Category: Hurricane Harvey

Post-Harvey week in review: November 20, 2017

Posted by Matt Lanza at 3:47 PM

As part of our commitment to helping the community recover from Hurricane Harvey, we thought it would be helpful to write a “week in review” post every Monday. In the post-Harvey world, there has been no shortage of news about recovery, future projects, and ramifications of all that happened during the storm. This weekly post, largely produced by Matt, attempts to summarize the major news of the week, without editorializing. Please feel free to share anything we missed in the comments, or suggest additions for next week’s post.

Read of the week

The U.S. Flooded One of Houston’s Richest Neighborhoods to Save Everyone Else (Bloomberg Businessweek): November 20th’s edition of Bloomberg Businessweek highlights the dam releases from Addicks and Barker and subsequent flooding in West Houston for their cover story. The article offers a synopsis of what happened and the challenges of ongoing litigation as a result of the flooding.

November 20th’s Bloomberg Businessweek talks about some of the Energy Corridor’s experiences during Harvey. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Harvey Recovery

Repairs to Harvey-damaged San Jac bridge to start early 2018 (Houston Chronicle): TxDOT has a lot to consider after Harvey, including elevating roads. Meanwhile, work to repair the US-59/I-69 bridge over the San Jacinto River, which was heavily damaged by the flooding will begin after Christmas. Some of the repair work could be quite substantial.

After Harvey, A Once-Lively Neighborhood Finds Silence (Houston Public Media): Meyerland residents grapple with the decision to relocate or rebuild higher.

Nearly $29M being sent to more than 90 nonprofits in 2nd round of Harvey fund distribution (ABC 13): After $7 million was distributed last month, another $29 million of Harvey relief donations will be distributed among a whole bunch of local organizations to help folks in and around Houston.

It’s official: KHOU not returning to Allen Parkway (KHOU): After being flooded during Harvey, KHOU will seek out a new permanent home.

Houston area groups propose plan for how third Hurricane Harvey relief package should be distributed (Community Impact News): The U.S. House will soon pass a third aid package for Harvey relief. Governor Abbott has asked for over $61 billion in funding for various flood control projects and buyouts in addition to recovery. Much of that request is based on the Rebuild Texas plan. Another group has advocated for more comprehensive flood control the rest of Harris County. You can read about some of the differences between Rebuild Texas and this Better Houston plan in the article.

Texans blast Trump’s $44B storm relief package as ‘inadequate’ as White House goes on defense (Dallas News): Speaking of, the latest White House proposal for hurricane relief falls quite a bit short of what the governor had asked for from Congress.

Flood control plan for stretch of Buffalo Bayou could result in removal of trees (Houston Chronicle): Studies and discussions about how to control flooding on Buffalo Bayou could result in trees being removed for projects, such as detention ponds.

After Harvey, Houston arts groups on precarious footing as critical holiday season nears (Houston Chronicle): The Theater District in downtown Houston was hit tremendously hard by Harvey. Recovery is slow and challenging, and it may take several years to fully recover. Read More…

Houston beyond Hurricane Harvey

Posted by Matt Lanza at 10:00 AM

On Tuesday evening, just as the Astros took the field for game one in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of attending a Baker Institute event at Rice University featuring Dr. Jim Blackburn. “Beyond Hurricane Harvey” was a discussion and Q&A with Blackburn, who is the co-director of the Severe Storms Prevention, Education, and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center at Rice. During Tuesday’s event, Blackburn basically laid out his vision for how we need to discuss and tackle Houston’s flooding problem from this point forward. Many of these ideas were incorporated by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett in the plan that he unveiled on Wednesday. Nevertheless, here is a summary  and some of my takeaways from Tuesday’s event.

Tuesday night’s event was held at the Rice University Baker Institute by their young professionals group. (Matt Lanza)

As a quick note, Blackburn has published two papers in the wake of Harvey. Much of what he covered Tuesday night is covered in these papers too. The first addresses initial policy ideas after Harvey. The second describes the public/private non-profit entity described below. Both are very informative and useful reads, and I would encourage our readers to get involved in this. As I said in my own Harvey post-mortem: It is now time for a new generation of Houstonians to work out new solutions to this complex problem.

