The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from two flood-control dams Monday morning in an effort to save homes from catastrophic flooding as Tropical Storm Harvey continues pounding southeast Texas.
Officials say that the move is necessary to prevent uncontrollable flooding of the greater Houston area as water levels rapidly rise. Engineers started the process earlier than announced after water levels increased beyond expectations.
“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” Col. Lars Zetterstrom, Galveston District commander, said Monday.
The federal government constructed both dams in the 1940s on the outskirts of Houston. The concern is that the water will continue rise until it goes around the dam structures, potentially flooding more neighborhoods and homes.
“It’s going to be better to release the water through the gates directly into Buffalo Bayou as opposed to letting it go around the end and through additional neighborhoods and ultimately into the bayou,” Zetterstrom said.
The Corps said Monday that the two reservoirs behind the dams are rising more than half of a foot per hour. The forecast calls for more rain through the week, exacerbating the situation.
Harvey hit the Texas coast late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, and has already battered the region with more than 2 feet of rain. The National Weather Service called the event “unprecedented.” The NWS also said that all impacts are unknown and beyond anything ever experienced.
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