Flooding & Floodplains
Spring Floods 2016
The severe flood events of the past year have taken a toll on Harris County residents, particularly those who live in areas that were hard hit by the Tax Day Flood (April 16-17, 2016) and then experienced heavy rainfall again just over a month later on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-28, 2016).
What Happened during the Tax Day Storm (April 16-17, 2016)?
The Tax Day Storm had a tremendous impact on north and west Harris County (see map below). Communities in Spring and Klein (Cypress Creek watershed); Cypress (Little Cypress Creek watershed); Tomball (Spring Creek and Willow Creek watersheds); Katy and Bear Creek (Addicks Reservoir watershed), and Cinco Ranch (Barker Reservoir watershed) experienced flooded homes, businesses and roads. Several neighborhoods along Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek also saw secondary flooding after the creeks had drained local stormwater, and additional runoff from the upper watershed reached the lower reaches of the creeks. The secondary flood primarily affected roadways, which made it difficult for traffic to flow in the area.
Why did it flood again during the Memorial Day Storm (May 27-28, 2016)?
The channels and detention basins in north and northwest Harris County had previously been impacted by the historic Tax Day flood event six weeks earlier. The ground was saturated and several of the creeks and tributaries were still carrying stormwater from this slow-draining part of the county. Even though the heaviest rainfall occurred over northern Waller, southern Montgomery and Washington counties, there were areas that got 8-13 inches of rain in north Harris County. It was simply too much rain in a short period of time falling on saturated ground, and some homes and roads that flooded previously in north and northwest Harris County flooded again.
What has the Flood Control District done to clean out/repair the bayous and creeks?
Since the spring storms, numerous slope failures, bank erosion, outfall pipe damages, fallen trees and other storm-related problems were identified in many of the channels. Clearing and debris removal had already started on Little Cypress Creek when the Memorial Day Weekend storm occurred. After the storm passed and water levels receded, crews got back to work on Little Cypress Creek and then moved to Cypress Creek, Spring Creek and Willow Creek. The work is now complete.
What is the Flood Control District Doing to reduce flooding risks?
In the aftermath of the storm events (April 16-17; May 27-28) we are doing the following:
- Gathering and analyzing information about the flood event itself.
- Inspecting flood control facilities for storm damage and debris.
- Working with residents and community groups to learn about potential flooding problems that involve our bayou system.
- Continuing work on our robust capital program of flood risk reduction projects, and our year-round maintenance programs.
Will we ever solve our flooding problems in Harris County?
Every part of the United States must deal with the threat of natural disasters. For Harris County, the primary threat is flooding. The reason for this? Our area is prone to severe rainfall, tropical storms and hurricanes; is generally topographically flat; and has impermeable clay soils. Though we can and will work to reduce flooding risks, we will never be able to prevent flooding in Harris County. Even if we were able to construct a system of channels and stormwater detention basins that could handle a storm the magnitude of the Tax Day Storm, there is always a larger rainfall event that could overwhelm what the creeks and bayous can handle. Also, when there is heavy rainfall in a short period of time, the storm sewers and roadside ditches back up because they do not have capacity to handle the massive runoff, even when there is capacity in the bayous and creeks.
What this means is that everyone is at risk for flooding and should take steps to protect themselves and their families. One way to do that is to purchase a flood insurance policy – it won't prevent flooding, but it will help you recover more quickly and without experiencing dramatic out-of-pocket costs.