Houston after Harvey: city faces huge hurdle to recovery

A month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, there is still a simple way to tell if a particular street flooded in Houston. Just look at the front lawns.

Debris rose as the water receded and residents returned to gut their ruined homes, disgorging the contents curbside. There is so much to remove, and trips to landfills are taking so long, that the region is months away from clearing it all.

Those unwilling or unable to pay private companies hundreds of dollars to shift the detritus are waiting for the city to remove it. But Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, warned at a council meeting earlier this month that it could take until Christmas to deal with.

In a Friday update after clashes between council members over the handling of the problem, Turner said landfills would operate 24 hours a day as more than 300 trucks collect more than 8 million cubic yards of debris at a cost of more than $250m.

Some of the worst-affected neighborhoods are located around Eldridge Parkway, a busy road in west Houston’s energy corridor where many oil and gas corporate offices are located and a few routes remain closed because of high water. Here, piles of rancid rubbish curl like a wall around a complex of dozens of townhomes opposite a library.

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