Major dam overflows for first time as more rain dumps onto flood-weary TexasLos Angeles Times
August 29, 2017
Tropical Storm Harvey continued to deluge southeastern Texas with rain and surging floodwater Tuesday, leaving at least 10 people dead and thousands in shelters as it slowly crept toward Louisiana.
With historic flooding engulfing vast parts of the nation's fourth-largest city as well as much of the Gulf Coast, federal officials have estimated that as many as 30,000 displaced residents may seek temporary shelter and more than 450,000 people are likely to seek federal aid.
Since Harvey made landfall Friday night as a hurricane, some areas of Houston have seen more than 40 inches of rain - about as much as they usually see in a year.
As light rain poured Tuesday, a major dam outside Houston began to overflow, threatening some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods to the west of the city. Engineers had tried to prevent Addicks Reservoir from spilling over by releasing some of its water Monday, but flood control officials reported Tuesday morning that water was beginning to seep over the top of a spillway, the first time water had breached the dam.
In some areas, the water in the Houston area was so deep that rain sensors no longer were working. The Harris County Flood Control District, a government agency that works to reduce the effects of flooding in the area that includes Houston, announced that multiple water level and rain sensors were out of service due to flooding.
"In four days, we've seen a trillion gallons of water in Harris County - enough water to run Niagara Falls for 15 days," said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, who estimated that as many as 100,000 homes in the 1,777 square mile area had flooded. "It's beyond anything we've ever seen and will probably ever see."
In Brazoria County, south of Houston, the Brazos River was beginning to overflow its banks. On Tuesday morning, a levee breached in the Columbia Lakes neighborhood.
"We are asking residents to please get out," said Sharon Trower, a spokeswoman for the county, which already has rescued hundreds of residents after severe flooding from heavy rainfall. "The additional river flooding is just going to be catastrophic."
Major roads throughout the county already were closed because of flooding.
Houston highways remained mostly empty and blocked by police early Tuesday. A few cars and trucks navigated wet streets downtown, and some headed for the massive convention center. Thousands of people were sheltering inside there, many had arrived overnight, police said.
Families were still arriving, some with sleeping pads and rain boots, others with their belongings in garbage bags. Some feared for relatives left behind, and others worried they might soon face shortages of food and other supplies at the shelter. People scrambled to find other places to stay as the rain continued to fall.
By Tuesday, the death toll had risen to 10 after a man in Montgomery County, north of Houston, drowned Monday night while trying to swim across a flooded road.
Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, have reported at least six "potentially storm-related" fatalities. A 60-year-old woman died Monday in Porter, a small community north of Houston, when a large oak tree fell on her mobile home. Another person died in the small coastal town of Rockport, near where Harvey made landfall. A 52-year-old homeless man was found dead in La Marque, a small city near Galveston.
While catastrophic flooding continues across southeast Texas, flash flood watches dropped for western portions of the Houston area as light to moderate rain fell Monday night. The National Weather Service said the threat of flooding is gradually shifting east.
"Expect improving conditions this afternoon and evening across the area as Harvey pushes northeast," the National Weather Service's Houston/Galveston office said in an update.
After assuring Texas on Monday that Congress would deliver swift federal aid, President Trump visited the storm-ravaged state Tuesday. After arriving in Corpus Christi in the morning for a briefing on relief efforts, he and First Lady Melania Trump were to tour the Emergency Operations Center in Austin.
As Harvey moved closer to neighboring Louisiana on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to stay home and shelter in place.
A few inches of rain could cause serious problems in New Orleans, which is still recovering from flooding after thunderstorms this month overwhelmed the city's drainage system.
More than 5 inches of rain fell in some parts of the city Monday, causing localized floods. Flash flood watches were in effect as meteorologists forecast 4 more inches of rain Tuesday.
"Today, we are a resilient city with greater resolve, but we remain vigilant in the face of another threatening storm," Landrieu said in a statement. "While this is a somber day for New Orleanians, the determination and spirit of our people gives us great hope for the future."