A close analysis of swimming pools and river currents in Google Earth satellite images suggests that many San Jacinto East Fork homes were flooded by the West Fork during Hurricane Harvey. Stories from East Fork homeowners suggested as much in the months after Harvey. Many reported water flowing through their property from west to east, not north to south as one might expect. However, to my knowledge, no one presented photographic evidence to support those claims – until now.
Eagle-Eyed Geologist Interprets Satellite Photos
A retired high-level geologist for one of the world’s largest oil companies analyzed satellite images in Google Earth. The eagle-eyed geologist, R.D. Kissling, lives in the Lake Houston area and kayaks that area regularly.
Kissling noted water-borne-sediment coloration changes between the East and West Forks after the SJRA started releasing 79,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Conroe. The image from 8/30/2017 shows West Fork water pushing into the East Fork. Note how water from the East Fork (upper right) and Luce Bayou (far right) are crowded over into a narrow band running down the (east) side of Lake Houston.
Cloud cover obscures images from the previous day.
Flooded Swimming Pools Tell Part of Story
Kissling also examined the color of water in swimming pools. Most homes in Royal Shores on the East Fork have swimming pools that look bright blue on satellite images. See the image below from before the storm.
But on 8/30/2020 during the storm, many of those had turned brown. Water was starting to recede by then, but note the boat houses still underwater. Above the red line, all swimming pools still appear blue.
The photo above is a magnification of the Royal Shores area from the wider satellite image above. Below, I’ve zoomed back out to show the wider image. I’ve also highlighted the Royal Shores homes with brown swimming pools so you can see their their relationship to the West Fork water pushing into the East Fork.
Of course, by themselves, the swimming pool colors don’t prove that West Fork water flooded East Fork homes. But when considered in conjunction with the first image, they suggest to me the validity of residents’ claims. At a minimum, these images do not contradict those claims, according to Kissling.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/23/2020 based on analysis by R.D. Kissling
998 days after Hurricane Harvey