Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Flood Prevention and Mitigation

Houston, Texas

Featured image for the project, Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Flood Prevention and Mitigation

Description

Although Texas has long experienced weather extremes, the intensity and frequency of major storm events is increasing.  The recent flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Harvey left Southeastern Texas devastated.  Rainfall totals shattered previous records; over a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain.  At least 80 fatalities have been confirmed and recovery efforts are expected to continue in the weeks and months ahead.  The preliminary damage costs from Harvey are upwards of 70 billion dollars.

In 2009, eight years before Harvey hit Texas, a community flood group called Residents Against Flooding (RAF) formed to bring awareness to the public about the impacts that un-mitigated development can have on neighborhood flooding.  Increased development in and around Houston leads to higher volumes of stormwater runoff from parking lots and roofs into surrounding neighborhoods, and since Houston has mostly non-porous, clay soils, water runs off easily.  RAF is trying to change the embedded rules and city code structure to improve flood control.   RAF leaders live in the Memorial City area on the west side of Houston but they have thousands of members from across the city. The group has 700+ Facebook members, 4000+ Twitter followers and a dedicated website.

A few drainage studies have been completed in Memorial City over the years by various engineering firms.  One study in 2001 showed the neighborhood falling outside of any FEMA mapped floodplain, yet still recommended installation of at least 4 detention ponds and numerous drainage improvements.  An expensive Regional Drainage Study was completed in 2012 after 500 homes flooded in a slow moving 2009 thunderstorm. It found that most neighborhoods did in fact fall within the floodplain yet FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) were not updated to capture this change.  Since 2009, RAF has amassed data and evidence confirming the severity of the flooding.  On May 25, 2016, RAF filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston and the Memorial City Redevelopment (MCRA) seeking remedy related to persistent flooding.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at RAF and Flood Forum USA. Due to the heightened attention on Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, this has the potential to be a highly visible project.  The pending lawsuit mentioned above may make the project and the findings more contentious or controversial.  TEX will help all the project participants navigate this together by helping to design a project that answers community questions based on rigorous practice and sound scientific evidence.

About the Community

Current RAF Board Chair Ed Browne serves as the community lead. Ed commits to engaging with the scientific partner by providing local knowledge and strategic direction over the course of the project.

Project Team

Community Leads

Ed Browne and Dean Bixler are the leaders of Residents Against Flooding in Houston, TX.

Bios coming soon!

Science Liaison

Steve Emerman is the owner of Malach Consulting and former Associate Professor of Hydrology at Utah Valley University.

Bio coming soon!

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ new cohorts.  TEX has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future.  TEX is working with ten of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.

Flood Forum USA