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Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby Cog » Tue 14 Feb 2017, 06:07:45

Lot of chemical factories all the way down to the Gulf from Houston. You get used to the smell.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 14 Feb 2017, 15:12:22

I live across the highway from the second largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere and I never smell nuthin'. OTOH my farts don't stink either. :P
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 14 Feb 2017, 17:16:39

We kept our boats near the Delaware City Refinery. I never noticed a lot of smell but their extensive grounds made a nice nature preserve. Here's of deer and three bald eagle nests.

OTOH insane blSted and painted my boat only to have the paint fail repeatedly. The paint factory reps keep telling me the problem MUST be salts on the surface causing osmaitc blistering. I mean the first time it failed BEFOR THE BOAT HIT THE WATER.

I have remanded and repainted parts of that bottom multiple times. Then it finally hit me. I NEVER had this problem in Newfoundland. Maybe the salts were in the air from the refinery.

We will see if the problem repeats next year as I rewarded and repainted a big patch again this year.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 15 Feb 2017, 00:43:26

Newfie - When things do bad at a plant they can go very bady: about 10 years ago there was a hydrofluoric gas leak. Imagine how that worked on car paint jobs.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 15 Feb 2017, 08:37:58

ROCKMAN wrote:Newfie - When things do bad at a plant they can go very bady: about 10 years ago there was a hydrofluoric gas leak. Imagine how that worked on car paint jobs.


YIKES! Forget the paint that stuff eats glass, just think what a wiff does to your sensitive lung tissue!
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 15 Feb 2017, 09:10:13

Exactly Tanada, exactly!
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 15 Feb 2017, 10:10:21

T - " just think what a wiff does to your sensitive lung tissue!". No worries: officials told the public to just "shelter in place". LOL.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sun 19 Feb 2017, 10:45:32

ROCKMAN wrote:I live across the highway from the second largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere and I never smell nuthin'. OTOH my farts don't stink either. :P


To be fair, it used to be MUCH worse; now a drive in to Houston from the sticks really isn't all that bad air wise; still often noticeable towards Pasadena.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Fri 16 Jun 2017, 19:17:18

Houston fears climate change will cause catastrophic flooding: ‘It’s not if, it’s when’

https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... e-disaster

Human activity is worsening the problem in an already rainy area, and there could be damage worthy of a disaster movie if a storm hits the industrial section

...The Texas metropolis has more casualties and property loss from floods than any other locality in the US...

“Where the built environment is a main force exacerbating the impacts of urban flooding, Houston is number one and it’s not even close.”

...Brody, a professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University’s Galveston campus, said the requests for help in Houston from people moving homes inspired him to create a forthcoming web tool so that people can type in an address and get a risk score.

“If you can see your crime statistics, shouldn’t you be able to see your flood risk also? ..."

...Wesley Newman, likens tall grass prairies to an upside-down rainforest: the grass can grow to 6ft to 8ft above ground and two or three times as much below.

“We’ve come to realise that the grassland, the tall grass prairie, is maybe even more important than the wetlands,” Piacentini said. “The more that we can restore, the more likely it is that we will be able to increase the water-holding capacity of what we do, and that affects directly downstream Houston.”...
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Fri 16 Jun 2017, 20:50:46

dohboi wrote:Houston fears climate change will cause catastrophic flooding: ‘It’s not if, it’s when’


True enough, we are a city that does flood, a lot, and will flood a lot in the future. This is nothing new in this.

A web tool for flood risk will be pretty nifty, but those maps also are well publicized; I've seen them posted on the wall of our library for crying out loud. The real answer though remains simple, flood insurance has to be used in a buy-out mode, to a repair and repeat mode.

As to grasslands West of Houston but East of the Brazos drainage, I wouldn't put my hopes on that idea.... All of that land has a high dollar value per acre, is privately owned, and is already either in ag use or being built into homes; neither of which makes for great tall grass prairie candidates.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Fri 16 Jun 2017, 23:41:19

I was hoping I might get an Agent sighting out of that one! :-D :-D :-D

Thanks for the on-the-ground (soon to be under-the-water???!! 8) 8) 8) ) perspective.

