Still Homeless Six Months After Harvey: A Look Back at Those Damned Dams

Command central probably looked like a scene out of the film Apollo 13, with seasoned brainiacs working round the clock running hydraulic models, making flooding predictions and anxiously watching the levels rise in our bayous, waterways and the Addicks and Barker dams and reservoirs.

Hurricane Harvey was one of the worst weather events in our nation’s history but, unless conspiracy theorists are correct and the government actually does control the weather, finger-pointing must be relegated to decades of near-sighted planning, unbridled construction and mother nature’s wrath.

But for those downstream of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, the nightmare was only beginning, only this time the enemy had a face. On August 27 the Corps and the Harris County Flood Control District — with both reservoirs rising more than half a foot per hour — made the difficult decision to initiate controlled releases of the reservoirs. Some residents south of I-10, west of Gessner Road, north of Briar Forest Drive and east of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs went from having minimal flooding, or none at all, to being inundated with more than four feet of water for the next ten days.

William Styron touched a nerve in his book, Sophie’s Choice, and Meryl Streep made us truly understand the heartbreak that comes with having to choose between three very horrible outcomes. But when the district decided to send the water downstream, with a guarantee that the release would cause flooding, did they make the wrong choice?

“Some streets and homes downstream of the reservoirs flood when the combined release rate from the reservoirs exceeds approximately 4,000 cubic feet per second.” — Harris County Flood Control District website, hcfcd.org.

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