Flooding Threat Returns to Houston

Houston floods. It’s a fact of life we accept, and struggle to manage.

“I think we can help our street flooding if we think about designing our yards differently. Yards can hold a lot more water than we’re holding right now. St. Augustine grass is almost like concrete,” says attorney Jim Blackburn, who teaches Environmental Law at Rice and is a Baker Institute Faculty Scholar. He’s the co-director of the University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center, and studies flooding in the Houston area. He says something as simple as changing our perspective on landscaping our yards can help.

The focus of Blackburn’s most recent work has been the economic threat of storm surge in southeast Texas, but also addresses the flooding that comes with the series of thunderstorms that have plagued the region this week.

“These rainfalls are a reality that are going to get worse in the future,” Blackburn tells KTRH News. “We’re going to have to learn to make room for water in our communities.”

He says the City of Houston and Harris Country governments are going to have to find better ways of working together. “They each have different responsibilities. The city is more responsible for neighborhood drainage, the county is more responsible for the large-scale drainage system.”

Blackburn points out that flood control bond funds remain unspent, and that needs to be worked out. “We’ve all got to try to keep the federal government funding coming and make good use of that funding. We can’t allow what happened with Addicks and Barker happen in the future.”

Blackburn says there is no issue more threatening to the economic security of the Houston area than storm surges brought on by hurricanes, which could kill thousands and cause massive amounts of property damage. He says past storms are not reliable predictors of future storms, which could be bigger and deadlier than anything we’ve experienced yet.

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