Tensions and water were high Tuesday along Clear Creek.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Beta meandered over the county, dumping inches of water, swelling creeks, flooding streets and rattling residents who have lived through other slow-moving storms.
Along the northern border of Galveston County, residents were casting a wary eye on their backyards and online flood gauges, wondering, as rains were projected to go on through Tuesday and today, whether they were in for a flood for the first time since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“I woke up this morning pretty freaked out,” said Cody Coe, whose condo in Friendswood’s Hidden Creek subdivision has a patio next to the creek.
Coe went to bed about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. When he awoke about 7:30 a.m., the rain was pouring down and the creek was about 4 feet from his house. He was on high alert.
He couldn’t help but think of Harvey, which flooded his condo with 5 feet of water.
As he started to move some of his possessions to his upstairs loft, he didn’t think that Beta would flood his condo that badly, he said.
Still, there was a chance.
“But it doesn’t have to rain as much as Harvey,” Coe said. “One foot of water would suck.”
‘LUCK OF THE DRAW’
About mid-day Tuesday, the city of Friendswood urged people in the lowest-lying areas to flee for higher ground. But as of 3 p.m. there were no reports of flooded houses in the county. In some places, however, the flood waters came within feet or inches of fronts doors and garages in some places nearer the creek.
“It feels a bit like luck of the draw,” Friendswood Mayor Mike Foreman said. “If one of the bands tracks on top of you, then you get a bunch of rain. But 5 miles on either side, it’s high and dry.”
Residents on Apple Blossom Lane in Friendswood were among those who left their homes for higher ground, resident Connie Ratisseau said. As she left her house, she noticed high-water vehicles on the street and could hear sirens in the distance.
Beta had dropped more than 12 inches of rain on Friendswood by Tuesday afternoon.
Tracie Jacob, who lives near Clear Creek off Interstate 45 in League City, told The Daily News none of the houses in her neighborhood had flooded as of Tuesday afternoon, but she was worried about what Tuesday evening might bring.
“I know this isn’t Harvey, but we still have lots more to come,” she said.
Both Foreman and League City Mayor Pat Hallisey hoped the worst of the rain was over by Tuesday and some of the creeks running through their cities would have time to drain. But they were keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts.
‘THIS IS DIFFERENT’
Flooding appeared more extensive in places just north and west of the county line, in southeast Houston and Pearland. But Beta’s slow progress promised to keep residents on edge throughout Tuesday evening and the early hours of today.
Galveston Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson said there was a foot of water under her Friendswood home — which is raised 4 feet off the ground — about 11 a.m.
Johnson has lived along the creek since 1999 and said she was used to it rising and falling. Tuesday felt different compared to past storms, she said.
“We’re used to flooding,” Johnson said. “We’re used to a 4-inch rain and it reaching the top of its banks. We aren’t used to a 6-inch rain and it creeping over the banks. This is different, we’ve got half the amount of rain compared to Allison and double the flooding.”
Tropical Storm Allison dropped more than 30 inches of rain in the Houston area in June 2001. That storm destroyed more than 2,700 homes and caused $1.76 billion in damage. Beta’s toll was in line to be far, far less.
Johnson attributed the change she saw on Clear Creek to increased development sending more water into the creek. She spent part of her morning checking how much it would cost to buy an inflatable levee to put around her home. The best price was about $20,000, she said.
Beta weakened into a tropical depression Tuesday morning, and forecasters called off storm-surge warnings along the coast.
But the slow-moving Beta wasn’t expected to clear the Houston-Galveston area until Thursday at the earliest, and its thin bands of trailing rain consistently dumped inches of rain on parts of the county throughout the afternoon.
The rain was enough to push Clear Creek to its highest flood levels since Hurricane Harvey, nalthough the two storms remained dramatically far apart in their intensities.
Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of the county. Beta’s highest forecast rain amounts were predicted to be about 20 inches.
On Galveston Island Tuesday, the sun frequently broke out through clouds, only to be covered again by clouds bringing bursts of rain.
Still, as the day ended, many had begun to think about a return to normalcy.
The Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry, which halted operations Sunday, resumed operations for a few hours Tuesday afternoon. The Port of Galveston announced it would return to normal operations by 7 a.m. today.
The city of Galveston fared relatively well during the storm, Galveston Mayor pro tem Craig Brown said.
“So far, I think the city has fared well,” Brown said. “We knew we were going to have flooding in those areas that notoriously have flooding.”
City crews will be out today to start cleaning up after the storm, he said. The city also will be analyze damage the storm inflicted on dunes, he said.
‘PART OF LIVING here ON THE COAST’
In Jamaica Beach, which had some of the highest coastal flooding Monday, the water didn’t rise as high Tuesday, said city Councilman Clay Morris.
Morris estimated there were 6-foot tides Monday and 5.5-foot tides Tuesday, he said. The half foot is the difference between water staying in the bay and breaching bulkheads, he said.
Probably a fifth of the homes in Jamaica Beach will have some kind of damage to the bottom floors, Morris said. Although the first floors of homes in Jamaica Beach are designed with flooding in mind, some residents will have to pull up carpet and replace some sheetrock, he said.
“It’s part of life living here on the coast,” Morris said.
Morris hoped the city could help with cleaning up Wednesday.
The Pirates Cove neighborhood, near 12 Mile Road, also had less flooding Tuesday than Monday, resident Nancy Greenfield said.
Monday was scary with water creeping toward houses, Greenfield said.
“It was touch and go,” Greenfield said. “We didn’t get any in our home, but a lot of our neighbors did.”
Across from Greenfield’s neighborhood, Artist Boat’s Coastal Heritage Preserve, 13117 Settegast Road, was a lake, Greenfield said.
Residents will have a lot to clean up, she said.
“Nobody lives on the first floor anyway, but it’s just mucky stuff you’ve got to clean up,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield, who is on the city’s tree committee, was worried about her trees and plants swamped by salt water, she said.
It may still be another day before the cleanup can begin in earnest.
The National Weather Service in League City forecast rains to continue today and possibly into Thursday. By Friday, the weather could be clear and sunny, officials said.