Hurricane Harvey, and the subsequent flooding, was an unprecedented and devastating event in eastern Texas. Harvey produced an average of 33.7 inches of rainfall over the 1,777 square miles of Harris County over a 4 day period which equates to 1 trillion gallons of water and is also 68% of the yearly annual rainfall. Of the 22 watersheds across Harris County, 13 established new record water levels during Harvey surpassing previous records by Tropical Storm Allison (2001), Tropical Claudette (1979) and the @016 Tax Day flooding. The Harris County Flood Control District was first established in 1937 following two major floods within six years and started installing their Flood Warning System in 1982 and was at the epicenter of the flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey. Since 2010, the District has partnered with OTT Hydromet to expand their real time network, and install various sensors which measure water level responses in creeks and bayous. Water level measurements provide critical information needed by first responders and the National Weather Service when making decisions on issuing targeted flood warnings and properly messaging needed actions.
Jeff Lindner, Director of Hydrologic Operations at the District, stated, “Could not do what we do during flood operations without the water level devices.” For detecting rate of rise at designated stream gage locations, the OTT RLS and CBS sensors measure water level using proven water level measurement techniques that are unaffected by rising flood waters. This critical data is transmitted in real time and can be viewed on the Harris County Flood Warning System website, http://www.harriscountyfws.org/. “With the current system, it is an anomaly to have incorrect data.” “Our gage network and water level devices were tested beyond anything we could have imagined during the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey and it is incredible that only 7 of our gages were lost during the flooding. It is amazing that the water level devices were able to survive the long duration and extreme magnitude of the water levels experienced and they were extremely critical in providing lifesaving information to the millions of residents of this region. Early on Sunday morning the 26th, a TXDOT crew became trapped by high water on one of our freeways and TXDOT was asking when they could try to get their crew to safety. The use of nearby water level information at one of our gage sites was critical in determining when this crew could attempt to get to safety. I have no doubt that the Flood Warning gages saved countless lives throughout the devastation of Harvey”
Post Hurricane Harvey, it was imperative that we contact the Harris County Flood Control District to find out first, most importantly, how they were affected by the storm and the massive flooding event. Secondly, the status of the gage stations and our water level sensors. Also, to learn if our instruments performed to their satisfaction in such demanding environmental conditions. David Procyk, OTT Hydromet Region Manager soon shared the good news: “All ~80 OTT sensors deployed around Houston (in the flood warning network) worked flawlessly. Two of the OTT RLS, radar level sensors, were submerged in a 40ft rise – right in downtown Houston – but data resumed once levels receded. Our sensors were the critical ‘heartbeat’ – when the city was literally going underwater.” “Dave texted me as the event was unfolding asking if we needed anything and how they could help, which meant a lot given everything we were going through”, stated Jeff Lindner. Following the event, OTT Hydromet Group President Anton Felder emphasized the importance of… “good instruments and being close to our customer.” Our mission, at OTT Hydromet is to help water professionals generate reliable data throughout the entire water cycle. We go beyond simply providing solutions by partnering with our customers in designing effective answers to the challenges they encounter in their vital role of monitoring the world’s water. Everyone at OTT Hydromet feels honored and privileged to have been able to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.