East Dallas neighborhood hit hard by flooding – was a city project to blame?

Following record flooding in North Texas, residents of a particularly hard-hit street in Old East Dallas are recovering — and wondering if the flooding could have been avoided.

Few homes along the stretch of Alcalde Street between Victor and Elm streets were spared the floodwaters, which reached heights of 4 feet or more in some areas, inundating households and forcing people to abandon them .

“It was like a little Katrina, right here,” said Benito Chavez, 61, who spent much of Tuesday removing sodden belongings from his family’s home.

His sister Carmen Chavez was also on hand Tuesday to help him and other family members salvage what they could.

“Everything is destroyed, we don’t even know where to start,” she said. “You open the doors and the water comes out from all directions.”

The area has a history of flooding, according to several longtime residents, but never to this extent, and many suspect the severity of the flooding was due to more than natural causes.

Sean Gallaher walks through his Monday morning flood-damaged home on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, on Alcalde Street in Old East Dallas. (Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

They point to a construction site for the Mill Creek Landfill Tunnel around the corner, one of six project sites. Residents argue that the drainage had been capped during construction and site management neglected to remove the liners before the flooding.

At least seven residents The Dallas Morning News spoke to say that early Monday morning, when the flooding was at its peak, the water suddenly began to recede.

“Before you knew it…all the water was gone,” said Delores Lopez, also Chavez’s sister.

Their neighbor AB Cardenas, a former Dallas firefighter, said “it looked mechanical…it was like someone was flushing the toilet or something.”

At least one person said they saw a truck heading towards the construction site just before the water started to recede.

City spokeswoman Jenna Carpenter said the city spoke with the contractor for the tunnel project and learned that “they removed all entry protection for the project during the event. rainy”, and that the protection would have partially prevented the evacuation of water.

“There are a number of construction projects in the area, and it’s unclear if those projects removed the stormwater inlet protection ahead of Sunday’s rains,” she said.

Councilman Jesse Moreno, who lived on Alcalde Street and visited Monday with his staff after the flooding, said the city is investigating whether the driveway liners were removed before the rains started.

“We have Dallas Water Utilities now investigating to see if that was a factor,” he said. “With the forecast saying we’ll get the amount of rain we were, I was hoping that…staff or city employees should have suppressed it.”

The project’s contractor, Southland Holdings LLC, declined to comment on flooding or drainage.

The Mill Creek Landfill Tunnel construction site, Tuesday, August 23, 2022, on Victor...
The Mill Creek Landfill Tunnel construction site, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, on Victor Street in Old East Dallas.(Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

Moreno himself suffered flooding while living on the streets, which cost him a vehicle but was never more extreme than on Sunday evening.

“It has a history of flooding, so I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said. “But this go-around appears to be much worse than previous floods.”

Chavez said his neighbor woke him and his family in the middle of the night when it became clear the downpour was turning into a flood.

The water was too high at the time for them to get his mother, who uses a wheelchair, out the front door. They headed to the back of the alley, where the water was up to his mother’s chest at the time, he said.

They made it out safe and sound, but most of their belongings are in shambles, he said, including new mattresses and a recent load of groceries. “I had to throw it all away,” he said.

Juan Portugal, 35, said he was staying with his girlfriend on Sunday evening when he heard about the flood warnings. He returned on Tuesday to assess the damage to his home, where he had only lived for about a year.

Lopez approached him as he looked at the house, a dark line visible several feet above the porch marking the height of the water. “If you need anything, we’re right next door,” she said.

Juan Garcia walks along the line of water left on his house by Monday morning flooding Tuesday,...
Juan Garcia walks past the line of water left on his home by Monday morning flooding Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, on Alcalde Street in Old East Dallas.(Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

Moreno said there will be a neighborhood cleanup on Thursday to help people remove debris from their homes. He added that he wanted to ensure code compliance was not citing anyone in the area for bulk waste left out and that his staff was working to provide affected residents with as many resources as possible through the city and the basics, including groceries, bedding, school supplies and housing.

“I want to thank our east Dallas neighbors for stepping up…even though their homes weren’t directly affected,” he said.

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