Memorial Day flood report paints picture of how disaster unfolded

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HOUSTON – A new report on the Memorial Day weekend flood shows the hardest rain fell at the area of Brays Bayou and Beltway 8, according to the Harris County Flood Control District. The area received 10 inches of rainfall over six hours on May 25 and 26.

The report, along with internal emails reviewed by Channel 2 Investigates, paint a picture of how the emergency unfolded.

The ground in our area was already saturated before from previous rainfall before the big storm hit.

"It had been raining for two months," Harris County Flood Control District executive director Michael Talbott told investigative reporter Jace Larson recently.

Before that day's storm reached the Houston area, it dumped significant rain in Austin. Some of the first warnings came from flood control district meteorologist Jeffrey Linder. He warned that amount of rain in Houston "will get the area intro trouble very quickly."

As the Houston Rockets tipped off for game four of the NBA Playoffs at 8:10 p.m., some officials received an email warning: "Excessive rainfall moving into Harris County."

Minutes later an Office of Emergency Management staffer asked how likely it is that the heavy rain will continue overnight. Linder gave the probability a "5" on a "1-10 scale."

Talbott said that was a best guess at the time, and said it was not a sign his office was later caught off guard.

"Oh, absolutely not," he said. "A lot of times these storms approach the area and they die. This one didn't look like it was going to do that.

At 8:45 p.m., I-45 feeder roads in the Woodlands were flooding, according to internal emails.

At 9:06 p.m., an emergency management official staffer emails, "This storm ain't no joke."

The Rockets were dominating the Warriors in the third period, while the fire department was already rescuing drivers. Emails soon talk of inevitable house flooding.

"The amount of rain was extremely severe," Talbott says.

When the Rockets walked away with a win, fans were stuck inside.

The National Weather Service issued its first ever Flash Flood Emergency at 10:50 p.m., calling the storm "life-threatening."

At 12:37 a.m., an email says "911 can no longer respond to calls."

Water was pouring into businesses less than an hour later.

A total of 3,015 homes were flooded. More than 3,500 multi-family units were flooded.

The flood ranks fourth worst in Houston in terms of homes flooded.

Eight people died in the storm.

If you have a tip about this story or another story idea, email or text investigative reporter Jace Larson at or 832-493-3951.