Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas, the state is still tallying the human costs of the storm while looking ahead at ways to prevent similar flooding disasters in the future. The Department of State Health Services now estimates that 88 Texans died as a result of Harvey, with another five deaths "possibly related" to the storm. The agency says it won't have a final official death toll from the storm until next year.
Meanwhile, TxDOT says more than 10 million cubic feet of debris has been removed from flood-ravaged communities since Harvey, enough to fill 186 football fields to a foot high. As for the number of homes flooded, that is also still being determined, but Harris County officials say the tally was more than 30,000 homes flooded just in the unincorporated areas of the county as of October 5.
All of these staggering numbers have prompted state lawmakers to begin looking at ways to mitigate future flooding. To that end, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick oversaw a public hearing in New Caney this week, where lawmakers got feedback from flood victims. "We came to this area, and we'll be going to other areas as well, because I want the people from this area to have the chance to ask questions and get some answers," Patrick told reporters after the meeting.
One idea that came up is building a new reservoir or upgrading the current reservoirs in the Houston area. "We had an unprecedented storm, and the question is how many people flooded from the rain, and how many people were flooded from the release of water," says Patrick. "Obviously the release of water was caused by the rain, but was there something we could have done...could we have released water ahead of time?"
Other ideas discussed in the meeting included building an underground drainage system and improving the flood warning system for local communities. But all of that will cost money, and that is why Texas leaders have requested nearly $19 billion in federal funding for flood recovery costs.