Houston has been the topic of conversation lately. This week Houston experienced extreme flooding after a huge storm that dropped record breaking amounts of water. The flood brought not only a ton of water but also outlandish comments from people on social media who do not understand the size and scope of Houston. On top of that, a relative from another state enquired about a visit to Houston and friends of ours flew here from another state to house hunt in preparation for a move.
It seems like lately all we’ve been doing is answering questions about Houston.
So I thought that I would sit down and lay it all out. Let’s start with the topic that is the center of everyone’s attention right now.
1. Houston Floods –
Yes, Houston has a long history with flooding. It’s located close to the coast which brings in huge storms. How do you deal with drainage when you’re one of the largest cities in America and you have a lot of concrete? The city planners decided to use the roadways to funnel water during large storms. That simply means that when it rains, the streets fill with water. You may not think that is the best way to handle it, as many do not. However it’s lead to our unofficial city motto: turn around, don’t drown. Simply it means not to drive through water on the road, which some ignore and sometimes lose their life for it.
It floods often. People here usually know how to deal with it and we pull together to overcome it. A typical flood will just impact the streets and will dry up a few hours after the rain stops. However every now and then the flooding is worse than expected or worse than the city can handle.
Sadly, that’s what has happened with this past storm. The flood warnings were coming fast and furious all Sunday night and Monday but no one imagined it would flood this bad. Sometimes when you get comfortable with something, such as flooding, you stop taking all the precautions that you should.
Houston needs help right now.
2. The Size of Houston –
Imagine a really large city. Now double that and multiply it by three and you might possibly understand the size of Houston.
When we moved across the city 5 years ago, I made a comment to a friend that leaving our old neighbors was the hardest part. (We had amazing neighbors that made tacos from scratch) That friend told me she didn’t understand why I was saddened by it because we could simply go visit at anytime. It was an hour drive from our old house to our new one if there was no traffic on the road, which means an actual hour and a half drive, yet we were still in the city of Houston.
No one outside of Houston understands the size.
We often have family come to visit somewhere in the city and ask if we can come to visit with them at that location. They just hear “Houston” and say “hey let’s hook up with the Byrd family while we are there!”. “Sure! We’d love to get together but you’re two hours away from our location, with traffic, so let’s meet in the middle.” For some reason they change their mind about the visit and tell us that they’ll just catch us on the next trip.
We often get comments from people visiting that they’d love to go visit a store that is in Houston but they get flabbergasted when they learn that they have a long drive ahead of them to go visit it.
Other times people from outside of Houston will ask us for directions to a location, that they assume we should know because it’s in Houston. When we reply that we don’t know they look at us like we have five heads.
Houston is humongous. Add in the suburbs and it’s larger than Rhode Island.
3. The Traffic is Real –
Dallas claim that Houston has the worst drivers. Houston claims that Dallas has the worst drivers.
Truthfully it doesn’t matter because the actual act of driving is hindered by the red lights in front of you.
There is a lot of traffic in Houston. Take one of the largest cities in America with streets that weren’t always developed for large vehicles or for the shear amount of people on that roadway each day and the traffic is bound to happen.
When you plan your visit to Houston, do not just glance at a map and figure out that driving from point A to point B within a set amount of time is totally doable. There are areas and roads that are guaranteed parking lots at anytime of the day or night.
You can’t count on the side roads either. If you know that Interstate 45 is one of the worst roads in Houston for traffic congestion and want to avoid it, don’t plan your route around the road running parallel to it. Know why? Because a thousand other people just made that same exact plan.
Do you truly want to get around Houston with minimal traffic? Ask a local that know the areas you’ll be traveling.
Tip: If you’re moving to Houston, don’t listen to your real estate agent about house location. I know they’re lovely people but they want to sell you a large house in an area where they have a deal with the builder, they’re not the ones doing the commute for the next few years.
4. Houston is amazing –
Yes the mosquitos do have a plan to carry you away and yes you can just add soap when you walk outside the front door and into the humidity and call it your shower for the day. But in truth, Houston has life. It’s a place where thousands of people will line the roadways and hang flags off of bridges to welcome a firefighter that was injured on the job back home once he’s released from the hospital.
Murals can be found all over the city and some people even make it a goal to find all of the murals that they can. There’s fancy art and roman artifacts in the museums. You can find food from almost every single area of the world and shop in stores devoted to quirky items from Japan.
Really hot days can be spent exploring the tunnel system hidden under downtown Houston. Cooler days can be spent explore swamps, prairies, coastal waterways, and evergreen forests all within Houston.
And if you really want to get to know Houston, keep your eye on her in the next few weeks as once again we all band together to recover from this flood.
Come visit Houston. I’ll gladly meet you somewhere, as long as the drive isn’t too long and the coffee is plentiful (or if you offer tacos, we’ll go anywhere).
It’s a great town but it’s not like others.