This is just crazy.”
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After about 20 inches of rain over the last four days, officials released the dam waters at Lake Conroe, protecting the integrity of the dam but also leading to more flooding of the San Jacinto and areas downstream.
By Monday night, the floodwaters from the San Jacinto rose high enough at his house to submerge a neighbor’s car.
About dozen homes on his street and at least a dozen more one street over appeared to be a similar predicament Tuesday.
The waters had started to recede, Afolabi and other residents said, but much of their subdivision, which sits just south of the San Jacinto, remained a river of its own. Cars remained half-submerged. On Northern Flicker Trail, a block east of Afolabi’s home, water gushed around a corner, flowing into a large drainage ditch like roaring rapids.
One of the worst-hit flood areas Tuesday was in Kingwood, a northeast suburb where the San Jacinto meets Crystal Creek and feeds into Lake Houston.
Crews spent most of the day evacuating residents by boat. In one neighborhood by the lake, waters rose more than halfway up a street sign.
Back in Conroe, the floodwaters just south of the dam had receded to below Farm Road 2854 by about 1 p.m., a possible sign of relief. The night before, the waters were over the bridge, said Sharon Beck, a resident in the McDade Estates neighborhood that was put under mandatory evacuation.
Beck stayed at her home, which did not flood.
Across town, in Afolabi’s neighborhood, most of the residents appeared to be safe at their homes Tuesday or had evacuated.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be this bad,” said Louis Bonilla, who also lives in the neighborhood.
Bonilla on Tuesday dragged a small, lime-green kayak to the water’s edge on Northern Flicker Trail.
He wanted to reach his nephew’s home, where the 22-year-old had been stranded with his girlfriend for three days. The couple was safe, taking refuge on the second floor, but two of their dogs were without food.
“I feel so bad for the dogs,” Bonilla said, placing a bag of Purina Dog Chow in the kayak.
But as he looked down the street, seeing the water gush into the drainage ditch, he grew a bit nervous.
“I’m a city guy,” he said.
Bonilla pushed the boat into the water and sat down in it, paddling toward his nephew’s home about four blocks away. After fighting through the current that pulled him slightly toward the drainage ditch, he steadied the kayak, steering it safely around the corner.