Our understanding of how fast and strong slr could hit keep changing, so I'm thinking some of those maps in your libraries may be a tad out of date now??
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 07:49:17

dohboi wrote:Our understanding of how fast and strong slr could hit keep changing, so I'm thinking some of those maps in your libraries may be a tad out of date now??


Don't think so, for a long time to come, two factors will overwhelm slr; subsidence, and storm surge; with storm surge being the one that concerns most folks. Run off flooding problems have greatly improved over the decades, minus a few "headliner" neighborhoods that should honestly be bulldozed with extreme prejudice the next time they open their mouths about flooding.

If they do push a web tool, it'll be kept quite up to date; the library map I saw was freshly printed at the time from current information.

We aren't FL/NC here, we take our water and flood control quite seriously.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 10:18:22

"the library map I saw was freshly printed at the time from current information."

Good to hear.

Storm surges, of course, will become ever more extreme with the extra juicing of the system from GW, and that is on top of whatever slr happens and however fast.

What's hard to figure in with these kinds of risk assessment is the 'fat tail'---highly unlikely consequences that could have enormously negative consequences, far beyond the usual 100-year or even 1000-year events engineers are familiar with dealing with.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 11:59:56

dohboi - This isn't arguing for or against CC: the Houston area has been regularly flooding for tens of thousands of years. "...highly unlikely consequences that could have enormously negative consequences. And has nothing to do with such rare events. And doesn't really have anything to do with over bank stream flooding either. Yes: Houston in located on a flood plain that stretches more the 800 miles from the Mexican border to the western tip of FL. But except for some areas along the Mississippi River stream flooding isn't our primary problem in Houston: it's the ground relief. Or, more specifically, the lack of ground level relief. Or, to be my usually crude and blunt self: we're to f*cking FLAT. LOL.

A great example: about 20 years ago a friend just finished his new house in Pearland, about 25 miles south of Houston. But they got 12" of rain very quickly. Typical a very ISOLATED downpour when a cold front blows thru. He got 2' of flood water in his house. And he was there and was able to actually time his "flood": it lasted 27 minutes. Water rose up in about 15' minutes and then completely drained away in about 15 minutes. An half hour after it drained away he could walk on to his front lawn where there was no standing water. The creeks near by had channels that were less the 2' below the surrounding land. In fact we don't call them "creeks" but a "slough": " In North America, "slough" may refer to a side-channel from or feeding a river, or an inlet or natural channel only sporadically filled with water."

The only potential "fix" for the problem is building numerous small "retention ponds". For instance they are required for new constructions. Even small ones: near my home a self storage facility is being built. Maybe 5 acres to total. But it includes a 7' deep RP that covers at most 1/2 acre.

The other approach: new roads have been built a foot or so below ground instead of "crowned up". Which is why street flooding has become much more common in the Houston area: they are designed to flood to help prevent home flooding.

But Houston is high enough to not worry about storm surges. But not the rains associated with them. In fact, had not a storm surge wiped out Galveston (50 miles south of Houston on the coastline) about 100 years ago it might be one of the largest US cities instead of Houston.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 13:12:42

Much better explanation of the run off flooding problem than I did..

Here's an example of a large one. Completely artificial, built for flood control, yet kinda nice to look at:

https://www.google.com/maps/@29.9345027 ... a=!3m1!1e3

Here's a large pond that fills fast, and drains slowly into brays bayou, just zoom out for full image.
https://www.google.com/maps/@29.6954763 ... a=!3m1!1e3

These all protect Houston proper from rainfall flooding. And there are tons of them big and small.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 14:44:20

Yeah, thanks for the example, ROCK.

