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Characterization of peak streamflows and flood inundation of selected areas in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana from the August and September 2017 flood resulting from Hurricane Harvey

July 2, 2018

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, on August 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane with wind gusts exceeding 150 miles per hour. As Harvey moved inland, the forward motion of the storm slowed down and produced tremendous rainfall amounts over southeastern Texas, with 8-day rainfall amounts exceeding 60 inches in some locations, which is about 15 inches more than average annual amounts of rainfall for eastern Texas and the Texas coast. Historic flooding occurred in Texas as a result of the widespread, heavy rainfall; wind and flood damages were estimated to be $125 billion, and the storm resulted in at least 68 direct fatalities.

In the immediate aftermath of the Harvey-related flood event, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency initiated a cooperative study to evaluate the magnitude of the flood, determine the probability of occurrence, and map the extent of the flood in Texas. Seventy-four USGS streamflow-gaging stations in Texas with at least 15 years of record and no large data gaps in the period of record had a 2017 annual peak streamflow related to Harvey ranking in the top five of all annual peaks for each given station. New peaks of record streamflow were recorded at 40 of the 74 USGS streamflow-gaging stations. The number of years of peak streamflow record for the 74 analyzed streamflow-gaging stations ranged from 18 to 105, with a mean number of 55 years. The annual exceedance probability estimates for the analyzed streamflow-gaging stations ranged from less than 0.2 to 14.0 percent. USGS field crews surveyed 2,123 high-water marks to obtain water-surface elevations, in feet above the North American Vertical Datum of 1988. In some locations, several water-surface elevations were averaged to obtain 1 water-surface elevation, resulting in 1,258 water-surface elevations. Some of these high-water marks were used, along with peak-stage data from USGS streamflow-gaging stations, to create 19 inundation maps to document the areal extent of the maximum depth of the flooding. Digital datasets of the inundation area, modeling boundary, water-depth rasters, and final map products are available from the USGS data release associated with this report (