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.
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.”
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.