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Houston Harvey Six-Month Update
by Garrett Bryce w/photos courtesy City of Houston
Friday, February 23, 2018

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner today held a news conference to discuss progress of the city's recovery in the six months since Hurricane Harvey struck the area.

The storm had made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, causing widespread flooding and dropping 50 inches of rain on Houston.

Turner began his discussions concerning the damages to the city, which included $2.5 billion to city facilities. He noted that the city has a $100 million insurance policy, which has been collected, but not expended as of yet.

“We are coordinating our efforts with FEMA, our federal partners, that we make sure to appropriate those dollars in the best places, so we can avoid any de-obligations down the road,” Turner said. Listen (10:31)

Turner highlighted damages to the Municipal Court Building and the Wortham Center. He said that the Wortham Center, which is currently not in operation, is anticipated to be repaired in time for the city's opera season.

“By September 1, we will be back in the Wortham Center,” he said.

He also discussed the Northeast Water Purification Plant and two of the city's sanitary sewer plants had flooded during the storm and said that the city is working to ensure the systems are more resilient in the future.

As of February 20, 3,422 households remain in hotels due to their homes being damaged, Turner said.

Turner reported that the Houston Fire Department has secured four high water vehicles and six evacuation boats through private donors, and that the city will be considering an additional $2 million for the purchase of additional assets for the fire department's priorities. Turner also stated that he has approved $300,000 for additional flood response training.

“We will be better prepared for the next storm,” he said.

The Greater Houston Community Foundation Harvey Relief Fund has raised approximately $112 million from 125,000 donors, Turner said, noting that release of a forth round of funds to be released is forthcoming.

Turner praised the efforts of non-profit organizations.

“With the federal dollars coming slowly, and people in need right now, but for the non-profits and the volunteers, immediate needs would not be met,” he said.

Tuner then discussed long-term recovery funding and for mitigation efforts to prevent damages from future storms.

He also discussed other efforts the city is taking, including waivers of the city's ordinance that would prevent residents from living in recreational vehicles or mobile homes at their property, and proposals to amend the city's floodplain ordinance to ensure new dwellings are build higher to prevent flooding.

Chief Recovery Officer Marvin Odum then spoke, laying out six principles of the recovery efforts, which included building to ensure Houston “thrives in the future;” ensuring the recovery is targeting areas where the need is greatest; running the recovery as a “lean coordinated machine;” preserving the culture of the city's neighborhoods; striving for a more economically viable, green, city; and to be prepared “for the next Harvey.”

“We want to lock in being more resilient and smarter than we have been in the past,” Odum said. Listen (12:53)

Turner announced that the city is kicking off the “Houston Still Needs You” campaign, the mission of which will be to engage and recruit volunteers and connect them to agencies and organizations that are providing relief and recovery services.

“This program will allow us to more accurately report volunteer hours for Harvey-related relief and recovery activities, and ensure the maximum volunteer offset for FEMA match requirements,” Turner said. Listen (2:54)

Turner concluded his remarks by praising the relationship between Houston and Harris County, thanking the county for their efforts in the recovery.

“I want to thank the county and all of them for working as we advance the interests of the entire region,” he said.

Remembering Jim Guidry Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership

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