- Extreme flooding worsened by climate change is a major cause of concern for Houston.
- Urban development and a history of catastrophic flooding paint a worrisome picture for the city's future.
Flood-prone Houston has seen some of the worst high water events in the U.S. and worries are rising that climate change will make the flooding even more catastrophic.
Houston is prone to tropical storms and hurricanes that traverse the Gulf of Mexico because it's a mere 40 miles from the coast, according to weather.com meteorologist Brian Donegan. Downtown Houston is just 50 feet above sea level, leaving it prone to storm-surge flooding. Poorly draining soils across the metro area increase the risk of flash flooding during heavy rain events.
A 2016 report connected the worsening of extreme amounts of rainfall to manmade climate change, which is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, gas or oil and fill the air with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).
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The abundance of CO2, which accounted for 82 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drives the temperatures of both the atmosphere and the oceans up, allowing the atmosphere to hold more water vapor. This can be used as extra fuel to intensify storms and cause global sea levels to rise.
“The climate is changing. In Galveston Bay, the sea level is rising. We know the area is experiencing more heavy downpours,” flood impact expert Sam Brody told the Guardian. “It is something that keeps me awake at night every June that rolls around, hurricane season, because it’s not if, it’s just when – and every year we put more people and critical assets in harm’s way," he added. "We keep rolling the dice and the stakes become higher.”
In April 2016, an estimated 140 billion gallons of water deluged Harris County, where Houston is located, over the course of 14 hours. The flooding killed eight people and trapped residents in their homes and cars, forcing officials to perform hundreds of water rescues.
Including the April 2016 flood, there have been at least 26 events that flooded homes in the Houston metro area since the mid 1970s, according to Houston-based Weather Research Center (WRC) and National Weather Service records. WRC documented area floods, some related to tropical cyclones, back to 1837, the year after the city was founded.
Even with increased risk of torrential rainfall and flooding, Houston’s infrastructure is a major factor in the city’s flood troubles.
A group of Houstonians formed Residents Against Flooding, and filed lawsuit against the city and a local infrastructure authority last year. The group alleges that developments put in place by the city have caused hundreds of homes to flood.
“Right now, too many real-estate developments do not detain storm water run-off from their new construction and instead allow it to flow downstream into other neighborhoods, into people’s homes,” states a blog post from the group. “This new development is responsible for unnecessary flooding of neighborhoods that previously weren’t flood plains, weren’t prone to flooding.”
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Last year, Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe said that there are regulations in place to stop builders from increasing flood risks and that it is difficult to protect against extreme storms.
While worries surrounding Houston’s infrastructure and future flooding still exist, Brody has offered one solution in the form of a website that allows home buyers to identify the properties that are most at risk for flooding, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Brody’s “Buyers Be-Where” allows users to enter a street address and receive graphic and statistical data assessing the risk of flooding and hurricane hazards for that location.
"The immediate flood problem affecting Houston is a built environment one," Brody explained to the Houston Chronicle. "I get so many calls from residents who start out saying, 'I have never flooded before.'
"These are issues that should definitely worry home buyers, particularly those from out of town that are not familiar with our flooding landscape," he said.
MORE ON WEATHER.COM: April 2016 Texas Flooding
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A resident of a retirement and assisted living complex is helped by rescue personnel as the facility is evacuated due to rising floodwaters Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Spring, Texas. Storms have dumped more than a foot of rain in the Houston area, flooding dozens of neighborhoods. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Source : https://weather.com/science/environment/news/houston-flooding-worsening-concerns-climate-change-global-warming