CONROE, TX (KTRK) -- Authorities have lifted a mandatory evacuation order for residents living near the Lewis Creek Reservoir in Montgomery County.
On Friday the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) issued a voluntary evacuation notice. As thunderstorms rolled over the Lake Conroe area this morning, a mandatory evacuation was issued but the order has since been canceled.
"I've lived here for 31 one years and it's really scary," said Linda McCown. She is one of the approximately 900 residents who live below the reservoir.
McCown decided it was time to go when she received a 'Code Red Alert'on her cell phone, the emergency alert system used by OEM to notify residents of imminent danger.
"I'd been watching the weather, hoping it would pass. But the rain came down hard. That's when my phone went off. I knew it was time to go."
But McCown briefly returned to her home Sunday afternoon.
"You think you know what to do. But I'm telling you in a disaster it's different. I mean I grabbed a Pepsi for God's sake and just left. You don't think, you just go. Then I remembered my family photos. If the dam breaches and my house is washed away, I can't replace those," she explained.
The reservoir dam is unstable. Persistent rainfall has exacerbated the dam's deterioration. The damp soil surrounding the dam is now extremely loose, causing it to slide. There are eight sections on the dam that are at risk of failing.
In an effort to mitigate a potential disaster, Entergy Texas, the utility company that maintains the dam, has called in emergency crews to repair areas of concern. Entergy has also reduced the water level in the reservoir to prevent stress on the dam.
While some residents have decided not to evacuate, despite repeated warnings, most aren't taking any chances. By Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of cars, trucks, and RVs could be seen making their way out of the evacuation zone.
"There's a lot of money wrapped up in this," said Reed Rosales, as he helped neighbors load-up their livestock.
"Just these cattle alone are worth maybe $14,000.00. The horses are worth even more. This is just the right thing to do around here, helping each other out."
OEM has pointed out that if a total dam failure occurs, there may not be enough time for people to escape a surge of water that could flood the area.
"Mandatory means mandatory," said OEM spokeswoman Miranda Hahs. She noted that authorities won't be forcing people out of their homes, but that it is in everyone's best interest to heed the evacuation warning.
Mandatory evacuation orders had been in place through Monday morning. By late Sunday, OEM lifted the mandatory evacuation. A Red Cross Center is available to evacuees, located at The Lone Star Community Center: 2500 Lone Star Parkway, Montgomery, TX 77356.
Pets are welcome at the Red Cross Center. However pet owners must supply their own leashes, crates, food, and water. No services will be provided for pets.
Residents can sign up for Red Code Emergency Alerts by visiting www.mctxoem.org and clicking on the red icon.
Mandatory evacuation orders canceled for Montgomery Co. households around dam