Houston has the worst urban flooding …. and it could get worse

Cars remain stranded along a flooded section of Interstate 45 after heavy rains overnight in Houston, Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Several major highways are closed in the Houston area due to high water. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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A professor at Texas A&M – Galveston has compiled data showing that Houston has the worst cases of urban flooding of any major U.S. city.

Sam Brody, a professor of marine sciences, has assembled a study that shows that Houston has more property loss and human casualties from flooding than any other urban area. According to Professor Brody, when it comes to the “impacts of urban flooding, Houston is number one, and it’s not even close.”

The start of hurricane season, as well as the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Cindy to the Texas/Louisiana coastline, has prompted a close examination of how Houston handles urban flooding threats. A storm in May 2015 dropped eleven inches of rain in less than twelve hours, leaving eight people dead. In April 2016, the city saw more than 16 inches of rain in twelve hours.

RELATED: Severe Houston flooding may be a thing of the past thanks to projects being considered by Harris County

Professor Brody contends that the damages caused by these storms is exacerbated by man-made factors. While he cites climate change as one of those factors, he also says that it “pales in comparison (to) the built environment.” He cites the “ubiquitous application of impervious surfaces,” such as concrete and asphalt, as the biggest cause of Houston’s urban flooding problems.

Houston’s flooding issues may continue to get worse before they can get better. A report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that the dams constructed west of Houston are at “an extremely high risk” of failing. If the dams fail to control the water flow, the results will “have a far greater impact due to the magnitude of people and property downstream.”

RELATED: Severe flooding hit the Houston area and just wait until you see what washed up in someone’s yard

Professor Brody is in the process of creating a web-based tool, named Buyers-Be-Where, that lets users type in an address and assess the flood risks for their location. The tool will compile data from as far back as 1960 to show which areas are most prone to flooding, which will help prospective homeowners determine the amount of flood insurance that they need.

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