Thursday, April 21, 2016

From Marketplace: Why Houston keeps flooding

More on the subject. Could be a case study in the difficulties of local governance.

- Click here for the article.

Officials in Harris County, Texas said that 240 billion gallons of rain have fallen in the greater Houston area the past couple of days. After the devastating Memorial Day floods in Houston last year, a professor who studies these things called Houston "the number one city in America to be injured and die in a flood.

Samuel Brody, a professor of marine sciences and planning at Texas A&M University and co-author of a book called "
Rising Waters The Causes and Consequences of Flooding in the United States."

He said the flooding in Houston is an important reminder that putting people, pavement, and structures in vulnerable areas can lead to disastrous consequences. 

"Houston's unique in that it's a low-lying area barely above sea level, it's originally made up of bayous and soils that don't drain too well, and it's a city that's afflicted by flooding from both the sea, saltwater flooding and rainfall based flooding. The problem is not the environmental conditions, the problem is pavement. The city is growing at a tremendous rate over the last fifteen years, we added over 25 percent more pavement in the area, and with pavement and people and structures in environmentally vulnerable places that equates to a lot of flood damage."

The more pavement in former wetlands areas, the more flooding. There's even a formula.

"In the Houston area," Brody said, "every square meter of pavement equates to about $4,000 in extra flood damage. And over the last eleven years, Houston alone has incurred over $3.5 billion in just insured losses to residences and businesses."

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