This week I got a message from Dean Gladden, Managing Director of the Alley Theatre. In 2015 this downtown Houston theatre moved over to the nearby campus of University of Houston while the Alley got a $46.5 Million upgrade. This much beloved theatre was one of many Houston downtown buildings that flooded in 2001. That summer tropical storm Allison hovered over Houston for several days, dumping water into our city’s underground tunnel system that connects buildings and underground parking garages away from the blistering summer heat. After the Allison flood submarine doors were installed near the Alley’s underground parking garage. These doors were locked as Harvey approached.
Unlike any previous storm
The submarine doors kept the Harvey water at bay. However, Harvey water came up over the banks of a bayou in the area. The water surrounded the Alley and other downtown structures to about five feet deep. Mercifully, it did not damage the 2015 rennovations. However, Harvey water did flood a lower level theatre, lobby and basement area to the tune of approximately $15 Million. Some of that water come in through a fresh air in-take vent near the theatre’s driveway. The vent was installed when the theatre was build in 1968. It had never flooded before. We hear that a lot about Harvey. Places that have never flooded before did this time.
The power of rising, moving water
The force of the water was so great it blew out a poriton of a cement block wall, allowing water to pour in at a rate 150 gallons a minute, for a total of 900,000 gallons rushing in before it was finally stopped. All told, the bayou spewed 2.8 million gallons of water where it didn’t belong. The lower level got ten feet of water.
The show must go on
Insurance will cover only about half of the total cost of re-doing the flooded areas. After the Allison flood the theatre was only able to purchase a maximum of $7 Million in insurance. Meanwhile, the show must go on. The first show of the season is playing now back over at the University of Houston’s Quintero Theatre. The University had space. The Alley didn’t want to cancel the season’s first show. Volunteers and staff alike worked around the clock. Reports are that opening night came off without a hitch. The Alley version of Charles Dickin’s popular A Christmas Carol, will play as usual later this fall back at the Alley.