After communication failures during Nashville flood, Army Corps - WSMV News 4

After communication failures during Nashville flood, Army Corps changes course in Houston

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Officials in Houston are doing something that failed to occur in Nashville during our historic flooding: warning the public that flood waters are being released through a dam.

The Harris County Flood District in Houston held a news conference to announce that the Army Corps of Engineers would be releasing water through a dam to try and relieve the rising waters in the reservoirs.

“If the rain continues and releases have to be made, additional structures will likely flood along the Buffalo Bayou (River),” said Jeff Lindner with the Harris County Flood Control District.

Like Nashville, Houston has a river that rolls past downtown and its neighborhoods.

But unlike during Nashville’s floods, Houston city and county officials decided to warn residents that dam releases into the river could flood homes along the river.

In May 2010, a series of News 4 I-Team investigations revealed the exact same method of releasing floodwater from reservoirs was never conveyed to the public, leading to flooded homes and damage to businesses included the Opryland Hotel.

Our 2010 investigation found residents like Austin Acuff, who lived along the river, never knew the Army Corps of Engineers had decided to release floodwater to prevent damage to the Old Hickory Dam.

“We weren't given that. We were given nothing,” Acuff told us in 2010.

The I-Team found at one point, five billion gallons of water were released into the Cumberland River, that then headed towards downtown Nashville.

Within hours, the Opryland Hotel was swamped and homes along the river were destroyed.

Our investigation found that the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service failed to share information about the floodwater dam release during the worst of the flooding, and the NWS made flood predictions on old data.

We obtained emails from the Army Corps of Engineers, including one from a Washington Corp official who wrote, “This is unheard of...to drop the lake .5 feet during a flood of record and force such an increase in flow on Nashville which is just downstream is very strange. Worth checking on to find out what the heck is going on…”

The I-Team investigation later prompted a hearing before Congress, in which lawmakers blasted both the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service for their communications failures.

“I know Boy Scouts troops more prepared than this,” said Congressman Jim Cooper, D-TN, during that hearing.

Officials from the National Weather Service and the Army Corps of Engineers admitted at that hearing that mistakes were made.

“I think the criticism was well-placed, I think it was accurate,” said Gen. John Peabody with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Following the 2010 flood, the Corps and the NWS have developed better communication plans, including dam operators sharing real time information with the NWS about water releases.

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