Harvey's Aftermath: Reservoir and levee breached

Randolph Lopez
August 30, 2017

With almost 2ft more of rain expected on top of the 30in that has fallen so far in some places, authorities anxious the worst might be yet to come.

Houston Fire Department personnel said they've received reports of water going into the second story of houses and apartment complexes in the Southern part of the city. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections.

The fourth day of flooding left Houston emergency officials scrambling to rescue people still stuck in deep floodwaters from swollen streams and bayous across the metro area, the fourth-largest in the nation.

In Brazoria County a levee breached at Columbia Lakes some 60 miles south of Houston, prompting officials to tell residents: "Get out now!"

Officials said Addicks would continue to overflow until September 20, according to their models.

A Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist said the overflow from the reservoirs would eventually flow into downtown Houston.

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One Houston woman said she presumes six members of a family, including four of her grandchildren, died after their van sank into Greens Bayou in East Houston. Water levels in the two reservoirs had already reached record levels Monday evening, measuring 105 feet at Addicks and 99 feet at Barker. Engineers started the process earlier than announced after water levels increased beyond expectations.

A major dam in Houston has spilled over for the first time in history after Harvey's rains inundated its reservoir, a federal official said Tuesday morning.

"If we don't begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities", Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander, said in a statement Monday.

NWS meteorologist Tawnya Evans says Harris County, home to Houston, is recording about half an inch (1 centimeter) of rainfall each hour early Tuesday, and that areas east of there are seeing much more. "The dams that created the reservoirs are rated among the most unsafe in the country". "Residents adjacent to the reservoirs need to be vigilant because the water in the reservoirs is rising rapidly".

The Barker Reservoir gate is near Hwy. All the water from the reservoirs flows into the Buffalo Bayou, the main waterway that snakes through the heart of Houston, and additional releases could also flood neighborhoods along the bayou. The Army Corps of Engineers began a controlled release of the reservoirs around 1 a.m.

The dams were constructed in the 1940s as a method of protecting downtown Houston from the worst of the waters in the event of another devastating flood like the one that left Houston so broken in 1935.

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