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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 ROCKMAN » Mon 16 May 2016, 15:09:27

Agent - Got me thinking: by the time SLR might become an issue for XOM they might not still be in the refining business. They could sell the plant for a new boat marina. LOL.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Mon 16 May 2016, 15:19:24

I would like to apologize to all sane people of the world. I used meters and acre-feet in the same message. Old dood like me could divide them acre-feet by that thar meter, and well, flooded the county!

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

Unread postby PeakOiler » Mon 16 May 2016, 17:07:39

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi has received over 12" of rain causing some serious flooding and water rescues.

Jeff Masters also reported this today:

(LATEST NEWS: Major Flooding Hits Southeast Texas)

On Saturday, water rescues from vehicles were reported on the southwest side of Houston in Bellaire, Meyerland, and Westbury. Locally 4-5 inches of rain fell in the area during a short period of time. On Sunday, roads were flooded near Marathon, Texas and near Kingsville, Texas.

(MORE: Is Houston America's Flood Capital?)


How Wet has it Been?

Houston has received over 74 inches of rain in the past 12 months, placing it as the wettest 12-month period ending on May 12 of any year.

This shatters the previous record for this period of 68.25 inches by about 6 inches. Houston currently sits at 24.8 inches of precipitation above average for this 12-month period, with Abilene, Dallas, and Austin also 20 to 25 inches above average over the past 12 months.

Some rivers in east Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas are still above flood stage, and soil moisture remains much higher than average in these areas, meaning even relatively brief heavy rainfall may quickly run off and trigger flash flooding.


https://www.wunderground.com/news/severe-thunderstorms-flooding-rain-texas-louisiana-may-2016
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Thu 19 May 2016, 08:40:30

Thanks for all the data and insights. I would point out again, though, that we tend to see the latest record or extreme event as 'as bad as it can get' and if we've survived it, presumably everything will go swimmingly (so to speak) in the future.

But of course the extremes are going to get ever more extreme.

The underlying rise in sea level is bad enough. But of course that underlying ever-increasing threat will be punctuated by ever-more-extreme extremes... the 'puncts' or GW punches will be ever more knock-out blows rather than just body bruisers.

I have been wondering, though, along the lines that ROCK mentioned above--how fast will the oil and gas extraction and refining business implode, and will that be the 'wave' that really 'inundates' Houston. Certainly, so far, more American cities have been destroys by economic shifts (aka outsourcing and tech changes) than by GW-related disasters. The latter will fast be catching up with the former, imvho, though.

Meanwhile:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5b28b342 ... ton-floods

Climate change, runaway development worsen Houston floods

With clay soil and tabletop-flat terrain, Houston has endured flooding for generations. Its 1,700 miles of man-made channels struggle to dispatch storm runoff to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now the nation's fourth-largest city is being overwhelmed with more frequent and more destructive floods. The latest calamity occurred April 18, killing eight people and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. The worsening floods aren't simple acts of nature or just costly local concerns. Federal taxpayers get soaked too.

Extreme downpours have doubled in frequency over the past three decades, climatologists say, in part because of global warming. The other main culprit is unrestrained development in the only major U.S. city without zoning rules. That combination means more pavement and deeper floodwaters. Critics blame cozy relations between developers and local leaders for inadequate flood-protection measures.

An Associated Press analysis of government data found that if Harris County, which includes Houston, were a state it would rank in the top five or six in every category of repeat federal flood losses — defined as any property with two or more losses in a 10-year period amounting to at least $1,000 each.

Since 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid more than $3 billion in today's dollars for flood losses in metropolitan Houston.

While repeat federal flood relief payouts average about $3,000 per square mile nationally, they are nearly half a million dollars per square mile in metro Houston. Six of Texas' eight federally declared disasters since December 2013 included floods.

"Houston has always had a flood problem, and the growth in the paving has only made it worse," FEMA Director Craig Fugate said. When the best building and land-use practices aren't followed, "we see the costs of disasters go up."

Metro Houston, which includes smaller communities and unincorporated parts of Harris County, has added more than a million people since 1992, while the amount of water-absorbing wetlands per capita has been halved. Paved surfaces in the county increased by well over 25 percent in that period, according to researchers.

