Dave Rogers

For The Record

Tom Clary plans to be front and center Thursday night when the Texas Department of Transportation holds its public meeting at 5 p.m. at West Orange-Stark Elementary School, 2605 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

He should have plenty of interested company.

The purpose of the public meeting is to gather public input on the proposed widening of Interstate 10 from MLK east to the Sabine River.

Clary is a homeowner who has made it his purpose since the end of 2017 to make sure he never has his North Orange home and property flooded again like it was during Tropical Storm Harvey.

“I’ve written about a letter a day and it’s been a pain getting them to do anything,” Clary said.

“We weren’t getting anywhere until Judge Crooks [County Judge Dean Crooks] picked up the ball and ran with it.”

Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane when it first made landfall near Corpus Christi on Aug. 24, 2017 but it lost most of its wind speed and was trapped over Southeast Texas by competing weather fronts.

The tropical storm lingered over Orange County for five days, dumping more than 50 inches of rain.

Clary’s house had 36 inches – three feet – of rain in it, a situation he says was caused by the backup of the area’s main drainage system – Adams Bayou – at the I-10 bridge.

He points to two ground level bridges that carry eastbound and westbound I-10 service roads across the bayou as well as the 43 pilings in the water that support those bridges and the two two-lane highway overpasses as they cross the water.

“The reason we got flooded was that debris got trapped by the bridge,” Clary said.

“The Adams Bayou/I-10 bridge is southeast of my house. The water backed up enough, it went down [the service road] all the way to 16thStreet.

“A lot of people that wouldn’t have gotten flooded, did because of Adams Bayou. There’s nowhere for water to go except through the middle of Orange.”

TxDOT’s meeting is to take questions from the public regarding widening the 4.3-mile stretch of interstate from four lanes to six, three each way.

“It’s always been the plan to add a third lane east and west,” Clary said. “We have bitched enough that they’re talking about taking those bridges out and moving that fourth [service] lane up [on the overpass with the main highway].’’

Getting the service roads raised won’t solve all of Clary’s complaints.

“As it is, there’s 16 pilings in the bayou from the interstate. And now they’re building four more lanes and they’ve got to put pilings with them,” Clary said.

“Are you going to take them and put them on the ground? Oh no, they’ve got to be in the water, in line with the other ones.”

Clary is hopeful Thursday’s meeting will clear the picture.

“I’m not sure what TxDOT is going to do,” he said. “One option is they might do nothing.

“We will put our house up for sale if they’re not doing anything.”