Bulk trash and bent fences are reminders of the extreme flooding that deluged Alcalde Street in late August. Inside the Old East Dallas homes, other signs of the damage include removed portions of walls, buckling floorboards and missing furniture.
Residents continue to clean and replace what they can and have been considering legal action against the city for the damage.
While Dallas experienced up to 15 inches of rainfall during the once-in-a-thousand year event on Aug. 22, Alcalde Street residents saw the flood rise as high as 52 inches in some places, as measured by water lines left on homes.
“It don’t do any good to cry. We just try to keep things positive,” said Delores Lopez, whose family lost most of their belongings, including two vehicles, appliances and furniture to water damage.
Residents say something was blocking water drainage the night the waters rose, making the flood more severe. But the city says it has found no evidence of any obstructions being responsible for the severity of the flooding.
“Something was closed, but then when it was opened the water went fast,” said Gloria Alvarez, a longtime resident of the street.
City spokesperson Jennifer Brown said a drainage inspection by Dallas Water Utilities and a review of stormwater protection in the area found that no obstructions were responsible for the severity of the flooding. The current drainage system would have overflowed with water, causing the flood, she said.
Lopez said she still wants more clarification from the city about the role contractors of nearby construction sites play in maintaining drainage in the area. “We just want answers,” she said.
Lopez’s mother, whose family members had to push her in a wheelchair through water that rose nearly to her neck to escape the flooding, fell ill in recent weeks and had to be hospitalized. They say the sickness was stress-related and that she is still recovering.
For some living on the street, history seems to be repeating itself. Not only is the area prone to flooding, residents have previously sued the government over flood damage as well.
Residents have sued Dallas Area Rapid Transit for contributing to flood damages. DART built a parking garage one block away from Alcalde in the late 1980s, something residents said dammed their street, trapping rainwater there.
Several plaintiffs won a case against DART in 2010, including the family of Gloria Alvarez, who has lived on the block for more than 30 years and said she has seen her fair share of flooding. The garage has since been converted into an open structure that allows for a freer flow of water.
“I’ve been through this before, so it’s the same,” said Alvarez. “Nothing’s changed.”
This time around, however, it’s unclear whether a case is worth pursuing.
Residents gathered at Alvarez’s house recently with attorney Antonio Olvera to consider their options, but left the meeting disheartened. The potential award for winning a case against the city – $6,000 per resident, they were told – didn’t strike them as adequate.
“We can’t beat the city,” said Lopez. “And most people here live paycheck to paycheck. It’s hard for us, for them and everyone here.”
Olvera couldn’t be reached for comment after several attempts to reach him. James Albert Jennings, another attorney the residents have been consulting with, declined to comment on the potential case, saying it was too early for him to speak on it.
With the historic rainfall that deluged the city that night, it’s unclear whether any level of flooding could have been prevented. The area has a history of flooding, something the city hopes the construction of the Mill Creek Drainage Tunnel nearby will help alleviate, said city spokesperson Jennifer Brown.
Additionally, the stormwater could have drained quickly on its own, said Brown. “Rain gauges in the area show that the storm intensity slowed significantly around 3 a.m. the morning of August 22nd,” she said, which is around the same time that residents say the water drained.
One possible obstruction that residents point to is stormwater protection that was placed along curb drainage inlets just north of the Alcalde block. The protections are used near construction sites – in this case, the drainage tunnel site – to prevent dirt and debris from entering the city’s waterways.
Protections are prone to clogging when it rains if they have not been maintained, said Kyle Sheets, president and CEO of Texas Erosion Supply.
“It would certainly add to the problem, for sure,” he said.
A previous statement from the city said the contractor for the site removed the protections during the rainfall event, but Brown more recently said they were “removed or washed away.”
“The presence of inlet protection devices would not have affected the amount of flooding experienced in the Alcalde area,” she added.
Dallas Water Utilities conducted inspections of the internal drainage system near Alcalde Street as well but “no blockages or infrastructure failures were observed,” said Brown.
The city points to the construction of the Mill Creek Drainage Tunnel as the solution for residents in the area. The five-mile tunnel will be completed in 2025 and protect more than 2,200 properties.
In the meantime, residents are getting by with whatever short-term help they can find. City councilmember Jesse Moreno has visited the area several times since the flood to help clean and provide food, supplies and air mattresses.
“Everyone’s still struggling,” said Lopez. “I’m not saying they have to have 100 percent support, but somebody has to respond.”