Houston, TX – Despite torrential rains that inundated many low-lying areas throughout parts of Texas last weekend, most convention destinations did not suffer significant damage aside from periodic flooding on some roadways, including interstates. Today, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mike Waterman issued a statement saying that Houston’s downtown convention facilities, including the George R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Park were unaffected by the storms.
The holiday weekend may have been the saving grace for the exhibition and convention sectors, as there were not many large events scheduled during the storms. In Houston, the Comicpalooza cosplay and gaming convention, which draws upward of 10,000 visitors, moved out of the George R. Brown Convention Center Monday ahead of the most torrential rain and flooding. The same was true at the San Antonio Convention Center, which hosted two weekend conventions, but both had moved out ahead of the worst storms, according to booking and services manager Jeff Cook.
Dallas-based Freeman Cos. Also reported no work disruptions related to the storms, as did Las Vegas-based general services contractor Global Experience Specialists. Officials at the Dallas Convention Center, Austin Convention Center and Ft. Worth Convention Center were not yet available to return calls seeking comment.
Earlier this week,46 Texas counties were declared disaster zones as rivers, bayous and floodwater channels overflowed in widespread flooding particularly in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and Austin areas. Houston got 11 inches of rain in six hours on Monday. Flash flood warnings remain in effect this morning for portions of the region.
Houston freeways were largely impassable on Tuesday and public transit was suspended amid the worst storms since Hurricane Ike in 2008. There had been 11 high-water spots along major arteries leading into the city, including Interstates 10 and 45, though many of the cars stranded Monday have been removed. Officials are still watching a nearby dam closely as another 12 inches of rain is expected this week.
A sinkhole adjacent to a runway at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), resulted in the closure of that runway, though airport officials declared that overall operations would not be adversely affected. As of this morning, DFW had no major weather delays and George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport was experiencing delays of 15 to 30 minutes due to storms and wind.
Floodwaters also inundated a portion of downtown Austin with three to four feet of water yesterday after Shoal Creek overflowed. Outside of town in Hill Country, the devastation was more widespread with several deaths reported.
The fact that these storms hit over a holiday weekend meant there were few major conventions and trade shows scheduled:
- In Dallas, ComicCon is set to begin this Friday at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, but no major events were due in earlier in the week.
- In Houston, only a local Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance Expo was scheduled this week at the George R. Brown Convention Center, beginning tomorrow.
- The Tristar Collectors Show, a consumer show for sport-card collectors, was still set to open this Friday at NRG Park.
There were no updates about weather or changes to the schedule on any of these three event’s web sites.
The Austin Record Convention that was held over the weekend reported above-average response with 240 exhibitors and roughly 2,500 attendees, according to organizer Doug Hanners. “Our attendance was somewhat affected Sunday,” Hanners said, “but we closed early enough to get people out (before the worst storms).” The only other events scheduled at the Austin Convention Center this week are a city department meeting and a teaching conference through the University of Austin.
In Houston, Rockets basketball fans ended up with an after-game ‘event’ of sorts at the Toyota Center after the facility advised fans to remain at the arena after the game against the Golden State Warriors due to flash flood warnings throughout the city.
Event marketing manager Mandy Love Walsh said the approximately 2,500 fans who remained for more than an hour after the game were offered bagels, coffee and water and news updates were broadcast on the arena’s big screen so fans would know when it was safe to leave. Walsh said the flash flood warning was lifted around 3 a.m. and many fans left then. But the 100 or so who remained were served a continental breakfast before they departed for home around daybreak.
Officials noted that the last similar flooding in Houston occurred in 2001 and cost the region $6.7 billion in damages in today’s dollars.
Trade Show Executive will continue to monitor the situation in Texas, where these storms have been called the worst weather since Hurricane Ike in 2008.