Local officials address, advise for upcoming storm
Kingwood’s recent flooding was referenced in local officials’ messaging to the public before the upcoming storm event tonight that could drop several inches of rain on the Houston area. The Harris County Office of Emergency Management said this inclement weather could extend into the weekend.
While detailing the northeast Houston community’s Tuesday deluge, Mayor Sylvester Turner, in a 3 p.m. press conference at the TranStar building, said that the amount of rainfall posed a surprise. Also present with Turner were Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Meanwhile, U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw, whose district includes Kingwood, Atascocita and Humble, is pursuing $40 million in federal funds to expidite projects on Lake Houston and improve dainage.
“In certain areas like in Kingwood we had more than 10 inches of rain to fall in a short period of time, and then it proceeded onto the southwest area onto the southeast,” Turner said.
The mayor described the impending weather as “serious” and “unpredictable,” and said that no one should lower their guard even when wind and rain on Thursday were in the minimal-to-none range. He added that it would be ideal if certain activities for today, namely attending happy hour or watching the Astros, be done at home.
He also asked everyone to keep an eye on seniors and pets.
“We are anticipating a lot of street flooding. We are anticipating that our bayous will get a lot of water in them — we are anticipating that,” Turner said. “It’s not going to be one evening and done.”
He added that the gates on Lake Houston are open and will remain so.
Acevedo said that Kingwood’s Tuesday deluge affected air traffic at the Bush Intercontinental Airport, a scenario that could see a repeat after tonight’s weather.
“When we had the unpredicted flooding in the Kingwood area,” the HPD chief said, “it did impact some of the runways at IAH.”
Like Turner, Hidalgo emphasized the need to stay indoors. But if the need to travel does arise, she said motorists should avoid flooded roadways and heed the warnigs of barricades.
“Of course, the water doesn’t respect our jurisdictional boundaries, and I know this will go beyond just Harris County,” she said. “This message is to all the surrounding counties. We’re all coordinating. We’re working together.”
Hidalgo also wanted residents to be observant of storm drains in their area, which must be cleared for them to carry the water away.
Martin has been using his Facebook as a resource regarding this matter, asking residents to call Houston 311 — at 713-837-0311. The number can also be dialed to report areas with high water, debris, blockages, and related elements.
At 2 p.m. he posted that the City of Houston’s Public Works department and Harris County Flood Control District had assigned crews into Kingwood to detect potential risks. The Elm Grove subdivision, which was flooded Tuesday, has no blockages or sludge, part of the post read.
“As it has been seen in the past storms on Friday, May 3 and Tuesday, May 7, drainage systems within the City of Houston are not designed to handle more than two inches of rain in under an hour,” Martin said in a press release Thursday. “Once the drainage system becomes overwhelmed it is designed to overflow to the streets. The City of Houston drainage system is designed to hold 2 to 4 inches of rain an hour, which requires roughly two to four hours to drain.”
Crenshaw said he has been monitoring the weather situation in Washington D.C.
As mentioned in both an interview over the phone Wednesday and a statement Thursday, he said there are three top-priority items to counter flooding issues — the release of $4 billion in funding from the Department of Housing and Development and the Office of Management and Budget, the approval of FEMA for the $37 million dam gate-expansion project, and the investment into better drainage systems.
For the $4 billion release from HUD and OMB, Crenshaw said he had discussed the initiative with HUD Secretary Ben Carson and is now working with OMB so Texas can access those funds and start on mitigation projects soon. On the additional dam gates, he said FEMA is still waiting on the City of Houston to supply all the necessary information.
“We know that hundreds of homes have been flooded, and the primary reason is the lack of drainage maintenance,” he said of Tuesday’s flooding.