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Dams and levee overflow as Houston suffers under Storm Harvey deluge

30 August 2017

The overflow happened one day after officials made a decision to allow emergency releases at the dam and the Barker Reservoir to thwart potential failures, staving off feared flooding in Houston's downtown area, but jeopardizing thousands of nearby homes.

As of 5 p.m. today, the pool elevation at Addicks Reservoir reached approximately 105 feet, which is up from about 103 feet from a previous measurement; while the pool elevation at Barker Reservoir is approximately 99 feet, which is up a foot from its previous reading. Flooding may become worse in some areas, officials said.

The half-century-old reservoirs have concerned officials since Harvey started dumping record-breaking levels of rain on the metro area, leaving tens of thousands displaced and at least 14 dead, including six people in Galveston county, including an elderly woman on oxygen who died in her home when her electricity went out, and a Houston police officer who drowned Sunday in his patrol vehicle.

One Houston woman said Monday that she presumes six members of a family, including four of her grandchildren, died after their van sank into Greens Bayou in East Houston. With almost 2ft more of rain expected on top of the 30in that has fallen so far in some places, authorities anxious the worst might be yet to come. The controlled release of water is not expected to cause an increase in Buffalo Bayou downstream.

Officials told residents not to leave their homes Sunday night.

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Two Houston reservoirs are overflowing, despite a controlled water release that aimed to prevent flooding downtown.

"Both dams continue to perform as designed".

In total, there are about 100 subdivision that initially were listed as under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders because of the two reservoirs, though that may expand. Officials expect those routes to remain impassable for "several weeks to several months".

The reservoirs, located on western outskirts of Houston, are about 17 miles away from downtown Houston.

The reservoirs were built after catastrophic floods in 1929 and 1925 and were created to contain water until it could be released downstream at a controlled rate, according to the Associated Press.

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But flood control official Jeff Lindner says water levels are now over the height of the reservoir edge.

Water in the Addicks reservoir exceeded 108ft (32.9m) on Tuesday, geological data shows, causing it to flow over the top of defences. "And you don't have to go far, you just need to get out of this area".

Lindner added: "Of course, the wild card to all this is additional rainfall".

Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 caused almost $5 billion in damage.

Before the storm is gone, up to 20in more rain could fall, the National Weather Service said, meaning the flooding will get worse in the days ahead and the water will be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on.

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Dams and levee overflow as Houston suffers under Storm Harvey deluge