Residents of the Kingwood, Humble, and Atascocita areas are familiar with the finicky nature of Lake Houston water levels on a personal level. It is estimated that sixteen thousand homes and more than three thousand businesses were flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 due to quickly rising Lake Houston water levels that ultimately resulted in flooding. With these statistics accounting for approximately twenty percent of all homes and forty percent of all businesses in the area, the community is searching for not just answers, but solutions.
How does Lake Conroe affect Lake Houston water levels?
Water from Lake Conroe’s dam flows to the San Jacinto River’s West Fork. From there it flows into Lake Houston and eventually continues on downstream to the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. With this established course, large amounts of water released from Lake Conroe can immensely impact Lake Houston water levels, especially in situations where extreme amounts of rainfall are a factor.
During Hurricane Harvey, Lake Conroe is estimated to have received more than twenty inches of rainfall. Several other watersheds also received twenty or more inches of rain. Each of these areas flow at least in part into the San Jacinto River’s West Fork, which also received many inches of rainfall. The result was that the channel became overwhelmed with water and flooding ensued.
What are Different Types of Damns
Although pre-releasing water from the Lake Houston Dam in advance of heavy rains or tropical weather is a proactive solution, it may not be enough. Historically, the release of copious amounts of water from Lake Conroe has in turn dramatically affected Lake Houston, and it may all come down to spillways and Tainter gates.
- Spillway:A spillway is a structure built to facilitate a controlled release of water flow from a dam to a downstream area, usually the riverbed of the dammed river. It can help release water in small amounts before a reservoir becomes full and is designed to prevent a sudden large release of water from gushing over the top of a dam.
- Tainter Gate:This type of floodgate is used in dams to also help control water flow over a dam via a wider opening. These gates are typically much larger and more efficient than spillways. For some larger dams, there can be up to several hundred Tainter gates used for just one body of water.
Lake Conroe is outfitted with a controlled emergency spillway and five Tainter gates that are forty feet wide and thirty feet high. Lake Houston is outfitted with a spillway and two Tainter gates that are eighteen by just over twenty feet. Lake Conroe has three more Tainter gates than that of Lake Houston and each of them is larger.
This type of set up would indicate that if Lake Conroe releases water at a fixed rate, it could possibly be more than the Lake Houston spillways can handle, which could lead to flooding. Many area activists are calling for the Lake Houston Dam to incorporate additional Tainter gates which could theoretically allow the Lake Houston dam to match the water release rate of Lake Conroe’s Dam and yield a lower flood risk.
Protecting Property With Flood Insurance for Kingwood
Without improvements to the dam, Lake Houston water levels could still be subject to sudden changes that could result in flooding. While many residents are working with city officials and organizations such as the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) to rectify the issue, these efforts are likely long term. The problem? Long term solutions don’t often yield immediate help for the short term. And with hurricane season lasting half of the calendar year, residents of Kingwood, Humble, and Atascocita need to do what they can now.
One of the most important things residents can do to protect themselves now is to invest in a solid flood insurance policy. A flood insurance policy cannot stop a flood from happening, but it may be able to financially protect homes or businesses as well as much of the property inside. It can be a small price to pay when compared to the cost of experiencing flooding to your property that is not covered by flood insurance.
In general, a building and content coverage flood policy may cover:
- Personal items like clothing
- Electronic equipment
- The building
- Foundation of the property
- Plumbing and electrical systems
- Air conditioning equipment
- Water heater
- Some kitchen appliances such as dishwasher, refrigerators, and stoves
- Permanent bookcases, cabinets, or paneling
Part of the art in securing an affordable flood insurance policy can be staying local. Although national insurance providers do offer flood insurance, to give customers a quote they rely primarily on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), which are frequently being redrawn. This constant turnover of accurate maps can cause some confusion and could lead to a higher flood insurance quote as a result.
While local insurance agents also have access to flood zone maps, they have the advantage of literal boots on the ground of their community. This can provide a firsthand knowledge of which streets and houses flooded and which did not, and that can in some cases potentially yield a lower flood insurance quote.
Residents should be motivated to help the powers that be find immediate, efficient, and workable solutions to properly managing Lake Conroe and Lake Houston water levels so that flooding of the likes of Hurricane Harvey is never repeated. That said, the most important thing residents can do right this minute to protect themselves and their property from future flooding is to purchase a flood insurance policy and a little peace of mind.