East Fork Mouth Bar Grows 4000 Feet During Harvey and Imelda

If you boat between the San Jacinto East Fork and Lake Houston, perhaps you’ve noticed it’s a little harder getting from A to B lately. The San Jacinto East Fork Mouth Bar has grown approximately four fifths of a mile during the last two storms and the channel depth has decreased 6X.

These three pictures tell the story dramatically.

I took the first after Hurricane Harvey and the second after Tropical Storm Imelda. The third comes from Google Earth BEFORE Harvey.

East Fork Mouth Bar After Harvey

Looking north toward Kings Point from the East Fork of the San Jacinto River after Harvey. Note fresh sand several feet deep everywhere. Photo taken 9/14/2017, two weeks after Harvey.

East Fork Mouth Bar After Imelda

Extent of East Fork Mouth Bar After Imelda. Photo taken 12/3/2019. Note in this photo how much closer the sandy bottom is to the surface throughout the entire area.

Pre-Harvey to Post-Imelda Growth

Satellite image from January 2017 BEFORE Harvey. Yellow line represents approximate growth in East Fork Mouth bar between then and today – about four fifths of a mile. For alignment purposes, note the tip of the Royal Shores Lake in the first aerial photo and Royal Shores in the second.

Boater Josh Alberson says the maximum channel depth in this area decreased from 18 feet after Harvey to 3 feet after Imelda.

Geologic Change on a Human Time Scale

Note how the leading edge of this growing bar is now almost even with the entrance to Luce Bayou. When we get another storm like Imelda, the East Fork Mouth Bar could block the Interbasin Transfer Project from delivering water to Lake Houston.

Changes like these usually happen on a geologic time scale. They happen so slowly, humans can barely perceive them during the course of a life time. However, Harvey and Imelda produced this change in two years. They provide us with a rare glimpse of a living planet in our own backyard.

If you have children, grandchildren or students, please share these photos with them. They make valuable life lessons about the power of moving water and respect for Mother Nature. They may also stimulate curiosity in Earth sciences and engineering.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/23/2019 with depth soundings from Josh Alberson

846 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 95 since Imelda