Record Breaking Followup:
This week I attended a very informative meeting with the Harris County Flood Control Dept director, Jeff Lindner. You might be asking why are we still talking about Harvey? The highest storm total rainfall report from Harvey was 60.58 inches near Nederland, Texas with Houston reporting maximum rainfall of 48 inches in some areas. Harvey is one of the only flood events where people drowned in their home or workplace. The rainfall statistics and time frame are a harsh reminder of the vast devastation and loss. In addition, 68% of the properties that flooded were OUTSIDE the 100 year flood zone or 1% chance of flooding zone. Only 42% of the owners who were in the 100 year flood zone that flooded actually had flood insurance. On average FEMA paid out $140,000 to those with flood insurance and a mere $4-$8,000 for the few property owners who qualified for help without flood insurance.
As our hurricane season heats up, we are reminded that being prepared will be essential to recovering. In recorded storm history, Texas holds 5 of the top 7 record breaking rain events, Louisiana the other 2. Just a few weeks ago, tropical storm Barry developed in 48 hours, crept along the Louisiana coast and dumped huge amounts of water shutting down the lower half of the state. Being so close to the gulf, it’s clear that we will never be out of tropical storm, hurricane or even low pressure paths. In addition, Houston and surrounding counties have multiple bayous, creeks, rivers and streams that contribute to the big picture, rising and swelling outside of their normal boundaries.
What next… Federal relief funds are now available to be sent for relief provided those funds can matched by the receiving state outside their normal operating budget. Thankfully Texas has a rainy day fund that was established years ago that has been building (approximately $11 billion) and is now going to be used for just such a need. About $3 billion has been approved to match federal funding and pay for Hurricane Harvey recovery as well as investment in future disaster-resiliency projects.
The Army Corp of Engineers is working to mitigate, improve and otherwise reduce risks moving forward. Some of the improvements include dredging, regulatory changes for sandpit land owners, regulatory changes for developers, acquisitions of right-away land and/or flood properties, creek and bayou infrastructure projects, adding a possible third reservoir to reduce risks at the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, redrawing of flood zone maps and continued studies. The current expectations for flood map changes are that the current 500 year zone will soon be the 100 year zone based on rainfall data collected over the past 80 years.
Rainfall itself comes with a powerful punch but if we have hurricane force winds of 150 mph, our communities will be devastated. We could be left without grocery stores, gas stations, electricity and even the roof on our homes.
There is an amazing tool that shows rainfall accumulations, flood warnings, provides alerts and is mobile friendly. Feel free to get it for your own personal use and stay informed.