The flood warning system at Yale and Center.
The flood warning system at Yale and Center.
Photo by Meagan Flynn

You'll Want to Avoid These High-Water-Prone Locations If You Must Drive During Harvey

As Harvey approaches, it probably wouldn't be wise to write off the advisories urging you to stay off the roads, because this is no Tropical Storm Cindy, the hyped up storm system that dropped little more than some clouds and drizzle on Houston in June.

Hurricane Harvey is expected to deliver up to 35 inches of rain in some isolated places from Friday night until next Wednesday, with most of the region likely to see between 12 and 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service. While the hurricane warning only extends from north of Port Mansfield to Sargent, Houston and Harris County remain under a tropical storm warning, and flooding is expected to reach dangerous levels.

As usual when major flooding events are forecast, the Houston Public Works and Engineering Department has prepared dozens of road barricades across Houston, and flood warning systems are working at 22 locations. The Texas Department of Transportation and Harris County Toll Road Authority also have working manual flood gates or barriers,manned by law enforcement, ready to go.

So if you absolutely must go out, here's an overview of the most dangerous roads, underpasses or intersections you'll want to consider avoiding.

Arguably the most dangerous high-water location in Houston is near the Galleria area. Last year, during the April Tax Day floods, a woman drove around a tow truck blocking the Post Oak ramp to Westpark Tollway, only to be consumed by 17 feet of floodwater beneath the underpass. Right nearby, two others drowned on the I-610 frontage road near the U.S. 59 interchange.

TxDOT responded with manual flood gates that can be lowered to block off the I-610 and Richmond underpasses in both directions, and along the Westpark Tollway frontage roads right near U.S. 59 and the I-610 interchange. Simply put, do not drive in these areas if it's coming down hard out there. And at this point, you can pretty much guarantee it will be.

The city will be setting up physical barricades at 41 locations across Houston as needed. Notably, these include Memorial Drive at Waugh, which saw immense flooding during the Tax Day floods and was impassable (basically just avoid Memorial Drive); Greens Road beneath I-45 and the Hardy Toll, the area near Greenspoint that turned into a giant lake of rainwater and sewage, causing hundreds to evacuate; and Studewood at I-10, where a man almost drowned while a KTRK reporter helped him to safety. (See a full list of potentially barricaded, high-water locations here).

The city's 22 flood-warning systems do not include actual gates, but include signage that starts flashing and warns people to turn around due to high water ahead. (PWE gave a test run to automatic flood gates at a location on Houston Avenue, but two reckless drivers ruined it for everyone by crashing into the control box twice in a matter of weeks.)

Some of those locations, which you can find here, are along Allen Parkway at Waugh and at Montrose; along Jensen Drive at Creston and at the railroad; and at Main and Holcombe and Fannin and Holcombe.

A full list of potential high-water locations along the Harris County toll roads are also available here.

Stay dry, y'all. Better yet, stay home.

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