The city of Houston began releasing water from Lake Houston on Dec. 5 in preparation of heavy rainfall weather officials predict will reach the Houston area Dec. 7.
According to the National Weather Service, much of the Greater Houston area is expected to receive about 3-6 inches of rainfall Dec.7-8. This amount of rain could cause roads to flood and bayous and rivers to flow out of their banks. A flash flood watch will take effect Friday afternoon and remain in effect through Saturday morning.
A press release issued by Houston Public Works on Dec. 4 said Lake Houston could be lowered by up to 18 inches. The lake’s normal pooling elevation is 42.5 feet. As of 9:30 a.m. Dec. 7, the lake’s pooling level was 40.48 feet.
Houston City Council Member Dave Martin said this is the sixth time this year the city has released water from the lake prior to a storm. Before this year the lake had not been used as a flood-control dam.
Martin said the lake was built to store surface water for the Houston area and not as a means to prevent flooding. However, city officials are attempting to secure federal funding to add 10 gates to the dam—which currently has two gates—so water can be released at a faster rate during heavy rain events.
Martin said he is hopeful the additional gates will be one of the projects funded by the $257 million in federal grant funding that was recently approved for the city of Houston. City officials are working with state and federal agencies to determine which projects will be completed with this funding; however, adding gates to Lake Houston dam is one of the city’s top priorities, he said.
If the project is selected the engineering studies and construction would take years to complete, Martin said.