Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy just released a paper in conjunction with the Kinder Institute showing what it’s like to live with flooding in the nation’s fourth largest city for the good of posterity.
“Many consider Houston a world-class city, but we do a poor job of publicly discussing our weaknesses, such as flooding,” writes the paper’s author, Jim Blackburn, J.D., professor in the practice of environmental law at Rice and co-director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center.
Blackburn states in the introduction that the more people understand and prepare for the risks of flooding in Houston’s flat, coastal landscape, the better those risks can be tolerated.
Since Hurricane Harvey, reports show the inadequacy of Houston’s floodplain maps, and how many people were living either near high-risk areas or inside them without knowing it.
Everything from climate change to unchecked development is now thought to have played a role in the devastation Houston and its surrounding communities suffered after the storm. Officials are beginning to implement flood control plans and lobbying for additional aid from the federal government to shore up repairs and efforts to protect Houston against further harm.
Rice’s paper aims to inform the everyday Houstonian of how storm waters behave and how we can protect ourselves. It defines terms like “storm surge” that became familiar to Houstonians during Harvey. The paper also provides maps of flood areas and watersheds.
Blackburn emphasizes the paper isn’t about addressing the problems of flooding and flood control; it’s about understanding them so we can protect ourselves and our property.
“Our guide to surviving Houston flooding is offered in the spirit of community?of helping each other,” he writes. “It is a spirit that is one of our best qualities, and was most recently displayed in the outpouring of assistance during Hurricane Harvey. Just as some arrived with boats and kayaks, others arrive with words and maps.”