Houston is bracing for more storms as the city attempts to begin recovering from the 16 inches of rain that have led to at least 7 deaths, displacement of residents and a halt to the public transit system. A National Weather Service Flash Flood Watch for Houston was extended until 7:00pm this evening (Wednesday) as more rain is expected.
Mayor Sylvester Turner urged residents to stay safe as he canceled the State of the City address during the onslaught. He will be holding at least three “flood recovery informational meetings” in the hardest hit neighborhoods.
The Red Cross says it has housed over 260 residents in 12 locations since Tuesday night with reports showing that at least 2,300 homes were flooded and 1,200 individuals were rescued from high water situations, many from automobiles. The relief organization says has “responded to three times more large-scale disasters during the first months of 2016 than the previous three years combined.” That serves to highlight the increased frequency of powerful storms.
According to the Houston Chronicle, “Experts said the city’s efforts since then have fallen woefully short of the massive needs. And there is climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rainfalls, climatologists said. The result this week was that sudden downpours overwhelmed infrastructure and inundated whole sections of the city, leaving at least seven people dead.”
Urban sprawl increasing the population and concrete impervious cover added to climate change has led to massive storms causing enormous amounts in recovery and emergency spending.
“The cost is in the billions…We live in times of constraint of public resources. Elected bodies have elected to choose to spend on different priorities,” said Wayne Klotz, a former American Society of Civil Engineers.
Unfortunately for Texans that has meant wider highways and deeper tax cuts. Come January, Harris County residents will be able to address the legislature about the need to stop ignoring both climate science and our infrastructure needs. It’s a conversation we need to begin now, because it’s pretty clear that Mother Nature has no problem messing with Texas.
A great piece by Jim Blackburn, and co-director of the SSPEED Center at Rice University, outlines some solutions that can prevent future catastrophes if we start today.