Texas Floods – 11 Dead, Rivers at Record Levels, Governor Declares Disaster

Update:

The bodies of the remaining 4 missing soldiers swept away by flood waters during a training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, have now been found.  A total of 9 soldiers died in the tragic incident, bringing the total number of those killed by the recent floods in Texas to 15.

Original report:

Heavy rain has been falling in parts of Texas since late May. Brenham in Washington County, recorded 16.62 inches (42 cm) of rain in 24 hours on 26 May 2016.

Rivers have burst their banks and flooding has affected 31 counties (see list below). Around 1,400 homes have been damaged by flooding in Fort Bend County, near Houston. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster across the affected counties as the rain continues to fall.

Over 7 inches (177 mm) of rain was recorded in Houston for the first two days of this month, already surpassing the monthly average (5.9 inches) for June. There are currently 5 locations around Houston where rivers are at major flood stage: Neches River at Saltwater Barrier, West Fork San Jacinto River near Humble, Trininty River at Liberty and the Brazos River at Richmond and near Rosharon. Around 400 families have been ordered to evacuate their homes in Brazoria County.

As many as 11 people have now died in floods in Texas since the heavy rain began on 26 May. Six deaths had been reported between 26 and 30 May . Since then a tragic military training accident in Fort Hood has left a further 5 people dead.

Soldiers Killed in Floods at Fort Hood

On 02 June, at least 5 soldiers died and four others are still missing when a military vehicle was swept away by flood waters during a training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas.

Major General John Uberti, deputy commanding general III Corps and Fort Hood said in a statement yesterday “Due to the quick action of some other Soldiers that were training, we were able to rescue three Soldiers who are in stable condition at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and will potentially be released later today,”

“Our priority has been, since the first report of this incident and continues to be, the search for our four missing team mates.”

Uberti also thanked emergency services personnel and the local community for their work and support.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the soldiers, their families and the Fort Hood community, and continue to be with those still unaccounted for. Texas stands ready to provide any assistance to Fort Hood as they deal with this tragedy.”

State of Disaster

On 01 June, Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster for the 31 counties affected by the floods and severe weather. The flood affected areas in Texas are:

Austin, Bandera, Bastrop, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Coleman, Colorado, Erath, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Hidalgo, Hood, Jasper, Kleberg, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Lubbock, Montgomery, Palo Pinto, Parker, Polk, Robertson, San Jacinto, Tyler, Walker, Waller, Washington and Wharton Counties.

“As our state continues to face waves of severe weather and potential flooding, it is crucial that Texans remain vigilant and heed warnings and any evacuation notices from local officials in their areas,” said Governor Abbott.

This disaster declaration is at state level, but comes just a few weeks after President Obama granted declared a federal disaster for the counties of Fayette, Grimes, Harris, and Parker after the major “Tax Day” floods of 18 April.

At least 7 people died during the Tax Day floods, nearly all of them were in vehicles at the time. In his statement of 01 June, Governor Abbott urged motorists to drive with care, avoid flood water and to “turn around, don’t drown”.

Brazos River Flooding Turns “Neighbourhoods to Islands”

Levels of the Brazos River have hit record highs in some areas.

On 02 June, 2016, the Brazos River at Richmond, Fort Bend County, rose to 54.81 feet, well above the previous record of 50.30 feet set on 21 October 1994. Levels have shown some signs of falling but are expected to remain high for up to 3 weeks because more storms are predicted for early June and because swollen reservoirs upstream will need to release water.

Brazos River levels at Richmond. Image: NOAA
Brazos River levels at Richmond. Image: NOAA

Downstream at Rosharon, Brazoria County, the river reached 52.49 feet on 03 June and is expected to rise further, possibly reaching 52.8 feet on 05 June. Anything above 51.3 feet is considered major flooding.

Brazos River levels at Rosharon. Image: NOAA
Brazos River levels at Rosharon. Image: NOAA

On 03 June, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta ordered the evacuation of around 400 families from an area near the swollen Brazos River.

Yesterday Governor Abbott flew over flooded areas of Brazoria County and Fort Bend County. He said:

“I saw some neighbourhoods that were literally islands, completely surrounded by water, and I saw a fellow Texans delivering food and water by way of boat to the people who live in those neighbourhoods. If you are trapped inside a home or neighbourhood, you will be found. Aid is coming to you and your needs are going to be met as swiftly as possible.”

“There will be some ongoing rain for a little while but there is going to be an ongoing rise of water…The Brazos river is flooded all the way up to North Texas. It is going to take a while for the river to drain out.”

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this images of southeastern Texas on 28 May, 2016 showing the flooding along the Brazos River just west of Monaville. Image: NASA
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this images of southeastern Texas on 28 May, 2016 showing the flooding along the Brazos River just west of Monaville. Image: NASA
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this images of southeastern Texas on 04 May, 2016 showing the Brazos River just west of Monaville before the floods. Image: NASA
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this images of southeastern Texas on 04 May, 2016 showing the Brazos River just west of Monaville before the floods. Image: NASA

Rainfall

More rain is forecast prolonging the flood situation in areas where river levels are already high and ground is saturated after an extremely wet month of May, where many areas saw over a third of their normal yearly amount of rain.

National Weather Service in Houston said that many areas saw over 10 inches of rain during May 2016, and Brenham in Washington County saw almost 30 inches, which is around 65% of its yearly average. Brenham recorded 16.62 inches (42 cm) of rain in 24 hours on 26 May 2016.

Cypress recorded 11.95 inches, which is 25% of the yearly average, Bellville recorded 13.54 inches (32.5% of the yearly average).

Montgomery (18.26 inches / 39 %), Washington State Park (17.66 inches / 42.4% and Somerville Dam (15.72 inches / 40%) also experienced an extremely wet May.

Over 7 inches (177 mm) of rain was recorded in Houston for the first two days of this month, already surpassing the monthly average (5.9 inches) for June.

Photos of the Floods in Texas, May to June 2016

Flood Summary

Last updated: July 13, 2016
Event
Texas, USA, May to June 2016
Date
May 26, 2016
Type
Inland flood, River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall, Long-term rainfall
15 people have now been reported to have died in flooding that has affected parts of Texas since 26 May 2016.

Locations

Brenham, Washington County, Texas

Magnitude

Rainfall level
420 mm in 24 hours
Brenham
River level
16.7 metres
Brazos River, Richmond

Damages

Fatalities
15 people
Texas