Some communities in Houston region seeing most rain and flooding since Hurricane Harvey

Over 200 residents have been rescued, but no reports of casualties have been made.

By Rhonda Fanning & Patrick M. DavisMay 6, 2024 11:48 am,

Texans in parts of East and Southeast Texas have been enduring severe flooding – inundated by waters that have led to evacuations, boat rescues, submerged streets, lots of property damage and water levels not seen in almost five years.

Along the banks of some rivers, the sky is dumping as much as 23 inches in some isolated areas. As a result, three major reservoirs in the region – Lake Livingston, Lake Houston and Lake Conroe – all reached dangerously high levels, and all three had to release massive amounts of water, causing rivers downstream to flood businesses and homes.

Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for Harris County, joined Texas Standard to discuss the situation. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: What’s the latest in Harris County on the flooding there? How much rain are you seeing right now?

Jeff Lindner: You know, we haven’t seen any rain at all overnight. And so the flooding continues to recede.

We hit our peaks on Saturday. Those water levels have all dropped between 3 and 5 feet since Saturday afternoon. So we continue to see a reduction in the flooding. And hopefully by Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll see these rivers back within their banks. So impacts have improved and they will continue to improve today and tomorrow.

How about how this flooding event compares with other natural disasters you’ve seen in the area.

You know it just kind of depends on where you are.

So on the East Fork at the San Jacinto River, this was higher than Tropical Storm Imelda back in 2019, but it was lower than Harvey back in ’17.

On the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, this was several feet – almost 10 feet – lower than Harvey. So, you know, it wasn’t your routine river flood event, but it also wasn’t record flooding here.

Well, what accounts for the fact that some areas were really inundated and you’d go down the road not too far and it didn’t seem like you had much flooding?

Yeah. So this is kind of a different type of flooding for us here in Harris County. It’s pretty rare that we see the San Jacinto River flood and then we don’t see any other flooding in Harris County. And this is just a function of how the rain fell.

So all of this heavy rain fell north of us in Montgomery County and San Jacinto County and Polk County, and we did not have a significant amount of rain directly on top of us here in Harris County. So all of our creeks and the bayous did very well, and we were just really impacted by the water coming down from our north, which only affects a small portion of north and east Harris County.

So the majority of Harris County and the city of Houston was fine. You kind of drive up to that area and you’re perfectly fine. And then you had flooding along the river.

So it’s pretty rare to see that here. Typically when we get big heavy rain events, we involve a large portion of the county and the river.

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What are you hearing on the casualty front?

We have had no deaths or injuries that we know of in Harris County.

Now, I’ve seen reports of over 220 Harris County residents rescued. Is that number pretty much done, 0r do you expect it to continue to rise? And what about cleanup?

Yeah, no, we’ve probably had the maximum number of rescues that we’re going to have. Most of those were on Friday. As the water was coming up, we had a few over the weekend. But in the last 24 hours or so, we had almost no calls for rescues, unless it’s people who have chosen to make poor decisions to go out and get on the water and underestimate the current and the amounts of debris out there.

We did have a couple people yesterday. They got into some trouble on the lower portion of the San Jacinto River in a kayak. And so we’re certainly telling people not to go out into these flooded areas and certainly don’t go out on the river or Lake Houston right now, which is closed till the water goes down and those currents recede, which should be again Tuesday into Wednesday.

Longer term, what can Harris County do to lessen the damage of severe weather events like this? 

You know, the rivers are the rivers and controlling rivers are highly difficult to do without reservoir operations and stuff like that. And even in that case, you could still have flooding along rivers. And so there’s not a magic bullet – if you will, silver bullet – to control the flooding along the San Jacinto River, East Fork and West Fork.

The rest of the county [is] where we can do a little bit more on our channels, our creeks and bayous with retention basins, home buyout projects and infrastructure modifications and that we can help reduce the risk of flooding.

But I would always say we’re never going to completely eliminate the risk of flooding. There’s always going to be storms – rainfall events – that will exceed the design of these projects. And so it’s really important that folks in this area understand that and always have flood insurance.

Flood insurance is the best thing to protect yourself against flooding. Only about 30% of the residents in Harris County have flood insurance. And so as we head towards hurricane season, that’s something important to look into and make sure you have the appropriate coverage.

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