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What you should know about floods and then some.
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Flooding from San Jacinto River reported; dam forced to release water from Lake Conroe
Mar 17, 2015

With heavy downpours expected to continue through midday Thursday, area officials on Wednesday were anxiously watching to see whether the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers would overflow and spill into dozens of flood-prone subdivisions along the rivers' banks.

As of Wednesday evening, the San Jacinto River Authority was already sending 6,385 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water gushing through the floodgates on Lake Conroe's dam in Montgomery County north of Houston. The river authority began releasing excess water from Lake Conroe once the lake was filled to capacity Sunday, said Bret Raley, the river authority's spokesman. The 20,000-acre lake was built as a water reservoir and not for flood control.

Yet Raley described the rate of release from the floodgates on Lake Conroe's dam as "medium," and still well below that for the record 1994 flood when over nine times that amount - or 56,000 cfs - was being unleashed downstream.

Readings on river gauges below Lake Conroe's dam had not yet exceeded flood stage by Wednesday. Yet two people still had to be evacuated from a stilt house located in the floodplain below the dam on Pecan Bend Road, said Montgomery County Precinct 1 Constable Tim Cade. One of the evacuees reported water rising inside his house so fast that he was unable to get out until firefighters rescued him.

Two roads - Pecan Bend and Honea Egypt - were also reported to be impassible Wednesday due to high water.

The gauge, located on the west fork of the San Jacinto River at Interstate 45, indicated the river was continuing to steadily rise but still remained 6 feet below flood stage.

"Because of our five-year drought that recently ended, residents haven't seen the river get like this for awhile," Raley said Wednesday. "We hope we won't have any major problem from ... overnight rain."

He advised residents in low-lying areas to pay attention to weather reports to learn how much rain pummeled the already-soggy region and check whether Lake Conroe's dam is forced to increase its release.

At the same time, officials watching the Trinity River cautioned residents of 12 flood-prone subdivisions along the river in Liberty County east of Houston to be alert for potential fooding.

"The weather service is predicting anywhere from a half-inch to three inches of rainfall across the Houston area. We don't know what we'll get. We're just hoping it misses us," said Tom Branch, coordinator of Liberty County's emergency management office.

As of Wednesday evening, the Trinity River Authority reported 43,800 cubic feet per second was being released from Lake Livingston's dam into the Trinity. Almost three times that amount of water was being unleashed from the dam in the record 1994 flood, authorities said.

"But we could still get a significant flood if the release grows to 50,000 or 60,000 cfs," said Liberty County's emergency management director, Tom Branch.

At that flow, roads leading into at least eight of the flood-prone subdivisions in Liberty County could be submerged with 10 feet of water, he said. Residents living in stilt houses in these areas would then have to resort to using boats instead of automobiles for transportation and the water can remain high for several days until the river crests.

As of Wednesday, without counting any additional overnight rain - the Trinity River was expected to crest in Liberty on Saturday at 27.4 feet - which is about one and a half feet above flood stage.

"We just cannot predict what will happen until we see how much rain we get," Branch said.