Study Finds Houston Vulnerable

On the day before the start of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, a new report from a think tank based at Rice University finds that a major hurricane would devastate the Houston-Galveston region. But one of the authors of the report says area leaders could lessen the potential danger by keeping the public informed. Pat Hernandez has more.

The report was issued by the Rice University based Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters, or SSPEED Center. It is an effort to address the lessons learned from Hurricane Ike, the most punishing storm to hit Texas since Alicia  25-years before. Dr Phil Bedient of Rice University is the director of the SPEED Center and co-author of the study. He says it showed that the area and its proximity to waterways is vulnerable to a storm surge.
 
 "With a more careful look at the ship channel and with what Ike did, we were very, very lucky that Ike came in and stayed below those levees, but the levees in the ship channel are in the range of about 15-feet, plus or minus, and you get a 19-foot storm surge up there. If Ike had come in, just Ike by itself, a hundred and ten mile an hour hurricane — if it had come in 30-miles further south, you'd had 19-feet of storm surge up in the ship channel that would've over topped many of those levees, and it would've created a major environmental disaster."

Bedient says the report also examines the anticipated growth of the area in the not too distant future.

"Where are these people gonna reside, how are we going to evacuate them? What are we going to do in the next decade, if you will, in order to store up and help protect and defend and mitigate the damages, and reduce the risk to all of these new residents, and the the existing residents?" 

With forecasters predicting a much more active hurricane season this year, Bedient says educating the public is important.

"I think all of our decision makers are now on board with this vulnerability, and that's one reason we formed the SSPEED Center, was the bring and objective level of expertise to analyze this very complex problem, and push forward for a mix of solutions, whatever that turns out to be."

Meanwhile, the Harris County Flood Control District builds projects year round to reduce flooding risks. and spokeswoman Heather Saucier says its not just during hurricane season:

"Yes, we're prone to tropical storms and hurricanes, but as you well know, we're also prone to these rain storms that drop tremendous amounts of rain in very short periods of time, so we flood during February, and we flood during December and March."

She says now is the time to get one thing that will give you peace of mind.

"We don't want them to forget flood insurance, because that should be very much a part of their Hurricane preparation plans."

Saucier says it takes about 30-days from the time you apply to be covered.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...