Patron Driven: Rainfall

Patron Driven: Season One Blog Series

Patron Driven is a new podcast series that tells crowd-sourced library stories where the personal and professional meet. Season one looks at the work of four library staffers whose library flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. It arrives June 22, 2020.

Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented flooding to the Houston region and to the Kingwood community in particular. For Kingwood, much of the flooding was located around the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, which winds through downtown and—along with the East Fork—spills into Lake Houston. It makes sense that after enough rainfall to compress the earth’s crust by two centimeters, rivers and lakes would inundate nearby houses. But Harvey’s rainfall did more than cause rivers to overtop their banks and lake levels to rise. It overwhelmed the region’s whole flood control infrastructure. On August 29th, four days after Harvey made landfall, the San Jacinto River Authority released 79,100 cubic feet per second of water, nearly equaling the volume that flows over Niagara Falls, according to the Houston Chronicle.

That water didn’t just flood nearby houses and businesses. It drowned whole streets, neighborhoods, and communities. But even when the flooding was at its most destructive, it didn’t adhere to any rules or follow any logic other than that of topography, which is storied and ancient, but hardly seems to make sense on a human scale. Jennifer, the middle-aged, bob-cut, self-described “includer”—one of the four central characters of our new podcast, Patron Driven—watched the flooding unfold on cable news, dry and as content as she could be in her Humble—a Houston neighborhood—home. On the other side of her neighborhood, police and local authorities rescued homeowners from rising waters. Her husband was even called into work to perform evacuations. He worked at the time for one of the big refineries on Houston’s bay, and had experience in rescue operations.

The hit or miss nature of the flooding even affected the Lone Star College – Kingwood campus. Six of the nine buildings flooded, but each to a different degree. The library, where Jennifer and her colleagues work, lost everything, but several of the buildings on campus remained largely unscathed: the Student Conference Center, the Performing Arts Center, and the Administration building. If there were a logic to the flooding, it would be a cruel logic. On campus, these three buildings were probably the least useful for starting up a semester. None of the classroom buildings survived and hardly any of the spaces designed for learning and instruction survived. Flooding destroyed ball fields and parking lots. It touched almost every corner of the campus, except these three buildings. But theremaining buildings would play a pivotal role in helping the Lone Star College – Kingwood get back on its feet after what was for the campus an unprecedented disaster.

Campus flood map

In today’s world, where the coronavirus has impacted almost everyone’s day to day life, the story of the Lone Star College – Kingwood campus provides essential insight into the process of recovery and what it takes. Perhaps even more importantly, it provides inspiration for those of us struggling for normalcy in the face of unrelenting change. These four women have been through the flood, and have emerged stronger and more resilient for it.

Be well, carry on, and love through it all.

— Mark

To find out how they did it, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts on June 22.

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About the author:

Mark Derks is the digital media specialist at Choice. He produces the Authority File podcast, and writes and co-hosts Patron Driven.