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Archive for the ‘Harvey’ Category

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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Pier and Beam house-Daniel

The author’s son Daniel holds the line level with the first floor of our house in Eastwood.

Staying out of the floodplain is the number one measure that Houston needs to take to reduce impacts from flooding. Overbank flooding from the creeks and bayous is the deepest and most serious kind of flooding. But anywhere in Houston is subject to street or sheet flooding, the kind that occurs when the amount of rain exceeds the capacity of the storm drains. If an Allison lands in your neighborhood–40 inches in ONE day, not 4 like Harvey –and you are not elevated above the level of street flooding, you will get water in your house even if you are far from a bayou or a floodplain. A storm well short of Allison could do the same. (more…)

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Were the impacts of Harvey in Houston a result of no zoning in the city of no limits? This assertion seems to be the catch-all phrase used by Houston’s detractors for all that was exposed by Harvey in terms of planning or the lack thereof.  On the other hand, critics of regulation like to point out that zoned cities fared just as badly as Houston during Harvey. Our Mayor famously said that “zoning wouldn’t have changed anything. We would have been a city with zoning that flooded.” (more…)

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