From some of the same folks who brought you those fun-with-worst-case-scenarios hurricane flood maps earlier this year — Neena Satija and Kiah Collier of the Texas Tribune, and Al Shaw of ProPublica — comes a fresh set of animated maps of a few of Harris County’s most flooded and floodable places, along with a bit of investigation into how they got that way (and whether that might change any time soon). The new illustrated presentation shows off the spread of properties that took a dip during some of Harris County’s last few citywide submersion events (flooded properties from Tax Day 2016 are shown in yellow above, along with the Memorial Day 2015 flooded properties in orange).
Texas A&M Galveston researcher Sam Brody tells the authors that “more people die here than anywhere else from floods. More property per capita is lost here. And the problem’s getting worse.” In sorting through some of the whos, whats, and hows of Harris County’s flood infrastructure and chronically soggy residents, the article juxtaposes the recent flood damage data with the likes of FEMA-mapped 100- and 500-year flood zones (shown above), a visual tally of the land area developed last decade, and a view of what’s left of Houston’s coastal prairie (as of 2010):
Satija and Collier write that “scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame: As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater.”
The authors also catalogue some of the more night-and-day disagreements between some of Harris County’s flood-minded officials, the area’s natural hazard scientists, and the county’s dampest residents, on topics such as: whether or not there’s any connection between steadily expanding suburban fringe and the recent flooding increases; whether or not the region’s decades-old rules on drainage and development work or are meaningfully enforced; whether or not the recent major storms are potentially climate-change-related or just flukes; and what kinds of solutions (if any) are possible to some of the county’s flooding problem —engineering-wise, or politically.
- Boomtown, Flood Town [ProPublica and the Texas Tribune; text-only version here]
- Previously on Swamplot: A Quick Tour of Spots Where FEMA Will Expand Its Flood Hazard Zone In January; Cross-County Accounting for the Houston Flooding Puzzle; Repeated 100-Year Flooding Adds Up to Houston’s Wettest Year and a Half on Record; Finally, the Interactive Houston Hurricane Freakout Maps You’ve Been Waiting For
- Flooding coverage [Swamplot]
Maps: ProPublica/Texas Tribune