By Melissa Ruby,
Domestic News Writer
Flood waters are rising. River in the streets! Boats, not cars, are the mode of transportation. Even blow-up swans are more serviceable toys for the children of Katy, Texas than bikes and skateboards. This past week Huston, Texas and nine surrounding counties were hit with a torrential amount of rain causing rivers to rise and flooding in the streets.
While today the flood waters are receding and people are assessing damages, the spring storm managed to displace thousands and killed eight.
The storm system paused over the Huston area on April 17 and was followed by a second storm on April 18 that continued to pummel the already distressed area.
While these two storm systems were by far the worst, the week was dotted with rain storms that only aggravated the situation. Between April 15 and April 18 some areas around Huston received well over twelve inches of rain. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport recorded that 9.92 inches of rain fell on April 18, which is more than 2.5 inches more than the standing record from the year 1976 (8.16 inches).
Per NASA, “It made April 2016 the wettest April ever measured at that site.” Another Texas community, Hockley was inundated with nearly seventeen inches of rain in less than twenty-four hours. Reports from CNN claim, “That’s more rain than Salt Lake City gets in a year.”
The sheer amount of water that fell in Texas is frightening. According to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, nearly 240 billion gallons of rain fell in the Huston area, making this the most significant flooding since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
All this water caused creeks and bayous to flood their banks. Even the Colorado River posed a flooding risk to the community of Wharton, Texas.
The river level exceeded forty-eight feet, nearly ten feet above flood level. With all this excess water streets were flooded, in some places the streets were covered in ten to fifteen feet of water, often times without any indicator of its depths. One of the biggest problems for public officials during this crisis was trying to find a way to stop drivers from testing the waters in their vehicles. Several people were trapped in the cars after their vehicles either sank or floated away, some even died.
In a report from ABC News, Judge Ed Emmet stated that “not enough has been done to warn drivers. “Finding solutions to this problem is one of the top priorities for local officials.
In addition to the deaths, 1222 people were rescued from their homes. During this time of crisis, the governor declared the counties in the Huston area in a state of disaster. Though the most severe of the storms were over, waters continued to rise and smaller thunderstorms continued to threaten the area on Thursday.
Waters are not expected to recede quickly due to the flat topography of the area. This poses potential public health risks for the area, as long standing water often breeds mosquitos who can carry and transmit all sorts of nasty diseases, including the West Nile Virus. As waters recede there is also the possibility of mold and dust that may aggravate allergies.
Just as concerning as the flooded streets were the two dams to the west of Huston, the Addick and Barker dams.
Built nearly seventy years ago, these dams were past their life expectancy of fifty years and thus were deemed high risk. Another factor in this classification was how closely located these dams and reservoirs were to densely populated areas.
However, renovations and restructuring of the dams seems to have kept the dams from breaking, even though they had reach 80 percent capacity after the tremendous rainfall. Official already began releasing the water and expect to continue to do so until safe levels are reached.
Evacuated residents were just beginning to return to their homes over the weekend and will have to begin clean up after the devastation.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 26th print edition.
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