Paved land generates five times more runoff than woodlands.

"There's basically very little control of development," said Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

Since the 1980s, Houston's preferred approach to flood control, besides improving drainage, has been to build thousands of detention ponds, concrete-lined pools that capture stormwater and pipe it out slowly.

But developers don't build enough floodwater retention into their projects, and "areas that never flooded before now flood in the smallest event," said Ed Browne, chairmen of the citizens' group Residents Against Flooding .

For example, if a property previously had construction and is being redeveloped, building codes don't require detention ponds...


So, yeah, Houston may 'stay afloat' by continuing to leach of the Federal Gov (all the time complaining about the same government) to the tune of $3 billion, and doubtless much, much more going forward.

But those federal funds will have more and more claimants to them as more and more areas get threatened and devastated by ever-rising seas and ever-more-intense-and-damaging storms.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Thu 19 May 2016, 08:57:46

dohboi - And there's an even worse development that has been going on for many decades: subsidence due to ground water with drawl.

http://www.twdb.texas.gov/publications/ ... c/R188.pdf

Note: this report by the USGS was published about 40 years ago

Some areas in the now bowl-shaped depression that is Houston have dropped as much as 6'. Might not sound like much but when you're essentially a flat as a table top it is. So even if there's been no significant increase in rainfall for the last 100 years the problem would have still developed from subsidence and the other factors you've mentioned. And this is in addition to the regional subsidence along the Gulf Coat that has been going on for hundreds of millions of years.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Thu 19 May 2016, 09:23:48

"subsidence due to ground water with drawl."

I hadn't realized that this is part of the dynamic, there. Thanks for the insight.

(Of course, if we could just get those damn Texans to drop their damn Southern drawl, maybe they wouldn't be sinking under the waves so fast!! :lol: :lol: :lol: )
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Thu 19 May 2016, 10:42:54

dohboi wrote:Thanks for all the data and insights. I would point out again, though, that we tend to see the latest record or extreme event as 'as bad as it can get' and if we've survived it, presumably everything will go swimmingly (so to speak) in the future.


I described the process dohboi. It is completely unnecessary for our process to think "this is as bad as it gets", or "this is political label X139".

The guy that says how much water, uses current models and current data, to tell the engineer how much water he needs to catch. They ask each, and every time they build anything bigger than a tin bbq shack. Its not optional. You can't get the permit to build anything without the plans accounting for water. And as its an iterative process, each step, day by day, accounts for not only what the current model suggests, but intrinsically accounts for the small difference between yesterdays underestimate and todays current science.

Its beautiful. And it works.

You don't accommodate SLR, storm surge and subsidence with one massive, high profile effort. You do it with tens of thousands of tiny efforts, day after day after day, never ending.

But of course the extremes are going to get ever more extreme.


Indeed, and that is what the CAT 5 model is for. Current science, up to date, with current GIS data.

Together with climate models, It tells you what the maximum is today, you build to manage that maximum, and tomorrow, you build to manage tomorrows maximum, and the day after that, you build to manage that days maximum. There is no end.

It is billions and billions of dollars, spent year, after year after year, and will continue so until the end of industrial civilization.

We take water and flooding VERY seriously here. No room for politics. Solid science. Solid engineering. No blame; no victims, no whining, just concrete and backhoes.... lots and lots of backhoes.

I have been wondering, though, along the lines that ROCK mentioned above--how fast will the oil and gas extraction and refining business implode, and will that be the 'wave' that really 'inundates' Houston. Certainly, so far, more American cities have been destroys by economic shifts (aka outsourcing and tech changes) than by GW-related disasters. The latter will fast be catching up with the former, imvho, though.


Houston has a quite diversified economy at present. As one ebbs, another will rise. The port, rail connections, and location are simply to good at any designated point of MSL.

For instance, this area used to produce an astounding amount of rice, but it became uneconomical, and more profitable activities were pursued. As climate change nukes the grain productivity in the tropics, our subtropical zone should have a good stretch of years where we can make good money growing rice again. Further inland, there's huge swaths of farmland that are casually used or ignored because they aren't economic to produce at current prices with the huge excess in corn. Once the excess is not so excess, prices will rise, and those can be returned to production. So, if there were a shift, I'd expect ag processing and exports via shipping to increase in Houston as this century's changes propagate.

