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Archive for the ‘flooding’ Category

Midtown square bagby

Midtown Square development on West Gray, Houston. This development doesn’t flood, and it doesn’t contribute to flooding. It is a high-interaction neighborhood that builds social capital. (Google Map)

The impacts of Harvey still have our full attention.  We are all agreed—we don’t want to live through another Harvey.  We want to be so much better prepared for the next one. In that case, we better hope the next big one isn’t coming our way anytime soon.

“Do something!” seems to be the watchword of the day. The question is whether or not we will do the right thing. We are clearly taking some good steps in the right direction, but I fear we may lack the necessary organizing principles to build a Houston that is resilient for the next 100 years and beyond.

I suggest two watchwords that could lay the foundations for a robust resilience: watersheds and walkability. Watersheds are the template upon which we build. We must understand both the limitations and the advantages of our watersheds.  Walkability builds the social capital that provides the glue for strong communities. Both the city we build and the watershed we build it on must be healthy in every way if we are to remain vibrant into the next century. (more…)

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AUT_0022

I-45 in Galveston County.   A neighborhood of isolation with a high per-capita destruction of native prairie.

We have all heard the Harvey wakeup call. We all know we can’t continue business as usual. We have to change our ways. We will in fact be “the city that floods” unless we stop being the “city of no limits.”

Unlike previous storms, every one of us knows personally someone who was flooded out of their house. This storm will long remain with us. The Harvey aftermath will last much longer than previous storms—and thus will provide a longer “teachable moment” for us to think about our future. Let’s make this teachable moment about much more than flooding. Maybe thinking about how to be a great city will help us deal more rationally with the flooding as well. (more…)

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Harris County Floodplain Development

Map showing development in the Harris County Floodplains. Click here for a full size copy

“No amount of prevention could have prevented this kind of flooding.” “Houston did not do this to itself.” “There is no city, however it is governed, that could handle a Harvey.” 

The preceding are just a small sample of recent comments from prominent local leaders about Harvey, generally accompanied by statements implying another Harvey is not likely, and that just a little more of the same in the way of previous flood control is all we need.

If we cannot imagine another way to live with floods, then we had better hope that the last three years are a total anomaly and that we will not soon see another storm like Harvey.  On the other hand, if we think that Harvey would make a better benchmark for planning than the FEMA-defined 100-year floodplain, as some of our best minds do, then we need to radically reimagine how we coexist with big floods. (more…)

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Image result for +never flooded for sale +sign houston

A sign of post-Harvey times. © Houston Chronicle

The collision of big data with Hurricane Harvey could unleash a free-market reappraisal of floodplain development that would make the most draconian of floodplain ordinances look like a 90-lb weakling.  The signs are already on the horizon. (more…)

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We can’t stop growing. But to avoid flooding, we’ve got to be smarter about it.

By John S. Jacob, for the Houston Chronicle | April 20, 2016
23 ( First Published in GrayMatters)

This piece was published one year ago, right after the Tax Day flood –bears saying the same thing again! I am a bit less sanguine now about the ability of wetlands to make much of a difference in a Harvey-size flood. On the other hand, all man-made detention basins also overflowed during Harvey. The overriding  message needs to be to stay out of harm’s way! Don’t build in floodplains–100yr, 500yr, or Harvey floodplains.

Let’s review the facts before this teachable moment fades away.

We live on a very flat coastal plain — much of it only a four-foot drop over a mile. And much of it with very clayey, slow-to-drain soils.  We also live in the region of highest-intensity rainfall in the continental U.S. So it is going to flood. Mother Nature will continue to deliver floods no matter what we do. Don’t count her out.

Flooding does not occur uniformly across the region. There are floodplains, and areas near the floodplains. There are low areas and there are higher areas. We need to know where these are. Obviously! — and yet we don’t seem to know.

But humans have screwed things up royally.

First, we have placed development in harm’s way — in low-lying areas, including floodplains. Incredibly, we continue to do so.  Arbor Court Apartments — so much in the news with the heart-rending pictures of rescued families —  is in the floodway of Greens Bayou. The floodway is the deepest part of the floodplain. The flooding at this point was inevitable — but the human tragedy was not. This was a disaster by design.  Not Mother Nature’s fault!

Read the full piece at GrayMatters

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