Two photographs taken three years apart give a sense of scale of the epochal floodwaters now inundating Texas riverine flood plains.
The images, via NASA’s Earth Observatory, capture the Brazos River, which ahs taken at least six lives since the flood began, and they reflect conditions near Monaville, a town roughly 45 miles west of Houston.
The first image, taken 4 May 2013 reflects conditions typical for this time of year:
The second was captured last Saturday [28 May] and waters have risen even higher since:
More from NASA:
Just six weeks after being drenched by record-setting rainfall, much of Texas has been inundated again by a seemingly endless stream of slow-moving thunderstorm systems. Water levels on the Brazos River, near Houston, crested higher than they have in more than a century. The Texas governor declared states of emergency in 31 counties by June 1, 2016.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired these images of southeastern Texas on May 28, 2016 (top) and May 4, 2013 (second image). The top image shows flooding along the Brazos River just west of Monaville, while the second image shows the river when it was well within its banks. In 2014, the river nearly ran dry in places due to drought. The images below from the same days show the wider scale of the flooding.
On June 2, 2016, the Brazos River rose to 54.81 feet, according to gauges near Richmond, Texas. (The previous record was 50.30 feet on October 21, 1994.) Downstream at Rosharon, the river reached 51.97 feet; anything above 51.3 feet is considered major flooding at that point. Forecasters expect water levels to remain high for up to three weeks because more storms are predicted for early June and because swollen reservoirs upstream will need to release water.
According to news reports, at least six people have died and hundreds have been evacuated by boat from flooded homes. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of buildings and homes have been damaged, and many roads have been closed.
The intense rainfall capped off the wettest month in Texas history, with a state average of 7.54 inches. The previous record was 6.66 inches in 2004. According to news sources, Texas was doused with more than 35 trillion gallons of rain in the month. Meteorologists attribute the wet spring to lingering effects of El Niño and to kinks in the jet stream that have slowed down weather systems while drawing in moisture from the warm Gulf of Mexico. Houston has received 24.84 inches of rain since March 1; the norm is 11.64 inches.
More from ABC News:
The Brazos River at Richmond has crested at a historic level at 55 feet, more than five feet about the previous record set in 1994. The river is so overcapacity that it is spilling into typically untouched areas, according to the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. It will remain in major flood stage through the weekend.
More than 1,400 homes have been affected by the flooded Brazos River. The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is urging residents not to return to their homes. Four hundred and fifty-four rescues have taken place in the area so far.
Six people died from floods along the Brazos River after four days of heavy rain over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.
Five of the dead were Army infantry troops swept away on a tributary of the Brazos. CNN reports:
Fort Hood commanders were closing some roads on the Army base in Texas at the time floodwaters overturned a truck on a training mission, killing at least five soldiers and leaving four more missing, Christopher Haug, spokesman for the post, said Friday.
But Haug said the troops learning to operate the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle were not sent out in conditions too dangerous for training.
“It was a situation where the rain had come and the water was rising quickly,” he said. “They regularly pass through these weather conditions like this. This was a tactical vehicle, and at the time they were in proper place. Just an unfortunate accident that occurred quickly.”
The Army — with help from civilian agencies — is using ground, air and dog teams in the search for the missing soldiers, who were swept away by the rising waters of Owl Creek.
And it’s not just Texas that’s flooding
Europe is experiencing similar conditions.
From BBC News:
The River Seine in Paris is at its highest level for more than 30 years, with floods forcing closed parts of the metro systems and major landmarks.
The Louvre and Orsay museums were shut while staff moved artworks to safety as flood levels climbed above 6m (18ft).
The Seine is set to reach as high as 6.5m and unlikely to recede over the weekend, with more downpours forecast.
At least 15 people have died across central Europe as heavy rainfall caused flooding from France to Ukraine.
While two people died in France, 10 were killed in southern Germany as several towns were devastated.