For an overview, not Houston related really.
Climate Change and Global Food Security: (David Battisti)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06ZkcOqT76M

With clay soil and tabletop-flat terrain, Houston has endured flooding for generations. Its 1,700 miles of man-made channels struggle to dispatch storm runoff to the Gulf of Mexico.


Struggle, and succeed.

Now the nation's fourth-largest city is being overwhelmed with more frequent and more destructive floods. The latest calamity occurred April 18, killing eight people and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. The worsening floods aren't simple acts of nature or just costly local concerns. Federal taxpayers get soaked too.


Woot! Victory. I told you what the numbers were for success and failure. "tens of millions" on a flood event, is victory. That's what it looks like to properly manage a flood. Fifty billion or higher is the price of failure. And most of the eight who died, won Darwin awards for driving into standing water. You can't stop people from killing themselves when they want to. Sorry, but that's the way it is.


An Associated Press analysis of government data found that if Harris County, which includes Houston, were a state it would rank in the top five or six in every category of repeat federal flood losses — defined as any property with two or more losses in a 10-year period amounting to at least $1,000 each.


Indeed, and this is something that is a work in progress. The idea answer, is that on the 2nd or 3rd flood loss, you set the annual insurance premium to the full value of the property; the owner will then self-insure, and will be unable to find a regular, mortgage assisted, type buyer. Next flood comes along, make a reasonable buyout offer, and property moves to county or federal ownership as appropriate for the location.

Texans however, for the most part, when denied insurance, don't abandon the property, they simply revert to self-repair, and stay put. Takes quite a disaster to get any significant number of them to accept the buyout.

Since 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid more than $3 billion in today's dollars for flood losses in metropolitan Houston.
While repeat federal flood relief payouts average about $3,000 per square mile nationally, they are nearly half a million dollars per square mile in metro Houston. Six of Texas' eight federally declared disasters since December 2013 included floods.


Bad Federal policy is not Houston's problem or fault. FEMA acts as an enabler of above bad behavior, they get what you would expect. I've always recommended that FEMA never offer assistance like this, but rather, offer a choice between a low interest loan (for low amounts, say 10k or less), or a buyout offer. No Texan can resist free money; but give them the above choice and they WILL make rational decisions.

This would increase their short term layouts, but would also improve long term adaptive response to increases in flood events.

Since the 1980s, Houston's preferred approach to flood control, besides improving drainage, has been to build thousands of detention ponds, concrete-lined pools that capture stormwater and pipe it out slowly.


This is incorrect, most detention ponds are not concrete lined. Some are of course, but most are not. And in the last decade the pace and size of the effort has increased amazingly.

But developers don't build enough floodwater retention into their projects, and "areas that never flooded before now flood in the smallest event," said Ed Browne, chairmen of the citizens' group Residents Against Flooding .


Citizens groups often get confused about current efforts and "developers". Many subdivisions built in the 70s and 80s have almost no flood control. And its these communities that are getting beat up bad. And they deserve and need to be beat up bad so they'll MOVE. Residents however, would prefer the county stop their county wide effort, and build hugely expensive, retrofit flood control. County is mostly uninterested; so they get mad; but they won't get much money spent to keep their home that deserves to be flooded from flooding.

For example, if a property previously had construction and is being redeveloped, building codes don't require detention ponds...


Quite true. And rational. Once the site is doing something, its prohibitively expensive to add retention ponds, in most cases.

You still aren't going to get the county to spend billions to save one old neighborhood. Sorry, they get to move. And they should only get one flood insurance payout. When the house goes underwater, you get a buyout check. Not a repair check. Once you take the check, county bulldozes the house and call it a nature preserve... tada, fixed.

So, yeah, Houston may 'stay afloat' by continuing to leach of the Federal Gov (all the time complaining about the same government) to the tune of $3 billion, and doubtless much, much more going forward.


1. chump change.

