My family and I made it through (thus far) with no flooding and minimal damage. I hope the same is true for you and your families. My heart and prayers go out to those who have lost so much.
Having gone through both Tropical Storm Allison and Hurricane Ike during my years as a prosecutor, I've been seeing very similar reports coming out of the CJC over the past several days. As many of you may remember, during Allison, the brand new CJC proved to be absolutely useless during a flood. Water filled the basement and elevator shafts, rendering the building unusable for almost a year. Some modifications were made, and the building did substantially better during Ike. There was an issue of sewage backup that shut it down for a week or so, but nothing like during Allison. Flood gates had been installed, and they did their job.
But neither Allison nor Ike brought the water that Hurricane Harvey has.
Chief prosecutors Pat Stayton and Hans "Seersucker" Nielsen have been two of the staff manning Intake for the Harris County District Attorney's Office since Friday morning and both have been posting updates about the condition of the building. They've been there for going on well past 72 hours, as of this writing. They've given me permission to use their photos in this post.
The front doors of the CJC.
According to reports from the CJC, the floodgates at the doorways worked at first, but then the sewage started coming up from toilets, just like they did during Ike. Once that happened, the building had to be evacuated across the street to the Juvenile Justice Center. They did this by creating a rope line that everyone had to use to guide them and hold onto.
Intake staff evacuating the building.
Back during Allison, the Juvenile Justice Center was the (more or less abandoned) old Criminal Courthouse. During the yearlong displacement, the Courts moved back there, while the D.A.'s Office moved into its old building at 201 Fannin. Things have changed since then. Now, the building is completely occupied by the Juvenile Justice System and courts. There is no room to move over 22 District Courts and 16 County Courts.
To make matters worse, the roof apparently just collapsed at the Juvenile Justice Building, flooding courtrooms and making them unusable.
A Juvenile Justice Courtroom
District Clerk Chris Daniel has announced that there will be no jury panels or court settings this week, which is a good thing. As it currently stands, there does not appear to be any courtrooms to hold court in.
The cleanup at both buildings will most likely take months. I've heard that power is still on at the CJC and that may be the only positive news I've heard. If the electricity is still running, perhaps that will make cleanup faster. But I've also heard that the elevator shafts are filled with water on the lower floors, and there is no telling what the tunnel system and jury assembly looks like.
I have a strong feeling that it is going to take quite some time to get the Criminal Justice System back to normal in Harris County. New court dates will have to be figured out for clients on bond. If you are a person currently out on bond, call your lawyer for information about when you need to come to court again. For the time being, everything is up in the air.
Stay safe, everyone.