Connection between new construction and drainage problems?

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Homes that have never flooded before and are not within 100-year floodplain boundaries, flooded in last week's storm.

The exact number of homeowners in this position has yet to be fully tallied, but in many cases the culprit appears to be runoff, excess water that can not be absorbed by the earth before flowing to the lowest point.

"The water has to go somewhere and it has to go somewhere fairly quickly, so if you're not going to have trees and depressional wetland areas to absorb it, it's going to go into homes," said Jennifer Lorenz, executive director of Bayou Land Conservancy.

Lorenz's group favors stricter controls and tighter regulations regarding land development.

She points to two subdivisions in Northwest Harris County, that were built on wetlands more than a decade ago: Stable Gate and Reserve at Cypress Creek near Telge Rd. and Spring-Cypress.

Residents in the Stable Gate neighborhood said Monday that they do not live in a designated 100-year floodplain area, which largely appears to be true, according to flood maps.

"They told us weren't in the floodplain," said Lindsay Herrera, a homeowner whose house flooded last week.

Herrera and her neighbors said their homes had never flooded before.

Lorenz said that using concrete to cover natural soil and particularly wetlands, which she describes as 'nature's kidneys,' invites more trouble with each new construction project.

"Concrete curbs, concrete streets, houses, it's all creating more runoff, and that water has to go somewhere," Lorenz said.

More than 3,600 homes across Harris County have flooded, according to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. 

According to the Harris County Flood Control District, over 2,364 houses were flooded in unincorporated Harris County and more than 1,300 homes the City of Houston. A meteorologist with the Flood Control District said these numbers are expected to rise.

Water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, the two west side dams that protect Houston from a flood of biblical proportions, is being released into Buffalo Bayou at a controlled rate.

The release of water at the Barker Reservoir dam into Buffalo Bayou began Thursday evening. The release will lower the water levels in the reservoirs.

The Harris County Flood Control District said the normal release rate will be doubled, causing water levels in Buffalo Bayou to rise between Highway 6 and downtown Houston.

The areas most likely to see street flooding, and potential house flooding, are located on the perimeter of Addicks Reservoir in the Bear Creek Village subdivision just northeast of the State Highway 6/Clay Road intersection, and south of Addicks-Satsuma Road.

(Map below: Bear Creek Village streets near the SH 6/Clay Road intersection at risk of flooding.)

Bear Creek Village streets near the SH 6/Clay Road intersection at risk of flooding.

Thursday evening the release of water at the Barker Reservoir dam into Buffalo Bayou began.

"These are both pools of record we have not seen this much water before. The dams are being tested for the first time with this much water," Richard Long, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said.

In 70 years, neither dam has ever looked like this, and in some neighborhoods, the reservoirs are slowly moving in, up and over Highway 6 for miles.

"Twenty-three years, never seen it like this before," said one resident.

(Map below: Bear Creek Village streets near Addicks-Satsuma Road at risk of flooding.)

Bear Creek Village streets near Addicks-Satsuma Road at risk of flooding.

Even with planned releases to lower both dam levels starting Thursday night, homes are in jeopardy as each dam spreads to its outer reaches.

The outer reaches are neighborhoods. Hundreds of houses are essentially not just near, but within the dams.

"The Cinco Ranch area and the Bear Creek area are actually within the maximum storage area of our projects," Long said. "We have filled up the government-owned land, but that doesn't mean the dam is at capacity."

That is a cold hard truth if you live in one of the neighborhoods.

Water levels may remain high for days or weeks, depending on additional rainfall and reservoir release rates.

Officials said the following streets in Bear Creek Village have the potential to fill with storm water and may be impassable in the next few days:

  • Sandy Hill
  • Pine Mountain
  • Lost Spring
  • Mill Hollow
  • Sylvan Glen
  • Hickory Grove
  • Birch Vale
  • Aspen Glen
  • Bear Hill
  • Regency Villa
  • Pine Forest
  • Fox Springs
  • Pagehurst
  • Fern Ridge
  • Pinecliff
  • Thornbrook
  • Midridge
  • Prairie Creek
  • Four Season

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE WATER LEVELS IN YOUR AREA

At least eight people have died in connection with Monday's floods in the greater Houston area, officials said.

Local fire and police departments performed more than 1,800 rescues across Harris County and surrounding areas, emergency management officials said.

According to officials, this week's flooding is the worst in the area since Tropical Storm Allison hit in 2001.

Check out an interactive rainfall map below:

 

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