Heavy Rains Inundate Houston

A chance of rain remains in the forecast for the rest of the week. The powerful storm system that stalled dumped as much rainfall as tropical storm Allison in some areas of the city. How is the area responding to the weather and is enough being done to keep citizens out of harm's way? Pat Hernandez has the story.

The hardest hit areas recorded up to a foot of rain in the west and northwestern parts of the county. After the strongest rain moved out of the area, commuting was an adventure because of high water and closed roads or exits.

“I was frustrated bordering on angry, and I think probably paled, compared to those people that were stuck on the freeway for two to three hours.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:

“We just got to find a way to do a better job of alerting people before they get in a position to be completely stuck like those folks were on the beltway.”

Judge Emmett thinks motorists should be given an option, with the help of law enforcement, of going backwards to get off a roadway that ends up in high water. But, as quickly as the bayous and creeks reached their banks—they fell. Heather Saucier is spokeswoman for the Harris County Flood Control District.

“The good news in all of this, is that both Braes and White Oak bayous have performed incredibly well. There are four detention basins that flank Braes bayou, and they hold more than a billion gallons of storm water. We really feel that had these detention basins not been in place, we would have seen flooding in the Meyerland area — which is a very flood-prone area — and possibly in the Texas Medical Center as well. So, we’re really giving those basins a lot of credit.”

She says as soon as they are able, crews from flood control, the city of Houston and the unincorporated areas of Harris County are sent out in the field to gather high water marks and count the number of homes that flooded.

“It helps us to measure the success of our projects, but it also helps us to see areas of town that do have flooding issues where we could possibly build a project later. And so, gathering high water marks is important to us for both of those reasons.”

Mark Sloan is Emergency Management Coordinator for Harris County. He says all the watersheds are being monitored, with particular concern to the west side, where runoff from streets and lawns contribute to swollen bayous.

image of flooding

“Whenever we get an area that receives ten or eleven inches of rain a short period of time.  This area, we’re prone for it. We’ve seen it year, after year, after year of potential risks that exist, in the environment that we live in.”

Sloan says fine tuning procedures following a weather-related crisis is a continuous process because of the area in which we live. He adds improvements are made in the interest of public safety:

“We have to be ready for all types of hazards and, preparedness is not just six months out of the year; it’s a twelve month a year issue.”

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News