Recovery, Relocation, and Alluvial Awareness in Post-Harvey Houston

Posted by on Feb 19, 2018
Recovery, Relocation, and Alluvial Awareness in Post-Harvey Houston

I recently moved to Houston to work as a postdoc on a NSF Rapid grant ethnography Dominic Boyer is heading up. I’m living in Meyerland, one of the neighbourhoods that our study focusses on. The other is Greenspoint. Both areas have been repeatedly flooded in recent years, most dramatically with Hurricane Harvey, and our ethnography is studying how residents who were flooded are going about deciding to stay or leave.

A couple days after I moved in to my apartment in Meyerland, it rained heavily and I watched the road adjacent to Brays Bayou fill with water (see the 20-second video below). In the time that it took for my bus to arrive, substantial pools of water accumulated. Evidence of Harvey’s impact is readily visible throughout the neighbourhood (the apartment complex that I live in is still renovating first-floor units) and I wondered, while watching the rain, if residents view the rain differently now, if it engenders unease.


I spoke about how rain might take on a different affect in post-Harvey Houston, and a Meyerland resident responded that he’s heard from parents that their children are now frightened by the rain, thinking it might portend disaster. A couple blocks from the bus stop where I watched the rain is a Harris County Flood Control District sensor that measures water depth in the bayou. You can see in the screenshot below that water levels rose about 4.5 feet during the rainstorm I filmed – no wonder if kids are scared.


There is a flurry of research on post-Harvey Houston. Last week, for example, the Department of Anthropology at Rice hosted a great talk by Roberto Barrios on his ethnographic study of flooding in Houston, and later this week I’ll be attending a two-day symposium on Urban Flooding & Infrastructure hosted by Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters. To this mix of ongoing interdisciplinary work, our study will contribute stories of residents in Greenspoint and Meyerland who experienced the floods. Bringing to bear that ethnographic sensibility that thrives here at the Center for Energy & Environmental Research in the Human Sciences, we will be investigating how flood-related infrastructural disruptions impact both anticipations and imaginations of the future and senses of attachment to place. Stay tuned for more reports on Recovery, Relocation, and Alluvial Awareness in Post-Harvey Houston!