KTRH Local Houston and Texas News

KTRH Local Houston and Texas News

KTRH-AM covering local news from Houston and across Texas.


Harris County ranked No. 1 most flood prone county in U.S.

Through our history, Houston has seen some of the biggest flood events on this planet. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 still ranks as the costliest tropical storm of all time, causing $9 billion in damage. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 broke rainfall records that might never be touched again. Some areas saw over nine inches of rain in just an hour period during that storm. Some places saw over 50 inches of rain. It is tied for the costliest Atlantic hurricane ever.

So, the city is no stranger to flooding. Hurricane Beryl brought more of that this week, dumping over 10 inches of rain in areas over a few hour period. Even if it is not a hurricane doing the damage, our basic thunderstorms can sometimes dump that amount of rain, not to mention the cold fronts we get in the fall. We are a haven for deep, tropical downpours like no other major metropolitan area in the country. As a result, Harris County now ranked top in the United States in terms of flood risk.

Even Miami, while they get tropical showers, do not have the flood problems and usually do not see the amount of rain Houston can get in some storms. Space City Weather's Eric Berger says the Gulf of Mexico provides all the moisture we need.

"It is part of the fact this region is quite flat, and it takes a long time for water to drain," he says.

Another reason though would also be the massive population growth in the last few years. Houston has been a quickly growing city, and development has had to keep up. That has meant more concrete, which leads to less drain off, and more flooding.

As we keep growing too, it does not get any easier.

"Building over the natural wetlands to our west, into the Katy area...all that is good for the economy, but it does have consequences for flooding," he says.

Since Hurricane Harvey, the city has made some improvements to the flood mitigation strategy, and it has seemed to drain quicker in recent years. But there is more that could be done.

"We need new strategies and to actually fund them...that means widening bayous, adding drain ways, or putting in another large retention basin, like the Addicks or Barker Reservoirs," he says.

Fort Bend County has taken some steps toward new plans. They are pushing to make sure new development is flood neutral or bring some positive in terms of improving conditions.

Of course, since Hurricane Ike in 2008, there have been long talks of the 'Ike Dike,' which would help with storm surge, but that does not solve the overall flooding problem.

We are basically sitting in a cereal bowl of sorts, with nowhere for water to drain. While the city is booming, and we are tops in terms of economies, that all comes with a price.

"When you build in low lying coastal areas, you have economic benefits, but that also brings environmental consequences," says Berger.

On the list of most flood prone counties as well was Cameron County, Texas. Ranked second was Bergen County, New Jersey. In Texas ranking alone, Harris County, Galveston County, and Brazoria County are in the top five.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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