"He got 2' of flood water in his house. And he was there and was able to actually time his "flood": it lasted 27 minutes"

Wow!
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 15:11:00

dohboi - I forgot to mention a significant factor in local flooding: ground level subsidence. There areas around Houston that don't drain south towards the coast any more: they've been turned into local "bowls":

"Land-surface subsidence, or land subsidence, in Harris County, Texas, which encompasses much of the Houston area, has been occurring for decades. Land subsidence has increased the frequency and extent of flooding, damaged buildings and transportation infrastructure, and caused adverse environmental effects. The primary cause of land subsidence in the Houston area is withdrawal of groundwater. Throughout most of the 20th century, groundwater was the primary source of municipal, agricultural, and industrial water supply for Harris County. Currently a transition to surface water as the primary source of supply, guided by a groundwater regulatory plan developed by the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District is in effect since 2001."

IOW Houston, for a variety of reasons, is not a good place to test CC models.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Sat 17 Jun 2017, 20:00:42

Sounds like the CA Central Valley story all over again.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby jawagord » Wed 28 Feb 2018, 14:33:39

For posterity and before the next hurricane devastates some low lying community, take a look at PBS segments on Houston and hurricane Harvey. Poorly co-ordinated development and outdated flood mitigation resulted in much more damage than should have happened.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-d ... flood-risk

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/can-h ... torm-comes
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 28 Feb 2018, 19:58:27

jaw - Good catch but takes a fair bit of patience to wade thru it all in order to gather a complete picture. Here's some specifics we covered right after Harvey:

First, Houston has never and will never be flood by a storm surge from a hurricane: it sits more then 60 miles from the shoreline.

Second, for the most part Hurricane Harvey didn’t really slam in to Houston. Unlike Rockport where the eye passed right over the town and devastated it. The eye of Harvey stayed over the Gulf waters and passed almost a 100 miles south of downtown Houston.

Third, it was because of that path and the very slow movement of the storm that so much rain fell on the city. Living 25 miles east of downtown Houston I watched the radar images nonstop. The heavy rains fell from an OUTER rain band that circulated 100+ miles north of the eye. And not trying to be cute but it was the “perfect storm”: the outer band picked up water vapor from the open Gulf, circulated counterclockwise over the Houston area and dumped that water vapor. Up to 50” of rain. Well known: the east/north sides of a hurricane are the “rainy quardrents. And did so for many hours: Harvey was a very slow moving storm: typically 5 mph.

Fourth, unlike most floods that have hit other areas of the country it wasn’t a matter of streams flowing out of their channels and inundating the “flood plain”. In fact, just the opposite: the flood plain filled from the rains and was able to drain away in the streams/bayous. Why? There are very few channels that can move the waters out of Houston. Additionaly the gradient is so low that the waters in those streams/bayous is so low that the flow rate is so low it takes days to move even small rainfalls out of the city.

Fifth, as touched on in those links, the developed as destroyed as significant amount of open land where rain water could be absorb an amount of water. Even worse all that concrete covered ground funnels rain into the drainage system much faster then those sewers can move it to the steams/bayous. The streams/bayous that don’t flow fast enough to more the water quickly out of the metropolitan area.

And finally with respect to the accuracy of flood plain maps from various sources. Don’t know enough to judge. But here’s some very specific anecdotal evidence. The Rockman’s homes sits on the HIGHEST GROUND ELEVATION along the Gulf coast from south Texas to Alabama. Yes: the highest bit of land along the coast of SE Texas. And not by accident. For the same reason ExxonMobil built the largest refinery in the western hemisphere in the same area. The refinery is just across the highway from the Rockman’s home. The Rockman, a geologist well skilled in reading a topographic map. Both are on the eastern side of the San Jacinto River…the “cutbank” (look it up). IOW the Rockman is as far away from a flood plain as possible along the SE coast of Texas. And yet the flood waters got to the edge of his front steps…just about 8” from the flood waters entering his home. To say the massive Houston flooding was a one off is a huge understatement.

As pointed out in a previous part of the country just 2” to 3” of rain falling in a hour in some areas can put 3’ of water in a house.
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