As debris pickup begins, report says nearly 40% of Bellaire structures show water damage

By Charlotte Aguilar

Bellaire has completed a preliminary assessment of flooding from Hurricane Harvey in every neighborhood, and it shows that 2,342 structures out of nearly 6,200 are showing some sort of water damage — about 38 percent.

“It confirms just how extensive the damage is,” said City Manager Paul Hofmann. And it confirms what is increasingly visible in the southeast quadrant of the city, around Horn Elementary School and in 700-home Southdale: That nearly every residence there, old and new, has some evidence of flooding.

Administrative Services Manager Shawn Cox, who will head Bellaire’s longterm relief office being established at the Recreation Center, called this first report a “windshield assessment.” It was completed by members of the Bellaire Fire Department, who drove down every street, making notes on what they observed.

The teams paid careful attention to water lines on doors and exterior walls and types of debris at the curb that indicated internal water damage, such as drywall, flooring, carpeting and molding, to determine whether the structure had flooded, Cox explained.

“The widespread devastation throughout our area only highlights the need for regional solutions, and fast,” said Mayor Andrew Friedberg, reacting to the numbers. “Harvey is obviously much bigger than Bellaire, both in terms of its impact and the causes that contributed to it.”

The draft report landed as a FEMA-approved contractor began the Herculean task of debris cleanup Friday in the hard-hit area of Lafayette Park in Southdale. Using a variety of equipment to negotiate Bellaire streets, the contractor is expected to make three citywide sweeps in about three weeks.

While dealing with immediate issues such as cleanup and permit/inspection requests (67 by close-of-business on Thursday), Bellaire staff and elected officials are also having to look into the future. “We are actively evaluating and analyzing potential long-term effects on city operations and what it all means in our planning for the years ahead,” Friedberg said.

Part of addressing residents’ concerns is establishing Cox’s new office, which will coordinate with various city departments to provide a unified response to the disaster. He sums it up as “helping people get the information they need,” whether helping navigate the permit process, providing FEMA resources, or creating FAQs and answers on the city website, and expects the office to be in operation sometime next week.

A massive debris cleanup effort began in Bellaire Friday with one scoop at a time in the Southdale area. (Photo by Carlos Aguilar)