Better Off Ten Years After Tropical Storm Allison

Ten years ago, days of rain from Tropical Storm Allison caught up with Houston. Saturated grounds could not take any more water. It would become Houston's biggest flood event. Ten years later, Allison's mark has lead to changes in Harris County's system of draining bayous from rain water. Pat Hernandez has more.

(opens with news report about Tropical Storm Allison)

Allison was the first storm of the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It developed  from a tropical wave in the northern Gulf of Mexico on June 4th, and struck the upper Texas coast.

She lingered unusually long for a June storm, over 2 weeks.

By the time she moved out of the Houston area, Allison dumped over 30-inches of rain, took the lives of 22 people and caused over 5-billion dollars in damage — the costliest tropical storm in history.

Ironically, before Allison hit, Harris County Commissioners voted to give the Harris County Flood Control District the authority to speed up what it spends on bayou projects, from about 20-million to more than 150-million dollars.

Here at Sims Bayou in southwest Houston, dump trucks are busy moving dirt in a 397-million dollar project. This is the district’s Heather Saucier:

Sims Bayou“We began construction on this bayou with the Army Corps of Engineers in 1990, and it is expected to be complete next year. We have widened and deepened 19-miles of this bayou and excavated three very large storm water detention basins, and we’ve modified or replaced about 20-bridges.”

She says by widening and deepening Sims Bayou about three times its natural size, it will remove some 35-thousand homes and 2-thousand businesses from the 100-year flood plain.

“If Allison were to happen again tomorrow, yes we would still see flooding, simply because the storm was so great, in terms of magnitude. But we absolutely would not see as much flooding and it is because of projects like this. Every time we widen and deepen a bayou, we shrink a flood plain, so we reduce people’s chances of flooding.”

Other Flood Control projects include a half-billion dollar plan to widen Brays Bayou in west central Houston by 2017, and is nearly finished with a 75-million dollar project to widen and deepen White Oak Bayou in NW Houston. Saucier says Harris County collaborates with the City of Houston, when it comes to the movement of water on the ground.

“Anytime they build a project, that sends more storm water to the bayou system. We need to make sure that that’s not negatively impacting the bayou system, or negating the benefits of the projects that we’re building.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the area is much better off than it was ten years ago.

“Army Corps of Engineers is obviously has been playing a role but, we live on a coastal plain. So, we’ll keep improving, but there’s no question that we can handle rainfall now that we couldn’t have handled ten years ago.”


Three images were provide by the Harris County Flood Control District.