New La Grange homes must abide by new standards after Harvey floods

LA GRANGE, Texas (KXAN) — Volunteers are starting work this week on two new homes in La Grange, replacements for two that were destroyed in the floods following Hurricane Harvey.

The volunteers, representing Mennonite Disaster Service, will begin framing the two homes Tuesday after workers pour concrete foundations Monday. Both of them are in the northern part of the town, far from the homes the two homeowners lost in the flood.

Even so far from the Colorado River, the houses must adhere to new construction standards passed a few years ago in La Grange, just like those that filled with water and are now being rebuilt within the floodplain.

The Crider family home, on Lafayette Street, is one of those that flooded with about 6 feet of water. Volunteers spent the last several months gutting the structure down to studs and rebuilding.

“These people’s lives were destroyed in this hurricane,” Debra Johnson said. She applied some last-minute coats of paint to the new porch on Friday, preparing for the Criders to move back in. That family is the fourth to move into a home rebuilt with aid from the La Grange Area Disaster Recovery Team and the first to do so after being adopted by an organization to do all the work.

Johnson is part of the group, Hope House, a women’s drug and alcohol recovery center, that adopted the home along with Heirs of Grace Church in Bastrop. Rebuilding a home has helped her on the path to rebuilding her own life.

“They’ve done a lot for, you know, us too,” Jonnson said. “It’s a blessing to me to be able to help somebody else.”

The home she’s been working on had to go through some changes to meet the ordinances passed in the last few years, long after the house was originally built. For starters, all new construction has to meet minimum elevation requirements to keep them above 100-year flood levels.

For the Crider home, that meant raising the floor a few inches, Joey Melton, construction and volunteer coordinator with the recovery team, said. “Everything that’s built within the 100-year flood plain will have to be looked at a little closer.”

Another change: cinder blocks that support houses have to filled with concrete and rebar and then anchored. The older homes could utilize the previously common practice of “dry stacking,” or simply letting the cinder blocks sit on top of one another. The shift to the new ordinance is expected to make a big difference in the mobile home parks as they fill back up with new units.

“They’re going to be able to withstand the moving floodwater,” Melton said. “It is going to be a little more time-consuming, a little more costly, and a little more difficult, but the end result’s going to be better for everybody.”

Melton said 70 homes were damaged or destroyed, not including two mobile home parks that were largely wiped out. Progress has been slow but steady, with new trailers moving into the parks and people able to move back into their homes in the six months since Harvey.

But there’s a lot of work left.

“Just don’t forget about La Grange,” Melton said. “We’re still in a great need for volunteers. Donations are great; we still have some coming in, but we’re a long way away from where we need to be.”

In all, Melton estimates all the repairs in Fayette County will cost about $8 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided about half that, he said, and the recovery team anticipates needing to provide another $2.2 million from donations. So far they’ve raised about $400,000 and spent between $100,000 and $150,000.

Even if they do meet their goal, Melton said, homeowners will be responsible for the remaining $2 million in repairs. That’s why the recovery team is looking for more organizations to adopt families, providing the work and, ideally, some of the money to rebuild.

Johnson knows how rewarding the experience can be; she said it’s helped her “get out of [herself].”

“Once you start helping other people you kind of get out of your own head and your own mess,” she said. “It’s a blessing for me to be able to have them in my life.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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