On August 25, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas between the small communities of Port Aransas and Port O’Connor. The Category 4 hurricane was soon downgraded to a tropical storm, but it lingered off the Gulf Coast, breaking regional rainfall records. It soon became apparent that flooding was going to become a serious threat to southeast Texas, and in particular to the city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States.
In the early hours of Monday morning, August 28, rainwater runoff from areas to the west of Houston began to engorge Buffalo Bayou, raising the water to record levels. As the bayou continued to rise, it burst its banks and eventually overflowed the flood wall around the City Hall Annex, flooding two levels of parking and reaching the underside of the ground floor structure of the building. From the upper parking level, the water entered the tunnel that connects the annex to the basement of City Hall, flooding the mechanical and electrical equipment rooms to 4 feet.
On the afternoon of August 30, engineers Tom Smith, Hussein Moussa, and Steve Done from Arup’s Houston office responded to a request for help from officials at the City of Houston. Based on mayoral direction, their first goal in the aftermath of the storm was to get the departments based at City Hall and the City Hall Annex up and running again, so that they could start to undertake the essential work of helping Houston to rebuild. Smith and Moussa are embedded with staff from the City’s General Services Department and the contracting team to repair and replace the damaged equipment.