Turning point: Blackburn opened by calling Harvey a turning point in Houston’s history. This is basically our moment to get this right. We all know we live in a city that is prone to flooding. We can never stop that from happening, but we can manage it in ways that will reduce the financial and human toll that has accompanied recent flooding events. Houston has an opportunity now to become the world leaders at weather and climate resiliency. While showing a chart of hurricane tracks impacting the Texas coast, Blackburn related the story of Indianola and Galveston. Indianola was wiped out by a hurricane in 1886, and we know the story of Galveston after 1900. Blackburn believes that Houston’s future as a leading American and global city may hinge on what we are able to accomplish over the next several months. If we bungle the response to this disaster, we could be looking at a steady economic decline in our region.

Blackburn referred to this situation as a new “Jesse Jones moment” for Houston. Speed couldn’t be emphasized enough. We need to get these solutions moving now, while the wounds from Harvey (and previous events) are still fresh and raw. The longer we wait, the less likely we’ll accomplish meaningful action. Amusingly, Blackburn shared the “Off the Charts” report published by Harris County Flood Control after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

We were in the same boat 16 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. (HCFCD)

Here we are again. We need a vision, a plan (we seem to have those moving forward), and now we need to mobilize the public and persuade our elected leaders to take action immediately. Blackburn was asked whether Houston’s infamous lack of zoning contributed to the problems from Harvey. He made the point that it was not a major cause, but what is a problem is the typical, almost “closed door” nature of Harris County government. Lots of items get addressed really quickly without much discussion at various county meetings. The population of this area is also somewhat agnostic toward government participation. We’re not engaged enough. For problems as big as this, everyone needs to be firing on all cylinders, taking politicians to task, asking questions, demanding transparency. It’s easy to be cynical, but in this situation, it’s important not to be. Read More…

Nearly two months have passed since Hurricane Harvey drowned the upper Texas coast. There have been numerous public hearings, state meetings, and some squabbling about who should pay for cleanup, reconstruction, and mitigation.

But for the first time, this week, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett stepped forward with some concrete ideas about how the make future flooding events like Harvey less worse. “Now is not the time for a piecemeal approach,” he said Wednesday, during a news conference, in which he released a 15-point plan. “The sense of urgency created by Harvey will fade, so we must quickly commit ourselves to a comprehensive plan to redefine Harris County and the surrounding region as a global model for living and working in a flood-prone area.”

Texas Army National Guard soldiers move through flooded Houston on Monday, August 28. (US Army photo)

We have included each of Emmett’s 15 proposals below to spur the community discussion. There are a lot of good ideas here. One of the things that makes the most sense, from our perspective, is the creation of a regional floodwater management organization that would consist of representatives from area cities, counties, and other government organizations. Such a body could take a holistic approach to flooding, which is truly a regional problem, identify problems, find solutions, and then present them with a unified voice from the greater Houston community.

The biggest problem is that enacting a lot of these ideas will require cooperation between city, county, state, and federal officials. The political environment for such cooperation seems poor at this time, but Emmett is correct that if the region does not act now, Harvey will fade into memory and Houston will remain as vulnerable as ever to flooding. Ultimately, making a lot of these changes will require pressure from citizens, civic organizations, non-profits, and those who take the long view that Houston should be a great, livable city for decades and centuries to come.

Read More…

During Hurricane Harvey, I think we did a good job making pretty clear that our focus was to be on flooding. And ultimately, the majority of the damage and devastation wrought by Harvey as it moved through our region came via water. But one of the most surprising and occasionally unsettling aspects about Harvey’s impacts on Southeast Texas were the tornadoes. The warnings came fast, they came furious, and a number of them were confirmed.

The fine folks over at U.S. Tornadoes put together a really nice summary of this event, which likely ranks Harvey close to or in the top ten for most prolific tornado-producing tropical systems in the United States.

The Houston National Weather Service forecast office issued over 150 warnings for tornadoes through the storm. During that hellacious Saturday night and Sunday morning, over 30 tornado warnings were issued, most of them overlapping with flash flood warnings. We strongly encouraged people to keep their phone alerts on that night because the frequency of tornadoes was almost shocking (and because of numerous videos of an actual tornado in northwest Harris County late that Saturday afternoon that sort of drove home the point). That, coupled with the flooding likely lead to a long, sleepless night for many in the area. I’ll have some comments about the phone alerting issue at the end of the post.

The early tornadoes

First, let’s recap some of the tornadoes that actually occurred. The NWS Houston office has confirmed nearly 30 tornadoes as of September 14th, all of them either EF-0 or EF-1 strength. Here’s a look at some of the tornadoes.

Read More…