Houston dam begins to overspill as Harvey triggers unprecedented impact

‘We have never faced this before, we have uncertainty in how the water is going to react’ official says, as water levels in reservoirs threaten monitoring equipment

A vital dam in suburban Houston that protects the central city began overspilling on Tuesday, and officials said the rainfall from Harvey is so unprecedented they do not know what the impact on surrounding communities will be.

Water levels in the Addicks reservoir have reached 108ft, said Jeff Lindner, a Harris County flood control district meteorologist.

He warned that neighbourhoods in the spillway zone would begin to see street and possibly structural flooding.

“We have never faced this before. We have uncertainty in how the water is going to react as it moves out of the spillway and into the surrounding area,” Lindner told a news conference on Tuesday. “We are trying to wrap our heads around what this water will do.”

Linder named six subdivisions that appear most at imminent risk and told residents: “If you want to leave, now is the time to leave. The reason being, once the water comes into the street you’re not going to be able to leave.”

Another major dam and reservoir nearby, Barker, is also enduring exceptionally high water levels, and some residents in streets to the west of it are under voluntary evacuation orders. They also face the possibility that their roads could be rendered impassable just as the storm’s precipitation appears to be decreasing in intensity.

“New streets will continue to flood, new homes will continue to flood … the amount of water that goes over the spillway will be increasing,” Lindner said. He added that it is unlikely to happen quickly but could leave some homes inundated for a month.

“I completely understand the uncertainty that people are dealing with. This is a complex situation,” he added. “My own house is in the spillway region of [Addicks] reservoir so I completely understand what you’re going through.”

Addicks and Barker were…

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