Aug 27 2017
09:27 am


bizgrrl's picture

Looks like the flooding in

Looks like the flooding in Houston could be worse than New Orleans during Katrina. Can't imagine how the Katrina evacuees who settled in Houston feel right now.

R. Neal's picture


bizgrrl's picture

I was shocked to see this

I was shocked to see this scene. Unacceptable. Every municipality should have a list of these types of facilities to make sure the residents are safe.

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

When there is no plan

There is no plan. Most of Houston is an unzoned, unplanned suburban space of patchwork utilities, first response, and watershed management. That they might not have a list prioritizing vulnerable properties is a complete possibility and shouldn't be shocking other than in that horrifying picture above as the proof of this neglect of the landscape. It's not willful neglect in any form that can be imagined. It's a culture of neglect. It's created the 4th largest city in the US, but it has been warned that it would pay the price of "letting the market decide."




and so on and so forth.

Harvey is what we in economic geography land call "a market externality."

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

And no, it's not really any

And no, it's not really any better anywhere else in this country. When it snows here in Bestern Massachusetts, you can tell where the town lines are and which towns are wealthy by where the plowing stops. While snow isn't a "natural disaster" here, it is a natural hazard and the lack of coordination causes school to be cancelled, for example, because Amherst and Leverett* can get the roads clear by sun up (it is amazing to see 12 inches of snow gone with dry black top by 8AM the next morning). The poorer towns (Shutesbury and Pelham) cause school to close because the person who is the town clerk is also the town cop, dog catcher, moose wrangler, and plow driver. First responders are hampered by this as well and, if the power goes out, you better damn well have cords of wood and a generator. It could be a while.

BTW, We don't have mayors and town councils here. We have a whole different sort of burden called "town meeting direct democracy." If you are every up my way, stop in, and we will pop corn and watch 200 people scream at each other for 3 hours over whether or not to allow horse grazing on the town common, before adjourning to a craft beer tasting. The politics are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

*The dude who owns Yankee Candle pays the town's bills by June off the taxes on his estate.

Andy Axel's picture

Same as Bangladesh

only there's actual infrastructure in this part of the globe; otherwise, the death count would be into four digits by now like it is over yonder.

Amazing how these 500 and 1000 year floods are happening somewhere every couple of years now, innit? #RedefiningEpochs

mjw's picture


But hey, the builders can build anywhere they want and housing is cheap!

Seriously, it looks like there are a lot of areas flooding that have never flooded before due to the localized nature of the rainfall. But Houston has the same problem that Knoxville and most of Red America has, unconstrained development with little regulation to address drainage issues. Just push some dirt around, put down acres of impermeable solid surface, sell the houses and get the heck out before the first flood happens.

Andy Axel's picture

See also:

Nashville in May of 2010.

...which turned out to be a boon for developers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

mjw's picture

Houston flood planning

This is a really interesting (and long) Twitter thread on flood planning in Houston. Apparently they have deliberately been building their roads and highways to use as a rain collection network to drain the water away from houses. Which is why all the pictures of freeways with 8 or 10 feet of water on them.

Of course, they are also growing too fast to keep up.

R. Neal's picture

Scenes of good ol' boys in

Scenes of good ol' boys of all colors, floating inner tubes, air mattresses, jon boats and bass boats into their neighborhoods, rescuing black people, white people, brown people, old people, and rich people from the Omni hotel...

I don't care who them guys with them air mattresses and jon boats voted for. This is America. This is who we are. We are, have been, and will forever be Great.

yellowdog's picture

No. If we were "great," we would not need cowboys

to rescue us from worship of "the market" and the predictable disasters that it enables.

See (link...)

Andy Axel's picture

(fast forward 6 months)



R. Neal's picture

Plus, a new Texas law goes

Plus, a new Texas law goes into effect Sept. 1 making it difficut to sue property insuance companies for denying or undepaying claims. People are scrambling to get claims filed before Friday.

Andy Axel's picture


So the real test of "America" is to apply some initiative and heart into getting people BACK INTO THEIR HOMES once we've gotten them out of them.

bizgrrl's picture

US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D)

US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D) is asking Texas for a temporary waiver of this law.

bizgrrl's picture

And those good ol' boys

And those good ol' boys continue to do an awesome job. It is so heartwarming and, yes, great to see so many people helping to rescue people in need.

Just now saw a video of a human chain enter treacherous waters to rescue a man in a truck that got washed away in the flood waters. The man looked like he was in his eighties or nineties.

Many thanks to all of the emergency responders. News reports indicate they are doing a great job. I'm sure they are exhausted/

B Harmon's picture

More areas to be flooded to

More areas to be flooded to save the downtown area. I wonder how many of these folks bought flood insurance?


Andy Axel's picture

Tough call

but ACE is probably in the same position with these dams that they were with projects on the Cumberland and Stones Rivers back in 2010 during the Nashville May Day event.

If they don't control the discharges, there's the possibility that the dams could fail if they're overtopped.

Dan's picture


I just spoke with a friend of mine in Houston who is a bridge designer and traffic engineer.

