Houston-area residents and business owners argued in federal court Monday that they deserve compensation from flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey because authorities knew there would likely be catastrophic consequences from such a major storm.
The case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims focuses on 13 test-case properties that were flooded upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs during the 2017 hurricane, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Daniel Charest, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs, presented a slideshow Monday showing people fleeing their flooded homes in makeshift rafts.
“People lost everything. People lost possessions, memories,” he said, according to the Chronicle.
Some downstream properties also flooded after officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water due to concerns the dams could fail. Another round of federal lawsuits will deal with downstream flooding, although the topic was broached by a defense attorney on Monday. The Corps is charged with maintaining the dams.
William Shapiro, an attorney representing the Corps, described Harvey as a historically significant weather event that dumped 51 inches of rain on parts of the Houston area, something likely to happen about once every 800 years.
“Flooding in a storm of this size was inevitable,” he said, according to the Chronicle. “Dam failure would have risked hundreds of thousands of homes and structures and hundreds and thousands of lives.”
These test cases are being closely watched by several property owners who also have sued the federal government for Harvey-related damages.