At least 3 people have died in the floods in Houston since yesterday. Some areas saw as much as 17 inches of rain. Authorities estimate a total of 240 billion gallons of rain fell over Harris County.
Bayous and Creeks around the city and beyond are full to overflowing, and further heavy rain is possible. The National Weather Service has extended the flash flood warning.
State of Disaster for Nine Counties
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster in 9 counties of the state after torrential rainfall and flooding. The list of counties includes Austin, Bastrop, Fort Bend, Colorado, Grimes, Harris, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton Counties. Additional counties may be added as the situation develops.
Harris County, which includes the City of Houston, has seen the worst of the rain and flooding. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) said that:
“A total of 240 billion gallons of rain water fell over Harris County late April 17 through early April 18, resulting in major flooding in streets and homes. Residents in 110 subdivisions have reported house flooding. Officials with Harris and eight surrounding counties requested a federal disaster declaration, which was declared by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.”
HCFCD say that rainfall amounts averaged 14 to 17 inches over northwest Harris County and Waller County with a large swath of the county receiving 5 to 10 inches. Flood-affected neighbourhoods include Tomball, Klein, Spring, Jersey Village, Greenspoint, Aldine, and Meyerland.
Worst Floods Since 2001
City of Houston officials have compared the recent flooding to that brought by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Via Twitter, officials said that while the recent floods don’t match up to the levels of the Storm Allison floods, they have been more widespread in nature, affecting a total of nine counties.
Tropical Storm Allison dumped as much as 35 inches of rain on Houston. The storm affected Louisiana and other eastern states, as well as Texas. As many as 23 fatalities were recorded in Texas alone, most of them in the Houston area.
Fatalities and Flood Rescues
The City of Houston has confirmed three fatalities. All three victims were found inside their vehicles. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of flood-related deaths in Harris and Waller counties. Several news reports say that the death toll is at least five.
Harris County officials said the high water rescue number had risen to 1,222, with 897 in Houston limits and 325 outside.
The American Red Cross has opened 12 shelters to aid those impacted by severe rain and flooding throughout the Greater Houston area. The full current list of shelters can be found here.
These shelters will be open 24 hours a day, providing a warm, dry place to stay, food and emotional support for area residents who are not able to remain at their homes due to storms and flooding.
Volunteers are greatly needed to staff shelters as well as distribute food and provide other services to those in need.
Forecast and Further Flood Warnings
In the early hours (local time) of 19 April, the National Weather Service extended an Areal Flood Warning for Houston until 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, due to the impact of significantly heavy rain.
The City of Houston Office of Emergency Management said that “This means residents near streams, bayous and creeks can expect to see flooding continue this afternoon. Very little additional rainfall is anticipated before 6:00am and water levels should continue to slowly recede.
“Because water needs to drain through the bayou system, residents may see an increase in flooding, without additional rainfall. If travel is necessary during this time, please be cautious, especially during the overnight hours.”
An Areal Flood Warning is issued for flooding that occurs more gradually, normally from prolonged and persistent moderate to heavy rainfall.
Addicks and Barker Reservoirs
HCFCD said that Addicks and Barker reservoirs in West Houston “did what they were built to do: store massive amounts of stormwater. They will hold water for days”. However, there are currently 13 creeks and waterways out of their banks in the county.
Richard Long, supervisory natural resources manager for the United States Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District stated that the dams are functioning as intended and USACE staff will be providing around-the-clock monitoring to ensure the slopes and the downstream toe of the dam as well as the area around the water control structures at both facilities continue to operate properly.