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Army Begins Releasing Water From 2 Houston Dams, Flooding Thousands Of Nearby Homes

The US Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water into the Buffalo Bayou - the main body of water running through Houston - from two flood-control dams whose water level has risen too rapidly, a move that will flood thousands of nearby homes. Emergency workers said they began to release water from the Addicks and Barker dams located 17 miles west of downtown Houston early Monday to prevent uncontrollable flooding of the Houston metropolitan area from torrential rains released by Tropical Storm Harvey, according to ABC News.

Engineers were forced to start the process earlier than previously announced because water levels in the reservoirs had “increased dramatically in the last few hours,” officials said early Monday, adding that the release would likely cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. This is the first time engineers have done this for flood control, officials said.

“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” Col. Lars Zetterstrom, the Corps’ Galveston district commander, said in a statement Monday. “Both reservoirs are rising more than half a foot per hour,” Zetterstrom added. “Residents adjacent to the reservoirs need to be vigilant because the water in the reservoirs is rising rapidly."

“It’s going to be better to release the water through the gates directly into Buffalo Bayou, as opposed to letting it go around the end and through additional neighborhoods and ultimately into the bayou,” the Army Corps commander said.

The two dams were constructed by the federal government in the 1940s to reduce flooding along Buffalo Bayou, a narrow body of water that runs through downtown Houston. But development along the edges of the reservoirs has in recent years placed homes at risk upstream of the dams as well.

Zetterstrom did not say exactly how many residents would be affected by the move, but officials said rising water levels, even with the planned release, could affect thousands of homes along the reservoirs, ABC adds suggesting even more flood damage is imminent.

And even as Houston prepares for flooding from the two reservoirs, the nation's 4th most populous city is also bracing for more "natural" flooding from rainfall in the coming days. As we reported earlier, the worst floods are expected to hit on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.