Barker and Addicks Dams Under a Flood Warning. That’s Never Happened Before.

The National Weather Service in League City has issued a flood warning for the Addicks and Barker watershed.

For the first time ever.

“It’s true,” says Chuck Roeseler, a NWS meteorologist and senior forecaster at the League City office. “Since we’ve been located here, they’ve never been this high before and I’ve been here since 1992.”

In 2012, the Houston Press reported on the crumbling Barker and Addicks dams. Owned and operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the watersheds, built in 1945 and 1948 respectively, protect central Houston from Hurricane Katrina-like flooding by holding back water that would otherwise overtax Buffalo Bayou. 

In 2009, the aging flood protectors were tagged with an ominous label: “Extremely high risk of catastrophic failure.” Only four other nationwide dams were awarded a similar (dis)honor. 

Since then, short-term and less costly protections (such as filters to control seepage, more lighting and an emergency power system) have been installed to help prevent an all-out collapse. But because more permanent and pricier solutions are still in the works – and because of this week’s deluge – government officials are monitoring the dams around the clock.

According to Harris County Flood Control District figures, as of Wednesday night, the current water level of the Addicks Reservoir, located north of Interstate 10 near Highway 6, was 101.4 feet – it starts to flood at 101.2 feet – and could reach 103.2 feet. The previous record high, set in March 1992, was 97.46 feet.

Barker Reservoir, located south of I-10 near Highway 6, has also exceeded its previous record high water level of 93.6 feet from March 1992. As of last night, there was 93.8 feet of water in the old dam, which starts to flood at 94.9 feet. It could reach 97.7 feet, according to the Corps of Engineers.

At the time that this post was published, Kimberlye Jackson of the Harris County Flood Control District hadn’t returned a message left by the Press on her cell phone. We’ll provide an update if she rings back.

Richard Long, natural resources supervisory manager at the Corps’ Addicks and Barker field office, told the Press by phone this morning that flooding of streets, and possibly some homes, on the upstream/west side of the dams will occur. 

“As the reservoirs continue to rise, the water will be pushed off the back side of the reservoirs,” says Long. “There will be flooding immediately adjacent to government property. Some homes could be impacted.”

Long, who adds that he expects the dams to peak in the middle of next week (weather conditions permitting, of course), says that residents of the Bear Creek and Canyon Gate subdivisions should especially stay on high alert.

This morning's flood warning is in effect until 6:15 p.m. local time Saturday (yes, not today, not Friday, but Saturday) and will likely shift one way or the other depending on the weather.

“The dams are at record highs,” admits Long. “With that being said, we’re very attuned to the dams and we’re monitoring them 24/7. With that being said, we’re very confident with the structure and conditions of the dams.”