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Two Decades Before Hurricane Harvey, Harris County Flood Control District Warned of Catastrophic Houston Flooding from Barker and Addicks Reservoirs


Two decades before torrential rains from Hurricane Harvey forced the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to open the floodgates at the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, a report prepared by the Harris County Flood Control District predicted the danger and recommended a fix that may have spared thousands of homes and business in Houston, Texas from catastrophic flooding.

History of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs

The Addicks and Barker reservoirs feed into the Buffalo Bayou on the west side of Houston. According to The Washington Post, they were built in the 1940s to prevent the flooding of downtown Houston and the Houston Ship Channel.

Most of the time, the Addicks and Barker reservoirs are dry. They fill when it rains, and were designed to control flooding by allowing water to flow through their floodgates into Buffalo Bayou and out toward the sea.

When they were built, the area surrounding the Addicks and Barker reservoirs was mostly undeveloped prairie. However, whole neighborhoods – thousands of homes and businesses — have since sprouted up around the two reservoirs.

Addicks and Barker Floodgates Opened Knowing Downstream Neighborhoods Would Flood

On August 28th, the unprecedented rains spawned by Hurricane Harvey quickly filled the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. According to The Dallas Morning News, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to open the floodgates to allow for the controlled escape of water from the reservoirs and prevent their dams from being over-topped. But rather than releasing the normal 4,000 cubic feet of water per second, the gates were opened wide enough to release more than 13,000 cubic feet.

When Corps officials made the decision to open the Addicks and Barker floodgates, they knew that the water released from the reservoirs would flood downstream neighborhoods. Many of those flooded homes would not drain for days, others for weeks.

“For some stupid reason, I thought that levee that I see on my way home, I thought that protected me,” one Houston resident told the Dallas Morning News “I had no idea that there were plans in place to flood me to protect other people, which blows my mind.”

Flooding Risks Presented by Harvey were Predicted by Harris County Flood Control in 1996

Sadly, this very scenario was predicted in a 1996 report prepared by engineers from the Harris County Flood Control District.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the engineers noted that the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were adequate when they were first built. However, rapid development in western Harris County over the ensuing decades had placed more than 25,000 homes and businesses at risk for catastrophic flooding.

“The primary flood threat facing the citizens of west Harris County and west Houston comes from the inability to drain the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in an efficient manner,” the report said.

The engineers also proposed a $400 million fix which would have involved building a massive underground conduit to more quickly carry water out of the reservoirs and into the Houston Ship Channel. Other solutions proffered by the engineers included making the reservoirs deeper, buying out properties at risk of flooding, and imposing new regulations on development.

“Do nothing and accept risk of flooding,” the report warned.

Despite this dire warning, nothing was done. The report was merely filed away and forgotten. Until Hurricane Harvey struck.

Many Hurricane Harvey Victims Lack Flood Insurance

Hurricane Harvey caused the most severe flooding in Houston’s history.  Sadly, many of those who lost their homes lacked flood insurance because they were led to believe that their homes were outside the 100-year floodplain.

It has since become obvious that the 100-year floodplains are grossly inaccurate and outdated. In fact, more than 40% of the homes damaged by Harvey’s flooding were located outside the 100-year floodplains.

Texas residents who lost homes or personal property due to Harvey will also have to contend with changes to the Texas Insurance Code that became effective September 1st, and which greatly limit a policyholder’s ability file a lawsuit and recover damages when their insurer improperly denies or underpays valid wind damage claims.

Did You Lose Your Home or Car to Flooding in Hurricane Harvey? Contact Our Undefeated Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers for a Free Consult at 1-888-603-3636 or by Clicking Here.

Our Undefeated Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers have won over $1 Billion and successfully represented hundreds of flood and hurricane victims throughout Texas and the United States.

Even if you don’t have flood insurance, you may be able to recover your losses from the Harris County Flood Control District and its engineers for releasing over 6 million gallons of water per minute from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which caused severe flooding in over 4,000 homes downstream that did not suffer any flood damage from the rain.

Our Flood and Hurricane Damage Lawyers will

  • answer your questions
  • fully explain your legal rights, including the September 1, 2017 changes to the Texas Insurance Code
  • walk you through the steps necessary to preserve your right to recover damages from (1) your auto or flood insurance carrier for underpaying or denying your claim, and/or (2) the Harris County Flood Control District—in the event that your losses are not fully covered by insurance or you don’t have flood insurance coverage.

Contacting our firm won’t commit you to anything, and our consultations are free. And because we represent all clients on a contingency basis, you’ll owe nothing unless we win your case.

To contact our Houston Flood Damage Lawyers, call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email.