Rules of the (Flooded) Road

Well, it’s happened again. We flooded. This was one of the worst floods we’ve seen at our shop. Houston, we still love you, but give us a break! Because of Imelda, some of our employees could have driven to New Orleans in the time it took them to get home Thursday, and I’m sure you, our readers, have stories to tell as well. At Liberty Hoepfl Garage, our hearts go out to you because we know what flooding is like.

On Thursday, at 11:00 a.m., North Shepherd looked like this:

A view of N. Shepherd Dr. during the storm from our front parking lot. The water was over the median in the middle of street. N. Shepherd is a six-lane highway, or should we say bayou?

Our office looked like this at 11: 15 a.m.

The water didn’t go down until 5:30 p.m.   Thankfully, our new shop didn’t flood, none of the cars on the lot flooded, and besides some papers, books, small pieces of equipment, and appliances, we were fine.

At about noon Thursday, I was stranded at Slowpokes, a coffee shop off 34th Street at Alba. Alba was completely flooded and the rain was falling inside the restaurant through the new roof and ceiling.  I called the shop and my husband said he would come get me in the bus.  We own a school bus that we painted like the Texas flag (it needs to be redone desperately) with a fancy longhorn grill made by local artist John Barber.

Our Texas bus gets ready to leave to pick up Kathryn, one of the owners, and go get lunch. Notice the monitor in the foreground with the radar of Tropical Storm Imelda on the screen

So, about 15 minutes later the Texas bus arrived to the amazement of all the other customers.  I got on board. We had two technicians with us and we set out to the Hartz Chicken on Pinemont.   The owner, our friend, Naro, had prepared a large order of chicken strips that he could not deliver because his store was an island in the sea of Pinemont.

As we drove down 34th street onto Ella Blvd., we saw emergency vehicles and realized that Ella was closed.  We zig-zagged around Union Kitchen’s swimming pool and headed down some side streets where Batterson’s by the railroad tracks used to be.  It was like a lake.  We just aimed at what seemed to be the middle, said a prayer and kept going. We finally we were able to wind back to Ella.

On Ella, we saw several dead cars.  Interestingly, most of them were European makes with a new   Camaro thrown in: a dead Mini Cooper, a Jaguar, two BMWs, a Volvo, and a Mercedes. We saw a minivan stuck in the mud on the median. We even saw a young lady who knew how to make light of a grim situation. She was dressed wearing a Pirate’s hat floating on a raft, drinking what may have been a Miller lite.

A Pirate Lady waved at us on Ella as we plowed our way to Pinemont through what felt like a river.

We finally made it to Hartz, and Naro gave us a chest full of chicken strips.  We delivered them to the employees at Wabash Feed & Garden, Frost Bank, our own guys and gals, and the 911 Emergency Center on Shepherd.  We even gave a lift to one of their 911 employees who was on foot desperately trying to get to work.

Andy, Jason, and Henry unloaded a chest full of food donated by Hartz Chicken on Pinemont for employees.

Thanks, Naro and the great staff at Hartz Chicken on Pinemont for feeding us and so many others. Liberty Hoepfl Garage picked up the food and delivered it to stranded employees on N. Shepherd

So, I tell you all this with some ideas about what people should and should not do the when streets flood.

Rules of the [flooded] road:

  1. If you are driving in high water and your vehicle stalls, do not try to restart. Have it towed. Restarting the car may take water that’s sitting outside the engine right into the cylinders and cause the engine to hydro lock. In other words, you will be replacing the engine or chucking the car.
  2. If you must drive through deep water, maintain a slow steady speed and don’t let off the accelerator until you are all the way through the water. The general rule of thumb is if the water is over the curb, don’t attempt to drive on the street.
  3. If you are stuck in mud, like on a median, you can try using the floor mats under the tire to get some traction to get unstuck. Of course, you will probably end up replacing the floor mats, but if it works, you just saved yourself a tow bill.
  4. If your Check Gauges light comes on, stop the car immediately. Have it towed to the shop.
  5. If your Check Engine Light starts flashing, stop driving the car and get it towed.
  6. Never go through water that is higher than your bumper. Some air intakes are low, even at the bottom of the bumper and you will literally suck water straight into the engine. Water in the engine is almost always fatal to the engine.
  7. If your vehicle is parked and the water rises around it, do not open the doors until the water has subsided. The door seals usually do a remarkable job of keeping water out.  After the water is down, it is okay to start your car if you were parked but check the floor under the car mats and make sure they are dry.  Just as an extra precaution, check air filter in the engine compartment just to make sure it’s dry, too.
  8. If you have wet carpet, your car can be saved most of the time by pulling he carpet out quickly, usually within 48 hours. You must remove the seats to get the carpet out. Clean and deodorize it and let it dry completely in sunlight before putting it back. Some cars have jute under the car. The wet jute will need to be replaced. Use a product like Odoban to kill odors.  Insurance companies do not want you to wait for the adjusters to arrive in these situations. They want you to save your car. Take photos and get the carpet out. You can also bring it to us to do this heavy work. Provided you have comprehensive or collision, your insurance will pay for this.
  9. After you’ve driven in high water, come to the shop and ask them to check your car over. The technicians will check your fluids, especially your engine oil, transmission fluid, and differentials. You may need one or all 3 serviced.  Also ask them to check your air filter, under car shields, and carpet. Sometimes people don’t realize that their carpet is wet because the floor mats are dry and the carpet is wet underneath.
  10. Driving on flooded streets is very stressful for you and your car. If you need help, call us. We have a lot of experience with flood cars. 713 695-5071.

Thanks, Naro and the great staff at Hartz Chicken on Pinemont for feeding us Our staff was very happy. It was a great morale booster for all. We used our Alignment rack as a counter to eat our lunch.

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