Cameras, warning lights, flood gauges in Harris Co. improve flood safety

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Harris County officials have been making improvements to keep residents safe during flooding.

The Memorial Day floods of 2015 dumped roughly 162 billion gallons of rain in Harris County. Nearly a year later, an estimated 240 billion gallons of rain fell during the Tax Day floods.

Between those two storms, 13 people lost their lives after drowning inside their vehicles. Since then, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett vowed to make a change by leading an effort to improve safety in areas where lives were lost. His goal was to make sure tragedies like these never happen again.

"That was the worst phone call I think I've gotten because it was so preventable," Emmett said.

VIDEO: This flood prevention tool could save your life
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Sgt. Stephan Woodard with the Texas Department of Public Safety demonstrates how to use a center punch to break a car window and escape if a driver is trapped in flood waters.

Sadly, multiple people have drowned at the Post Oak underpass, so manual safety gates were installed in an effort to prevent history from repeating itself.

So far, gates have been installed at the Post Oak exit, Richmond and the eastbound Westpark Tollway as well.

"It's really important to have that type of device out here ready to go, ready to move. All we have to do is close it and get the road closed," said Danny Perez with TXDOT.

Perez said that whenever there's a flooding threat, such flood-prone areas are constantly watched.

"If we do see any kind of issue with high water, we monitor that 24/7. We will dispatch a crew out here to address the issue immediately," Perez added.

Other improvements include cameras, warning lights and updated flood gauges which are easier to see at night. In areas where gates have not been installed, those have been designated as barrel locations, which still need to be closed off manually. Officials are researching the possibility of automation.

"In an ideal world, you'd have automatic floodgates that came up, so we're looking into that, too," Emmett said.

This week happens to be the very first Flood Awareness Week in Houston. Every day, the National Weather Service, emergency management officials and Harris County Flood Control are getting the word out about the dangers of flooding.

It's a big social media initiative, so be sure to follow those agencies for the important messages and tips they're providing, to help everyone stay prepared for the next storm: Office of Emergency Management, Harris County Flood Control District and National Weather Service Houston.
Related Topics:
weathersevere weatherflash floodingfloodinghouston floodtechnologyHoustonHarris County
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