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The Future of Houston’s Addicks and Barker Dams: Your Texas Roundup

Plus: A woman dies of flesh-eating bacteria from Harvey floodwaters, and Texas was a target in 2016 election hacking.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“I tried calling him. His name is Art in Albuquerque.”

Tina Stanley to CBS DFW. Stanley was one of the recipients of  a now-useless gift card to the restaurant chain Texas Land and Cattle. According to CBS DFW, bankruptcy filings have led to $26 million in gift cards that don’t work. And Art, in Albuquerque—the chain’s new owner—can’t alleviate the situation, as Stanley found out. 


BIG NEWS


Houston’s Barker Reservoir and Buffalo Bayou Dam are shown on August 30, 2017.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Dam It
Newly surfaced emails show that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worried about Houston’s Addicks and Barker dams before Hurricane Harvey hit. Still, the agency—which oversees both reservoirs—has been quiet about the status of the dams after the storm. According to the Texas Tribune, an Army Corps official wrote in a 2011 email that the dams were not intended to hold the current massive amount of water. “Addicks and Barker were not designed to impound large pools behind them for an extended period of time,” an official wrote in a 2011 email, which surfaced through a 2011 lawsuit against the Corps brought by the Sierra Club. “These larger and longer lasting pools … [are] increasing the threat to both dams.” Currently, the dams contain billions of gallons of water that will need to be released over the course of several months. Another document in the lawsuit shows that in 2010, the Corps was referring to the dams’ possible “risk of catastrophic failure” in flooding much less severe than Harvey. Additionally, a 2010 action plan discovered through the lawsuit set the “maximum pool” at levels expected to be generated by a 25-year storm—which is 30 times smaller than the rains brought by Harvey. Corps officials told the Texas Tribune that the documents were outdated, but more recent documents only reiterate the threat. “Studies conducted since 2004 have determined that the existing dams … are a high risk of failure due to seepage and piping issues,” officials wrote in an undated action report that could have been compiled as late as 2012. As the Tribune notes, Corps officials have reassured the public of the integrity of the dams, but some residents are wondering if the controlled releases of water were a precaution against possible failure.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Flesh-eating Bacteria
The Harris County Medical Office confirmed that a woman who fell ill after exposure to Harvey floodwater has died from flesh-eating bacteria, according to the Houston Chronicle. Nancy Reed, a 77-year-old Kingwood resident, died on September 15 of flood-related necrotizing fasciitis, which the Chronicle describes as “an infection that spreads quickly through muscle tissue and can cause organ failure.” “It’s tragic,” Dr. David Persse, director of the city’s emergency medical services, told the Chronicle. “This is one of the things we’d been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur. My heart goes out to the family.” Although Reed suffered the second confirmed case of the bacterial skin infection related to Harvey, she was the first fatality.

Hacks
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified Texas and 20 other states that they were targeted by hackers before the 2016 election, according to the San Antonio Express-News. As the paper points out, though, the hackers “who tried to mess with Texas didn’t get very far.” The Texas Secretary of State’s office told the Express-News on Monday that the hackers were attempting to break into the Secretary of State’s public site, which does not host any information on voters. Not that it matters—the hackers didn’t make it in. “If anyone was trying to get into the elections system, they were apparently targeting the wrong website,” agency spokesman Sam Taylor told the Express-News. This was the first time that Texas received official notification that it was a target of hacks in the lead up to the 2016 election.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Some links are paywalled or subscription only.

It’s a good year for grape harvests in Texas Austin360

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson gave his first game check to cafeteria workers affected by Harvey Houston Chronicle

A new true crime podcast tackles Fort Worth’s cold cases Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Tech executives are trying to make San Antonio cool San Antonio Express-News

SMU’s “singing professor” authors a book on the American musical Dallas Morning News

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  • Jed

    “but some residents are wondering if the controlled releases of water were a precaution against possible failure.”

    since this is what they said when they did it, i’d say that’s a pretty fair guess.