People climbing out of a dump truck at George R. Brown Convention Center, which is a shelter in Houston. (Photo: Ken Broughton)
Houston plaintiffs lawyer Stephen Liss had to flee his southwest Houston house in the early morning hours of Aug. 27 in the midst of Hurricane Harvey after water from a bayou flooded into his house and rose fast. It was the third time Liss had experienced flooding in that house, and the lawyer knew he had to flee to a neighbor’s house that was on higher ground.
When Liss made his way back to his house today, after the water on his street receded, he saw that the water had retreated from a level of 46 inches inside, but belongings he thought he had placed high enough to be safe were not. Liss planned to salvage what he could, and return to his neighbor’s house until he can safely drive out of the area.
Like so many in Houston, Liss, of Law Offices of Stephen Liss, faces the prospect of renovating his flood-damaged house as the city deals with widespread and unprecedented flooding. “Everything I own is gone,” Liss said.
The torrential rain in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in South Texas on Aug. 25, is disrupting the nation’s fourth-largest city, has led to eight reported deaths and is prompting Houston lawyers to work from home, if they are lucky enough to have power.
Liss also faces challenges with his practice, since the server supporting his work email is out of service because of the storm, and he is under an imminent deadline to file pleadings in at least one lawsuit.
Firms with downtown Houston offices were closed today, and many, such as Vinson & Elkins, will keep their Houston offices closed at least through Wednesday before reassessing. Some, such as Kirkland & Ellis, which has an office in Houston, have already announced it will stay closed all week. It’s hard to predict when roads will drain enough to allow unfettered driving around Houston, since the city is likely only halfway through the storm and the rain isn’t quitting.
Nearly every area of Houston has been hammered with at least 25 inches of rain over the last three days. And it’s still raining. Space City Weather, a well-respected weather blog, does not expect rain to slack off until Wednesday. Checking the level of water in bayous and drainage ditches is a constant pastime for Houstonians who have been largely cooped up inside their houses since Saturday.
Ken Broughton, the managing partner of Reed Smith’s Houston office, prepared for the storm by renting a large pickup three days ago so he could drive through high water. He lives in the Museum District, not too far from downtown, and this morning loaded up his truck with donations his neighbors collected for an emergency shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown.
Broughton, whose neighborhood has not flooded, said he was able to take side streets into downtown, and he stayed at the convention center for a few hours, helping to carry donations inside for the people who have sought shelter due to the high waters.
This afternoon, Broughton said he was going to find a route to drive his rented Ford F-150 double-cab pickup to the Cypress area in northwest Houston to pick up his parents, whose house is being threatened by floodwaters.
Broughton said the streets in downtown Houston are largely passable, but it’s difficult to get there and buildings are closed.
“Our office is closed. Every law firm I’ve heard of is closed,” he said, adding that building managements have told tenants to stay home.
Like other firms, Broughton said Reed Smith has contacted employees to determine if they are safe, and is offering assistance. He said three lawyers had floodwaters pour into their houses, but they are safe.
Senior reporter Brenda Sapino Jeffreys covers the business of law in Houston. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.