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Midlothian Dam Won't Break For Now; Evacuations Issued In Parker County

Authorities on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of about 350 homes west of Fort Worth because the swollen Brazos River was expected to flood the area.

Parker County officials said Wednesday that residents need to clear out of the homes by 8 p.m. The evacuation order primarily affects homes in the communities of Horseshoe Bend, Lazy Bend and Soda Springs.

The Brazos River Authority has opened several flood gates at Possum Kingdom Lake, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth, and the Brazos continues to rise due to the heavy rain of recent days.

More rain is expected overnight, and officials say the river should hit flood stage late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Update, Friday morning: North Texas was hit with rain – once again – overnight. Some areas got nearly 7 inches of rain. Here's the latest on the wet weather.

The situation in Midlothian

Officials say fear of a dam breach near Midlothian has dissipated.  

Water behind a temporary earthen dam at Padera Lake near Midlothian was so high it was spilling over the top. Engineers worried a partial or full break could flood and close a highway and damage 25 homes. But they managed to ease the water pressure built up after days of incessant rain. Warren Samuleson manages dam safety for the state environmental commission.

"It is a temporary structure, but in this case, it appears it's very solid since it's overtopped it for a number of hours and nothing happened to it other than minor erosion," he said.

At least seven pumps are in use to release some of the water. The National Weather Service says more rain was expected later Wednesday across much of Texas.

On Wednesday, residents of Midlothian feared the dam at Padera Lake would break, flooding nearby homes and Highway 287. But officials were able to pump out some of the water and said the danger had dissipated -- for now.

Five minutes away, though, residents who live along Old Fort Worth Road worried that another bout of storms would cause rising water from a nearby reservoir to gush into their homes.

Angie Kuykendall stopped by to check on her brother’s house while he was at work. She described what many here are feeling.

“Kind of panic,” she said. “It’s just a wait and see thing. You know? Praying that it doesn’t rain but it hasn’t been the verdict the past weeks.”

Water from the reservoir had already consumed part of a slide and seeped into a playhouse, and it was dangerously close to Old Fort Worth Road.

Residents and volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team program, known as CERT, helped place sandbags between the homes and waterfront.

Sixteen-year-old Dustin Cleveland was one of those helping out.

“My lake is 60 feet from my house before it goes into my house,” he said. “It’s been going up for about two days now. It’s not gonna be fun. I’m gonna have to take a boat to school.”

Dustin said the water has never seeped into his home and hopes it doesn’t. Volunteers said they would continue to assist and monitor the situation.

-- by Bill Zeeble/Stella M. Chavez, KERA

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Dustin Cleveland helped place sandbags about 15 feet from the water in Midlothian.

Video of the dam near Midlothian

KERA's Stella M. Chavez visited the dam Wednesday afternoon and shot this video:

Update, 10:27 a.m.: More than 100,000 gallons of untreated wastewater has spilled in Houston after a wastewater treatment plant flooded.

Houston's Department of Public Works and Engineering said in a news release that the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant flooded Tuesday when a bayou overflowed its banks during extensive rains, damaging the plant's electrical and mechanical systems.

The department says the spill has been contained and they've increased monitoring of the water supply systems. Cleanup will start once the flooding subsides.

People have been advised not to swim in affected areas. The department also says people are not required to boil their water, but may wish to do so.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has been notified of the spill.

Officials are keeping an eye on a dam near Midlothian

Although North Texas hasn’t been as severely affected by Monday’s storms, there are concerns of a possible dam break near Midlothian.

Water was flowing over the top of the earthen dam at Padera Lake early Wednesday morning following days of heavy rain.

If the dam breaks, Highway 287 could flood with a couple of feet of water.

Midlothian police Capt. John Spann says officials will divert traffic if that happens, but for now they must "just wait and see."

He says it's mostly a rural area, but that residents in about a dozen homes have been warned they could be in jeopardy of flooding if the dam breaks. He says they are not in danger of being swept away and that there's no mandatory evacuation order.

Original post, 7:59 a.m.: Authorities in Texas are defending the way they handled alerting residents during the recent severe weather that left about a dozen people missing and about a dozen dead across the state.

But they are also acknowledging some challenges.

In Hays County, about 35 miles southwest of Austin, a vacation home was swept away by flooding. Authorities there say warnings included multiple cellphone alerts and calls to landlines.

Some people also received in-person warnings to evacuate, but officials couldn't say whether the eight people in the washed-away home talked to police.

A county commissioner says leaders will consider changes in dealing with tourists, who are harder to reach.

In Houston, where rain submerged roads and stranded motorists, warnings from the National Weather Service buzzed on cellphones. But city officials hadn't yet installed a system that would allow them to send more targeted warnings.

Related: Explore the Trinity River

The Trinity River in Dallas has been in the news lately with all of the heavy rain. Lots of folks have been flocking to the river to snap pictures of the rain-choked river. Explore the Trinity River in this interactive project that KERA produced several years ago: Living With The Trinity

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.