2. bad federal policy that enables bad behavior is the fault of the federal government. STOP WRITING REPAIR CHECKS. ITS BAD. YOU DON'T GET TO BLAME HOUSTON FOR THE BAD POLICY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

But those federal funds will have more and more claimants to them as more and more areas get threatened and devastated by ever-rising seas and ever-more-intense-and-damaging storms.


I hope they get cut off completely. They are a NEGATIVE effect. They cause harm. Cause residential flooding. Cause deaths. They need to stop. NOW.

Buyout checks or small loans ONLY. Free money is corrosive and lethal.

(and yeah, subsidence on the Gulf Coast is, and always will be, much faster than the change in MSL)
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Thu 19 May 2016, 11:24:59

"Houston has a quite diversified economy at present. As one ebbs, another will rise." Along those lines I heard a stat yesterday that surprised me: despite all the job loss due to lower oil prices Houston GAINED jobs in 2015. While the E%P sector took a hit the petrochemical side has been hiring like crazy for all the new expansion: there's $50 BILLION in new plant expansion going on now. Of course when completed most of those construction jobs will disappear.

Apparently the petrochemical side isn't concerned about SLR in the 40 or 50 years. And if the level comes up soon I suspect they can justify the expense to deal with in order to same hundreds of $BILLIONS (if not way more then a $TRILLION) tied up in all the existing facilities.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Thu 19 May 2016, 11:53:34

"STOP WRITING REPAIR CHECKS"

Great idea. But Houston and the corporations it hosts have a lot of influence in congress, so they will continue to be able to coerce congress to keep ladling out the free money. To say otherwise is just enormously, and one might say criminally, naive about how power works.

I would agree about many little adjustments, but to the extent we are using historic and current data to make those plans, we will always be well behind the ball.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Thu 19 May 2016, 12:35:10

dohboi wrote:"STOP WRITING REPAIR CHECKS"

Great idea. But Houston and the corporations it hosts have a lot of influence in congress, so they will continue to be able to coerce congress to keep ladling out the free money. To say otherwise is just enormously, and one might say criminally, naive about how power works.

I would agree about many little adjustments, but to the extent we are using historic and current data to make those plans, we will always be well behind the ball.


Like I said, no Texan will pass on free money. Period. It remains the Federal govt signing the check. They bear the responsibility for saying "yes". They could say "no", but choose not to. Not Houston's problem, as long as free money is available, we absolutely will take it. If the Feds can't stand up to people asking for free money, then that's just to bad, and they have no right to complain.

You assertion is that something bad would happen to Houston if the free money stopped. My counter argument is that something very GOOD would happen to Houston if the free money stopped. Very, very good. Idiots in flood zones would get to choose between self-repair or buyout+leave. All these folks that are complaining have known they were in bad spots for well over a decade now.

What they want is for the county to pay 100 million+ on retrofit flood control so they can stay in their 80k house. BS. Move. If you're too dumb to study flood maps on the gulf coast, you're too dumb to own a house on the gulf coast.

And yes, flood control is always "behind the ball" as it were; and that is as it should be. If you get ahead, you're wasting money; spending millions to save thousands is dumb; spending billions to save millions is equally dumb. Acceptable dollar value loss is normal part of mitigation.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Thu 19 May 2016, 12:50:18

dohboi - Agent is being a tad harsh but his point is valid. Now and then I've done a little consulting for various flood control districts. And the common attitude wasn't to discourage building in flood prone areas but to modify their controls systems to move the water down stream as fast as possible. That didn't help the folks downstream but that wasn't the problem of the district.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Thu 19 May 2016, 13:10:14

You do mention an interesting thing I hadn't really said anything about; in the 70's-90's it was all about stream widening, paving, straighten, attachable water rockets, lol... Saw one of my favorite creeks mangled by that process; spent many days as a kid wading waist to neck deep in the great quest to net little pickerels (for what purpose, I have no idea), as well as to find the mystical ghost shrimp, and the amazing and incredible redfinned minnow. Then it got turned in to a cut out, lifeless, water transport device.

The plethora of new retention ponds, almost seems the opposite approach to catch and hold the water safely, in a safe spot, and trickle it down over time. I like this approach better because it reduces downstream damage and increases wildlife (if not kid-life) accessible wet habitat..
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Thu 19 May 2016, 13:48:14

OK, you're right, moneyed interests never influence politics in DC.