Geography is a problem. Houston is about 43' above sea level and is located on the coastal plain and very flat. About 1' of rise a mile moving inland from the coast. The storm surge was about 10'. Major flooding inland just from the surge. Add 40" of rain out hundreds of miles all running to the coast and you will have a problem.

My friend said that the reason you see all the bridges above water and the roads below flooded is because when a bridge is needed, they must essentially dig and use that material to raise each side of the bridge abutment to cross roads with bridges. There is not another way to go since the land is so flat. The area under the bridge is lower by design and that is where the water will go. The limited fall of the land makes drainage a problem no matter where you are in Houston.

If you have ever entered Houston from the north side, there is a long, miles long, raised bridge to accommodate all the existing streets of the city below.

Geography of any location requires certain engineering trade-offs. It would be nice to be able to raise Houston another 20 feet or so, but problems associated with the rain they are having would not be remedied by zoning or any other solution.

Mean old Mr. Physics will do what he does.

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

This a facile analysis that

This a facile analysis that elides the unending sprawl of Houston that precipitated the building of mound overpasses. All you are talking about is a symptom, not the cause. And Houston is not 43' above sea level. It has an average elevation of about 80' according to a quick look at the DEMs for the MSA and a very complex coastal geomorphology that has protected it from events like Harvey, for the most part, for a very long time. Admittedly, Harvey is/was a strange storm, but strange is the new normal. As far as littoral-situated cities, all things being equal, Houston is a good siting, even if it was mainly swamp. Swamps flood, though very slowly. That's the beauty of swamps when undisturbed.

Its trouble lies in the symptoms your friend describes. Mound overpasses are notorious for flooding all over the world. The first modern overpass in London started flooding during its construction in 1841-43. it's not like civil engineers don't know this. I can guarantee every time Houston and environs specified a grade separation of this type, a civil engineer put a warning about adequate drainage in the drawings. Anyhow, the Netherlands, the country at the state of the art of living at or below sea level, has been eliminating them for decades. Knoxville has numerous examples that regularly flood in a summer thunderstorm. The solution is impossible to implement because, as with all things Texas, it would cost money that nobody in that state is willing to pay. One component is to rip out all over and under passes, return the landscape to natural grade, and install traffic circles, jug handles, and coordinated traffic signaling. This is difficult though when you have hardly any management of the landscape by government and a political morphology that looks like this:

Damn, what do those annexations bifurcating surrounding settlements look like to me? I just can't put my finger on it. I should Ashe someone.

Dan's picture


Swamps flood when it rains hard. It's raining real hard there!

What would YOU do? As you said, "It costs Money". How much? You going to remake a city that has been there for a long time.

What are your thoughts on New Orleans? What has been done there?

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

My thoughts on New Orleans

My thoughts on New Orleans are easily found online via a google search. It has unfurled much as I expected (corruption, accumulation by dispossession, racist public policy, etc.) though with a few surprises such as actual government action on mitigation, which promptly failed because "Louisiana."

As for swamps, there are many kinds of swamps, but they all share a component of natural catchment, absorption, and ground water conveyance that is orders of magnitude greater than hardtop and fescue grass.

Money: The amount is irrelevant. The willingness to actually face the problem of impermeable landscapes as a necessary feature of sprawl is what matters. If you can put a price on "willingness," I have a prize waiting for you in Sweden.

Bbeanster's picture

Annnnnnd, there's

Annnnnnd, there's this:


Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

Coming to a Red State near

Coming to a Red State near you. Here's the fun part: They will be able to deny claims, not worry about lawsuits, AND raise rates because you are in a hazard zone where your claims are denied and can't sue.

Andy Axel's picture


And more fun: If you didn't have explicit coverage in your policy for flooding (as many policies don't, if you're not in a 100/500/1000 year zone), you can't claim the loss.

bizgrrl's picture

Haven't heard, are any of the

Haven't heard, are any of the evacuees being sent to Dallas yet? Maybe they can't get out of Houston.

I have several cousins who have lived in Houston for 50+ years. Two of them have houses with 3 feet of water. Another with no electricity. Two are still dry. Man, I cannot imagine what all those Texans are going through. And it is still not over.

Andy Axel's picture

Let's borrow a page from our Katrina experience

and not refer to citizens of our own country as refugees.

They're evacuees. They're not some diaspora from a 3rd world country, even if they are from Texas.

bizgrrl's picture

Corrected. My family is doing

Corrected. My family is doing fine by the way.

Andy Axel's picture

I had assumed as much.

But my apologies for not making that explicit.

bizgrrl's picture

Man, this a mess. I'm

Man, this a mess. I'm guessing a lot of Texans are going to be surprised as to how much money they will need to recover. Approximately 1/5 of residences in the Houston area are covered for floods.

This morning the government agencies are talking about how many volunteers will be needed to fix the houses. They are talking about how long it will take, so much coordination needed with all the agencies.

The fix and response will be/is so much better than Katrina, but... Volunteers/resilience.

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