Threat to Texas dam subsides as flood recovery continues

Dam at Padera Lake near Midlothian, about 25 miles southwest of Dallas, no longer at risk of failing

The threat to a rain-swollen dam near Dallas has subsided, but the death toll continues to rise as authorities in Texas struggle to recover from punishing rains that unleashed floods throughout the state.

The body of a 31-year-old man was found near a flooded car in Houston on Wednesday, raising the death toll from recent storms to six in the city, with 19 in Texas and Oklahoma overall. Officials are still searching for 11 people: two in Houston and nine in central Texas.

In Dallas, an electrical outage at a Love Field airport terminal was causing delays in ticketing and baggage and long lines, according to terminal staff and a statement from city officials. It wasn’t clear whether the outage was storm-related.

Officials also said that a dam that had threatened to overflow was secure Wednesday afternoon.

“The threat of the dam on Padera Lake failing has passed,” Midlothian police Capt. John Spann said in a message on Facebook for the community about 25 miles southwest of Dallas. “Engineers have assessed the dam and do not anticipate a failure at this time.... Workers are putting sand bags across the overflow area of the dam and water runover has been greatly reduced with the placement of the sand bags.”

The Houston area alone received nearly a foot of rain overnight Tuesday, stranding hundreds of drivers and damaging more than 4,000 homes. City officials were also coping Wednesday with the fallout from a 100,000-gallon sewage spill in the area after Brays Bayou flooded a water treatment plant.

But life in the Bayou City appeared to be returning to normal Wednesday as offices and schools reopened, most public transportation resumed and commuters returned to the roads despite the rainfall.

“It’s significant, but it’s falling in areas that were not as impacted” by Tuesday’s floods, said Michael Walter, a spokesman for the city’s emergency operations center. “It’s hitting mostly northwest Houston, so we don’t expect to have any catastrophic situations. This is what summer in Houston looks like. It’s just because of how saturated the ground is now, any water won’t drain.”

About half of the Houston metro area remained under flash flood warnings Wednesday, but those were expected to end by afternoon.

“We do still have some areas of significant high water,” Walter said, including two main routes into downtown: Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, where traffic was backed up for about a mile.

“Those are still underwater. Folks are having to find creative ways in. They’re kind of clogging up some of those roads. We’re encouraging people to carpool if you can,” he said.

Mayor Annise D. Parker was expected to provide an update after Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Gilliland said there are no reports of major road closures in the surrounding county.

“The rain is not as intense” as Tuesday, Gilliland said.

He said the Trinity and San Jacinto river areas in the eastern part of the county were swollen, with rain draining from the north, and might be a flooding concern, but “nothing significant” had been reported early Wednesday.

Gerald McTigret, 53, saw the home he was housesitting flood Tuesday in southwest Houston’s hard-hit Meyerland neighborhood, which has a bayou running through it. On Wednesday, McTigret said that rain remained light and that he had no additional flooding.

“We’re doing good,” he said, but “if any of these storms stall, I think we could see some potential flooding. We’re at our peak.”

More major flooding is not expected  although rains and thunderstorms are forecast to continue Wednesday and later this week, said Jeff Evans, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office outside Houston in League City, Texas.

But Evans cautioned, “Given how saturated things are and how high the bayous and creeks are, we’re going to be very sensitive to more rainfall.... Luckily we had most of the day yesterday to drain, so the bayous did go down, which will give us some room” for runoff.

Houston, he said, is in a position most California cities only dream about: “The city, we really don’t need any more water at all.”

It wasn’t clear whether thunderstorms expected later this week would dump significant rain and prompt further flood warnings.

“It’s really hard to pin down where those are going to be and how much,” Evans said of the storms. “We’re just going to have to be vigilant.”

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


12:32 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that the threat to a dam near Dallas has subsided.

This story was originally published at 9:23 a.m.