Whew! Dodged the Worst.
After at least three days of warnings, dozens of tornados swept through Texas last night, injuring approximately 30 people and leaving tens of thousands without power. Luckily for the Lake Houston Area, however, we dodged the worst of the storms.
Spectacular Light and Sound Show in Lake Houston Area
Line after line of thunderstorms swept north through Texas last night and this morning as the front pushed toward the east. Below is a radar image of the one that raked over Kingwood shortly before 7 AM this morning. The light show was spectacular. Thunder seemed to merge into one long, half-hour crescendo. Before the boom from one lightning strike could fade, another would hit. The sky sounded like the William Tell Overture. The lightning, thunder and incessant wailing of the alerts from my weather radio left me breathless and sleepless.
When the sky cleared, I ventured out to survey the damage, but saw little. The storm blew through so quickly that far less rain fell than predicted. Forecasters had talked about stalled supercells dropping up to 7″ as we saw in January. Those never materialized, at least not in the Lake Houston Area.
Official Rainfall Totals Fall Short of Predictions
The highest rainfall total at an official gage was 2.44 inches at the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge. Two gages north of Lake Conroe reported more than 3 inches. Most other gages recorded between 1 and 2 inches, far less than the widespread 2″-4″ predicted with isolated totals exceeding 7″.
By 8:30 AM, Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner reported that the squall line was moving off to the east.
“Rainfall amounts of 1.0-2.0 inches in 15-30 minutes with this line quickly led to street flooding,” said Lindner. Most storm sewers can handle only 1.0-2.0 inches per hour.
All Channels and Streams within Banks
At 3 PM, the Harris County Flood Warning System shows that all creeks and bayous are within their banks. Lindner expects no flooding, but cautions that we need to watch the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto as runoff works its way south from harder hit areas to the north.
Photos of Kingwood-Area Streams
Photos of local channels confirmed the Kingwood Diversion Ditch, Ben’s Branch and Taylor Gully were up, but not out of their banks.
Comparing the rainfall amounts to an Atlas-14 chart of annual exceedance probabilities shows that a 2.5 inch rain, in about an hour, qualifies as a 2-year storm.
It made a pretty rude wake up call on Mother Nature’s part.
Experts Still Assessing Tornado Damage
Several National Weather Service assessment teams will fan out across the region today, surveying the damage from multiple tornados.
According to NBC, “Nocturnal tornadoes are two and a half times more deadly than their daytime counterparts largely in part to people being asleep and not having a way to get woken up by warnings.”
Lakes Near Normal
Even though Lake Houston had been lowered by a foot, it was back to within 3 inches of normal within 7 hours. The SJRA did not lower Lake Conroe before the storm. It is one half foot above its normal level as of 3:30 PM.
All things considered, we dodged the bullet with this one, especially given the buildup. Had the storm moved a little slower, had supercells parked on top of us as they did in January, had a tornado dropped out of the sky as it did elsewhere, this could have been a much different story.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/22/22
1665 Days since Hurricane Harvey