In-Depth

After Harvey, A Once-Lively Neighborhood Finds Silence

Even though Meyerland is dark and empty right now, there are good odds it’ll be back to its former glory soon

It’s seven o’clock, the sun has set, the street lights are on, and some houses are rather well lit.

But there aren’t any cars, or people, even.

In Meyerland, one neighborhood hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, many families have had to leave their homes. Since the storm, the neighborhood has become kind of eerie with no one around.

“At night, sort of at dusk, it was really really busy on the sidewalk. Lots of people are out riding bikes,” said Lynn Chorn while walking her dog in the area. She’s one of the few people on the street as I survey the area, which is unusual considering Meyerland is normally a pretty lively place.

“It’s quite a significant change in terms of the number of people who are out,” resident Gill Melman said. “I mean, you see people and it’s great to see them, they’re few and far between and you’re kind of excited to see them so you’re like ‘Hey! I know you!’”

He and his wife Samantha rebuilt their house after the Memorial Day flood in 2016.

“I remember very vividly. We woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning to flood water. We were not prepared or expecting it like our neighbors were. We woke up at 3:00 in the morning and at 3:01 I had already made the decision, didn’t tell my wife, but already made the decision that I wasn’t going to go through this again and I was going to probably either build or get out.”

The Melmans chose to build, and raised the house about five feet in the process. They say that anyone who’s still in the neighborhood after Harvey, they did the same thing.

As Gill stands on his porch, he points out each house on the street that is vacant and contrasts that to those with cars in the driveway. He notes that all of the occupied houses were raised after previous floods.

If you build in the Meyerland area, rather than just repair or move, you’re replacing probably a sixty-year-old house on ground level with a new home raised a few feet off the ground. That essentially adds value to the area, so even though Meyerland is dark and empty right now, there are good odds it’ll be back to its former glory soon.

Jocelyn Guite has lived in Meyerland for seven years. She said these lulls have become common.

“We’ve lived through this other flood and I saw it have the same dynamic where everyone disappeared,” she said. “It got quiet it looked devastated, and then it came back — everyone moved back in. We got right back to life.”

The community, she said, is strong there. Everyone comes and goes from each others houses as if everyone is family.

“Most people want to go back. But we’re we’ve decided not to go back.”

Jocelyn and her family flooded once before, rebuilt, and didn’t think it would happen again. Then Harvey hit.

“At that point I think it hit me that I don’t have that much time left in this chapter with our kids home. I think the idea of building a house, taking another 18 months to two years before we even come back and then we only have our kids at home for maybe even a couple more years after that. It just became really clear that we were not up for that,” she said.

Right now Jocelyn and her family are in an apartment, and they plan to move to Montrose.

The family is an in-between state that a lot of families flooded by Harvey are in: they have all the responsibility of figuring out where to live, but the storm has made the decision to move for them.

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