With a period of dry weather forecast for the Houston region, stormwater will be released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs at a controlled rate into Buffalo Bayou over the next few weeks in order to lower water levels behind those two dams in west Harris County. Releases are expected to be up to 50 percent higher than normal release rates, which will cause the bayou to flow several feet higher than normal from State Highway 6 through downtown Houston. Harris County Flood Control District officials said that these release levels will be significantly lower than the flood levels experienced after heavy rainfall May 25-26.
Areas in west and northwest Harris County that are upstream of the two reservoirs received 5 to 8 inches of rain this past week. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, which operates the dams at both of the reservoirs, closed the gates before the storms rolled in last Monday in order to hold water that began quickly draining into the reservoirs.
Public areas that will be impacted by increased releases include the low-lying areas in Harris County Precinct 3’s Terry Hershey Park, which is located along Buffalo Bayou from State Highway 6 to the West Sam Houston Tollway, and Buffalo Bayou Park on Buffalo Bayou between Shepherd and Sabine streets just east of downtown. Property owners along the bayou will also notice the higher levels.
Park users and residents who live along the bayou are urged to use caution when venturing into those parks and all areas along the bayou’s banks, as there will be higher than usual bayou levels for the next few weeks:
- From State Highway 6 to Piney Point Road the bayou will be 4 to 5 feet above normal release levels and some low-lying trails in Terry Hershey Park will have water on them.
- From Piney Point Road to Loop 610, the bayou will be 3 to 4 feet above normal release levels.
- From Loop 610 to downtown, the bayou will be 2 to 3 feet above normal release levels and there could be water in low-lying sections of Buffalo Bayou Park.
The Corps will closely monitor releases from the two dams, and the weather forecast, and make adjustments as needed, including closing the gates if the forecast calls for rain. Updates will be announced as conditions warrant.
Constructed in the 1940s, both reservoirs are normally kept dry to preserve their overall capacity to impound storm water and reduce flood levels in Buffalo Bayou. When a rain event occurs, the gates are closed on the Addicks and Barker dams to reduce flooding below the reservoirs. When the downstream runoff has receded to non-damaging stages, reservoir operations resume, the gates are opened, and water is released.
The process of determining the possibility for a release and the amount of a release is a continual process. If the forecast calls for rain, there are no releases. If the forecast is clear skies and the prediction for rain is zero, the Corps begins releasing stormwater. Anything in between increases the difficulty in making that decision.
The Corps also closely monitors water levels within the reservoirs, and provides updates to city, county, transportation and emergency management partners as the impoundment of rainwater in the reservoirs could result in floodwater impacting traffic on state and county roads located within and near those areas. This week, officials have been keeping a close eye on Addicks water levels in case they rose to the level at which State Highway 6 between Clay Road and Interstate 10 could be impacted. That is still a possibility as additional stormwater drains into the Addicks Reservoir. The Corps remains in contact with its partners and the public will be notified if temporary road closures will be needed.
To learn more about the Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Program, visit www.addicksandbarker.info. For more news and information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict or www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston.
As for remainder of the county, bayous and creeks are effectively carrying stormwater to Galveston Bay. Still, the Flood Control District’s Flood Watch team continues to watch bayou levels, particularly in far northwest Harris County were rural sections of Upper Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek remain out of banks. The San Jacinto River is still high along its West Fork in north Humble and south of Lake Houston near Sheldon and Highlands. Residents in those areas should remain vigilant and avoid driving or walking into high water.
Before getting out on the roadways, check the Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool website – www.harriscountyfemt.org – in advance for ponding areas, which are sections of roadways and undeveloped land that typically hold stormwater during and after heavy rainfall. Type in an address in the “ADDRESS SEARCH” box in the left column, and, after the location appears on the map click on the “Ponding” option in the left column. Frequent ponding areas will appear on the map. You can then plan an alternate route, or at least avoid those areas, when you get out on the road.
With heavy rainfall comes the threat of flooding, so it is important for Harris County residents to be aware of conditions near their workplaces, schools and homes. The Flood Control District urges all residents to monitor rainfall and bayou water levels on its Harris County Regional Flood Warning System website (desktop and mobile versions) at www.harriscountyfws.org.
The Flood Control District has a “Storm Center” at www.hcfcd.org/storm-center with helpful, printable resources, including a guide on how to create and implement a FAMILY FLOOD PREPAREDNESS PLAN and a FAMILY EMERGENCY KIT checklist. The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has disaster preparedness resources and the latest information about conditions in Harris County at www.readyharris.org. Additional flood preparedness tips:
- Secure valuables and important documents.
- Avoid driving, if possible. If you must venture out, avoid driving into water of unknown depth. Moving water can quickly sweep you and your vehicle away.
- Restrict children from playing in flooded areas.
- Remain in your home during the storm unless instructed to evacuate by local officials.
- Have a flood insurance policy. For information on flood insurance, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-888-379-9531.
- Know your home’s risk of flooding. You can view a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM or floodplain map) at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Map Service Center (www.msc.fema.gov), or refer to the Flood Control District website at www.hcfcd.org.
About the Harris County Flood Control District
The Harris County Flood Control District provides flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values. With more than 1,500 bayous and creeks totaling approximately 2,500 miles in length, the Flood Control District accomplishes its mission by devising flood damage reduction plans, implementing the plans and maintaining the infrastructure.