High Water Line, 4-19-79

It’s been a rainy spring and it rained again this morning, pretty hard. It was nothing, though, compared to what happened 38 years ago. Zoom in and take a close look at this map of where the water went:



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13 Responses to High Water Line, 4-19-79

  1. grungy1973 says:

    I could take issue with that map.
    The closest I could drive without killing my ’72 Beetle was roughly where the CVS in the Village is now, and I waded to the RMC.
    I concur that the deepest spot was on Rice Blvd, about the closest point to the stadium.
    That’s where I was up to my neck, holding my wallet and flashlight over my head.
    Shuffle along slowly, as you don’t know what’s down there.
    I passed a car antenna sticking out of the water, and after the water went down discovered that it was attached to a Triumph TR7.
    The shallowest place that I remember was the prairie and what is now the intramural fields.
    I recall that being between calf and knee deep.
    This map shows it as not flooded, if I’m reading it correctly.
    That’s what I’d take issue with.

    • grungy1973 says:

      The part I’m misinterpreting is the date.
      I didn’t see the ’79… I thought this was the 15 June 1976 flood.
      My bad.

      • Kermit Lancaster says:

        How did this flood compare to the earlier one? I lived in Houston in the summer of 1976 and remember that flood all too well. Driving to work the next day on the west loop there were a number of cars that had been abandoned were still sitting haphazardly on the freeway.

  2. Rachel Dvoretzky says:

    The worst of that flood happened at night. Power was out all over campus, too, and Valhalla was giving away beer because it couldn’t be kept cold.

    People went swimming in the “bowl” in front of Sewall Hall, until they saw the snakes.

    After that flood, Facilities partnered with the colleges to create volunteer teams of students, trained in what to do the next time the waters rose after regular work hours to protect different campus buildings. Anderson Hall had sandbags for its doors, discreetly stored under the 1st floor stairs. The most interesting building was Sewall, with its noisy pump generator ONAN and its little sump pumps working 24/7 like blind fish in the deepest ocean to keep that bayou out of the of lower the two (two!) sub-basements.

  3. Lavelle Ferris says:

    I was going to comment on the sandbag teams.. but saw that Rachel beat me to it.. I remember that the quad at Will Rice College was at least knee deep in water – cuz there were people playing volleyball in it.

  4. Linda Wild says:

    I spent a lot of the evening stranded in a car off campus near Kirby and Richmond because there was no way to get through the flooded streets back to campus after an ill-advised trip to The Galleria for ice cream.
    The next morning, we had a physics lecture with the professor standing in ankle deep water with his pant legs rolled up.

    • Linda Wild says:

      I also believe it was Owl Day, with many potential new students scheduled to visit campus for the weekend.

  5. nburch2 says:

    Quite a few of us athletic department employees had to spend the night in the gym. No power and only the pay phone (remember those?) on the second floor worked. Everyone was scrounging for quarters. Cars parked in front were completely submerged.

  6. Pat Martin says:

    As master (magister?) of Sid Rich, Bill Martin had invited Robert Wilson, Rice graduate who had received a Nobel Prize in Physics, to speak to SRC students in our living room on that evening. During his talk, the power gave out, roads became impassable, and Wilson and his daughter wound up spending the night at Sid, unable to return to his parents’ home in Bellaire. I believe his daughter came to Rice later as a student.

  7. almadenmike says:

    On page 1 of the Tuesday, April 10, 1979, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/67296/thr19790410.pdf) an advance article about Prof. Wilson’s talk said it was scheduled for the RMC Grand Hall at 8. p.m. on Tuesday, April 17.

    An “In the Colleges” item on page 10 noted that “Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Robert Wilson will visit Sid Rich Tuesday, April 17, for a dinner and reception.”

    A long article on page 15 of the Thursday, April 19, 1979, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/67299/thr19790419.pdf) recounted Prof. Wilson’s talk.

    The next Thursday’s Thresher (April 26, 1979: https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/67301/thr19790426.pdf) had two-page report on the April 19 rainstorm on pp 14-15. Highlights relevant to earlier comments to this post:

    > > >
    Water rushed everywhere Thursday evening when a normal Houston downpour turned into a torrential storm reminiscent of stories in Sunday school. Rain rose to levels of four feet at some places, rushing with a substantial current. All exits of the University quickly flooded, to force many off-campus students, faculty and staff into an overnight stay.

    Power failed at the eight colleges and in the quad by 7:10. Whatever dismay this caused weiners will remain a mystery, as people across the campus soon came out to play. There were skinny-dippers in the Sewall hall courtyard, Sunset Blvd. people kayaking out past the gym, and some snorkelling outside Hanszen.
    . . .
    Half the freshmen of Sid Rich filled the Martin’s home to eat milk and cookies together until the lights came on.
    . . .
    Cars sent out to pick up perspective freshmen participating in the Owl Day program stood immobilized on the side of the highway. Students arrived at the Admissions Office all hours that night; the staff greeted each arrival with home-made cookies and found their hosts. The flood had no appreciable effect on spirit. Richard Stabell, director of admissions, said, “Everything worked out fine. If anything, the flood contributed to a greater sense of camaraderie. If they could survive last week, they would adapt well to Rice.”
    . . .
    Sewall Hall has 14 pumps in constant use to keep the building from sinking. The week before the flood a student turned off a manual switch because he thought the generator was overheating. This, and a weak battery, caused the emergency power to fail. Mr. Parsons, professor of the art department, said, “We were lucky. We barely missed serious damage caused by the action of that student. I would urge students to call the powerhouse if they think something is wrong.” Otherwise, Sewall suffered no great damage, except to rugs in Dean Jones’ office.
    . . .
    The main reason so little damage was sustained during the flood last week, in contrast with the flood of a few summers ago, was that the administration had planned for the possibility. They placed the bayou under the campus, near the gym. The bayou, now wholly contained in storm sewers, or culverts, provided the necessary drainage to create a current. The water in the last storm stood at a standstill with nowhere to go. When the rains threatened to flood the campus last Thursday, B&G opened the culverts and the water drained fairly quickly.
    < < <

    Prof. Wilson must have stayed in Houston/on campus for a couple of days after his Tuesday lecture if he was at Sid Rich for the Thursday deluge & power outage.

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