How Hurricane Harvey has hit Houston’s arts community

By Galilee Abdullah |

Hurricane Harvey on August 26, 2017 GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Harvey at 8:02 a.m. CDT on August 26, 2017. The National Hurricane Center reported at 10:00 p.m. CDT that Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast. (Credit: CIRA)

On the night of Friday August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall not too far from Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States. The hurricane was initially a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, but Harvey has since weakened to a tropical depression.

Within a few days of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, the hurricane broke the record as the wettest tropical storm in United States history. According to Business Insider, Hurricane Harvey has broken 60 years of rainfall records in the United States. It is also considered to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history – USAToday estimates the damage will cost $190 billion.

According to Culturemap.com, Harvey has flooded every performing arts venue in the downtown district including the Wortham Theater Center, home to Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet, and Jones Hall, home to the Houston Symphony and the Society for the Performing Arts.

On Monday, August 28, KHOU-TV confirmed that flood waters were flowing onto the main stages of the Wortham Theater Center. Operwire.com confirmed that HGO has closed due to flooding and on August 28, HGO posted an update on their Facebook page, explaining that “Fortunately, HGO staff members had the foresight to move valuable instruments and many costumes, including those for our opening productions of La traviata and Julius Caesar, to higher floors in advance of the storm. Houston Grand Opera will be out of our offices until after Labor Day. Our website remains down.”

A photo of the Worthom Center posted to Houston Grand Opera’s Facebook page on Friday, September 1 (Photo: Kirill Kuzmin)

On Friday, September 1, HGO posted another update: “As for our home, the lower levels of the Wortham Theater Center have flooded and HGO’s power sources, internet, and website connectivity have been badly damaged as well as the Costume Shop and Wig Shop. We hope to be back in our offices soon after Labor Day, but HGO’s administrative functions are facing major challenges. These include many hurdles for our artistic, production, and technical teams in preparing for the upcoming season, limitations in our ability to bring education programs like Opera to Go! to schools and community centers, and delays in our audience outreach efforts. Meanwhile, our own HGOco team are working to bring our Storybook Opera for young children into the shelters next week.”

A photo of the Worthom Center posted to Houston Grand Opera’s Facebook page on Friday, September 1 (Photo: Kirill Kuzmin)

The Houston Press has released a list of Hurricane Harvey related arts cancellations and postponements. As of Friday, September 1, Houston Symphony has cancelled their opening night and has also cancelled their POPs Series performances, Ella at 100 (September 1-3), the upcoming pavilion concert, The Best of John Williams, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (September 6), and Fiesta Sinfónica at Jones Hall (September 10). The Houston Symphony posted a Facebook update on August 30, which included the following statement:

“Many members of the Houston Symphony family are safe and dry; however, some musicians, staff, Board, Chorus and League members have had water in their homes or lost power, and some have also needed to evacuate their homes. Like the rest of our city, we will not know the full extent of the storm’s impact for some time.

Our performance home, Jones Hall, had some water penetration, but we are fortunate that the stage and auditorium appear to have been untouched. Water did reach the basement level, where some equipment was stored, but we moved the most valuable and hard-to-replace items to higher floors prior to Harvey’s arrival. The Theater District garages are flooded and therefore are not accessible.”