Why Houston is prone to flooding

Water levels in both reservoirs had "increased dramatically" late Sunday night, rising more than half a foot per hour, leaving engineers with two choices: To begin releasing water through the dam gates earlier than expected - or risk it spilling out suddenly around the ends of the dams.

"These projects will greatly reduce the flood threat for residents along these bayous and remove hundreds of properties out of the 100 year flood plain", said Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press release.

The multiple enormities of this event - the magnitudes of the populations involved, the multiple threats (wind, surge and rain) posed by the storm at landfall, the volume of rain falling after landfall, and the enormous area covered - closed off options that might have been available in lesser storms.

Landrieu and other officials warned residents Harvey has the potential to create flash flooding.

Linder said officials were unable to measure water levels at the Barker Reservoir because the gauge flooded overnight. From there, it will spread into already rain-swollen streets and eventually into the Buffalo Bayou, a narrow body of water that runs through downtown Houston.

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Jeff Lindner with Harris County (Texas) Flood Control District tweeted early Monday morning that the water release of both reservoirs had started.

A fire official says 11 people were rescued from fast-moving floodwaters in northwest Houston after a private rescue boat capsized.

The dams were constructed in the 1940s as a method of protecting downtown Houston from the worst of the waters in the event of another devastating flood like the one that left Houston so broken in 1935.

Statements from the NHC and other official sources, mirrored in online chatter among scientists, recognized that the rain could well turn out to be the real threat, and that the metropolis of Houston was very vulnerable. August is now the wettest month of all time for the city, surpassing June 2001, when Tropical Storm Allison battered the area, according to the National Weather Service. On Sunday, the president held a teleconference with top administration officials to discuss the federal effort.

"Harvey is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 7 to 13 inches through Friday over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana", the NHC said in an update Tuesday morning. This also offers up more of a perspective of what Texas is dealing with today.

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Portions of Brazoria County, due south of Houston, had been under a mandatory evacuation notice since Sunday. The average yearly rainfall is just under 50 inches; Houston's airport has recorded more than 46 inches.

By Tuesday afternoon, the San Bernard had risen to more than 14 feet over flood stage, and the Brazos reached almost 11 feet over flood stage.

But southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana still would see "relentless torrential rains", with another 6 to 12 inches of rain across the upper Texas coast through Friday as Harvey continues to move slowly east over the Gulf of Mexico maintaining tropical storm force winds of 45 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. It's expected to remain offshore tonight and to return inland on Wednesday.

One of Houston's two major reservoirs overflowed Tuesday for the first time in its history, overburdened by torrential downpours from an "historic" storm.

Some fear that may be more than the nation's fourth-largest city could bear.

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