Houston rebuilds after 50" of rain from Harvey

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Houston rebuilds after 50" of rain from Harvey

Postby HBS Guy » 19 Oct 2017, 10:30

“Even if there are people who don’t believe in climate change, they accept that the weather has changed, that we are having more storms,” said Lara Cottingham, Houston’s deputy assistant director for sustainability and strategic customer initiatives.

Cottingham also notes that Hurricane Harvey was Houston’s third “100-year flood” ― an event with a 1 percent probability of occurring in any year ― in the past three years.

As I keep saying: warmer sea and air temperatures means both that more evaporation happens and the air can hold more moisture leading to eventual higher precipitation when the hot moist air moves over land. If the air is in a strong cyclone even more so!

Houston is a very green city but the oil industry outside the city limits are not. Zoning has been famously lacking but that is changing:
The media heaped blame for the catastrophic Harvey flooding on Houston’s famously loose zoning regulations. In a tweet posted Aug. 30, the mayor of Houston challenged this notion. “Zoning wouldn’t have changed anything,” he wrote. The staggering amount of rain dumped on the city would have caused damage no matter how strict the zoning regulations were, he argued.

Though zoning is now under scrutiny, especially in the most flood-prone areas of Houston, Dillingham said there’s been no discussion by city officials about making changes to urban planning rules so far.

During Harvey, about 136,000 buildings flooded in Harris County, which includes Houston, with many of those constructed before 1980s regulations prohibited construction on floodplains. Dillingham said future development will likely change when new floodplain maps are released in 2018 and as more flooded homeowners are seeking buyouts from the county and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bit late!

Building designs incorporating green infrastructure and low-impact development like permeable surfaces, cisterns and ways to treat stormwater during heavy rains were already growing in popularity in Houston and may see a greater push, Dillingham said. Houston building codes now require some sort of stormwater mitigation methods, he added, and the city is trying to make its new development more low-impact, too.

Jægerfelt said a key trend is cities thinking about “green and blue infrastructure,” where parks double as water retention basins. Before it was developed, Houston was filled with bayous, which are flat, low-lying marshy areas, and the city is transforming some of these into parks, like the Buffalo Bayou in downtown, Cottingham said. Buffalo Bayou, which was a public-private partnership, is central to Houston’s flood control efforts.

Ha! This applies to financial catastrophes too!
The moment to implement sweeping changes may have arrived, and the city can’t afford to delay action.

“There is often the political will to take action in the aftermath of a disaster. It doesn’t last that long,” Muir-Wood noted. “Six months to a year later, the physical will and the opportunity to spend money will fade.”

Abbott & Co are going to cause the mother and father of all recessions—be prepared!
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