Houston city inspectors assess flood-damaged homes

HOUSTON – Considering how badly the Houston area was hit during Hurricane Harvey, it's a difficult task to assess which areas are worse than others.

That's why Houston's Department of Neighborhoods has dispatched more than 100 inspectors to eyeball every neighborhood.

In the Woodside subdivision near Meyerland, Angela Wilkins, her family and five dogs had to huddle upstairs in their home during the hurricane. That's because 14 inches of water flooded their first floor, a disaster unlike anything they've seen in their 30 years of living here.

"We had 1 inch with Allison but never like this," Wilkins said.

Crew members such as Ernesto Lopez are using a scale of 1-4 to assess the damage, with 1 being minimal damage and 4 being the most extreme damage. Lopez is doing what is called a "windshield" assessment, which means he evaluates the homes from his vehicle.

"If it got 18 inches or less, it's considered minor damage, and anything over 18 inches is major, and I guess if the roof or wall collapses it's a total loss," Lopez said.

The data from the more than 13,000 windshield assessments already completed will direct organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross to the hardest-hit areas to see who needs the most help.

"What we're looking at does not go to the amount of individual help that you get from FEMA," said TaKasha Francis, the director of the Department of Neighborhoods. "This is an overall picture of what the city of Houston looks like. It does not go to individual awards."

Wilkins said the windshield inspectors are a welcome sign.

"FEMA says that we can't get help until our insurance runs out, but we know it's going to, so hopefully there's enough money when our insurance runs out to still help. So any help we can get we welcome it," Wilkins said.

Francis said the department will continue to do windshield assessments for the next two to three weeks.

If you have any damage and want to report your individual home, dial 311.

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