How silly of me to ever have made such a ridiculous claim! :lol: :lol: :razz: :razz:

Being constantly behind the ball with these things means that not just structures but human lives will be needlessly destroyed. Being a bit ahead of the ball means that you may risk losing a bit of money, but you will likely save lives.

So I guess we just differ on our value systems here?


And oh yeah, 'channelization' of streams has really destroyed a lot of wonderful landscape and ecological niches throughout the country and world.

One of many, many tragedies that have come from applying an engineering mindset to a living system.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby AgentR11 » Thu 19 May 2016, 13:55:35

dohboi wrote:OK, you're right, moneyed interests never influence politics in DC.


You again lie.
I never said that.
And I never would say that.

I hate liers.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Thu 19 May 2016, 14:25:51

Sorry, A. Just yankin' yer chain.

I would say your more avoided the fact than made that claim.

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

Unread postby AgentR11 » Thu 19 May 2016, 14:38:04

I think its irrelevant. You sign the check, you own it, fully. I'm allowed to ask for anything I want to ask for, including free money. You give the money, you are fully responsible for giving the money.

But again, the point is that you assert something bad would happen if the free money stopped. I think the free money is corrosive and while giving an individual a brief benefit, creates a very large downstream cost. Thus terminating the free money, would make Bob the Moron angry, but would save Houston and Harris County a boatload of money.

FEMA wants to do some buyout work though, THAT would be positive all around.

Otherwise, if someone wants to live where their sheet rock gets wet, they can buy their own darn replacement sheet rock and hang it themselves. Not really all that hard anyway.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Fri 27 May 2016, 17:31:49

Houston just can't seem to get a break these days:

http://www.chron.com/houston/article/St ... 949010.php

Of course, this is part of a huge system causing havoc throughout the middle of the US:

https://robertscribbler.com/2016/05/27/ ... r-meeting/

And, as rd pointed out on another thread, the La Nina we're heading into should reduce the windshear that has been cutting off hurricane production recently, so one of those may land in the general vicinity this year, too. Sheesh.
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Mon 30 May 2016, 22:26:38

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/floo ... g-39475615

Residents Brace for More Flooding as Texas River Crests
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Re: Houston, We Have A Problem--Floods Shut It Down

Unread postby dohboi » Tue 31 May 2016, 13:33:40

More on the extreme conditions north of Houston, as well as the East Coast situation, both set in context:

https://robertscribbler.com/2016/05/31/ ... ment-81316

New Extreme Climate to Hurl More Rain Bombs at Texas, Light off Another Record West Coast Heatwave

They call them rain bombs.

A new breed of severe storm fueled by a record hot atmosphere. One capable of dumping 2-4 inches of rainfall an hour and generating voracious flash floods that can devour homes and cars in just minutes. And in southeast Texas, the rain bombs have been going off like gangbusters.

In this week’s most recent iteration of flaring, climate change induced, storms, a region north of Houston and South of Dallas saw flood after flood after flood. Now, hundreds of people have been forced to abandon inundated homes, thousands of cars have been submerged, and seven people are dead.

Rainfall totals for the region over the past seven days have averaged between 7 and 10 inches. But local amounts in the most intense bombification zones have come in at 16, 19, and even as high as 30 inches in Washington County--all-time record rainfall totals that might be associated with a powerful hurricane.

Floods that would typically happen only once every 500 years.

But in the new moisture-laden atmosphere of a record warm world, a garden variety thunderstorm now has enough atmospheric oomph to frequently set off what were once multi-century floods.

...the Brazos River is today expected to crest at 53.5 feet — its highest level ever recorded.

And this crest is predicted to push a flood of 8-9 feet into neighboring communities. --extreme flooding that local officials say Texans are not at all prepared for. In total, more than 40,000 people have been urged to evacuate.

But with the worst flooding still on the way, the situation is still very fluid.

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

Unread postby dohboi » Wed 01 Jun 2016, 14:57:05

This piece doesn't seem to be quite as...generous as some people around here are about Houston's abilities at city planning:

http://grist.org/climate-energy/houston ... -planning/

Houston flooding is a perfect storm of climate change and bad urban planning
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