Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in America, is currently being flooded by the most massively high water levels the area has ever recorded. Over the past several years we’ve been exposed to greater destructive forces from Mother Nature in the form of hundred year flooding, infrastructure failure, and increasingly unpredictable climate instability. What is happening right now in Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, however, is literally in the realm of a thousand year storm. For more on the magnitude of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and how there is no immediate end in sight, we’ve outlined these few key aspects of the storm.
Hurricane Harvey’s Record-Breaking Floods
To begin with, the first rainfall that hit the greater Houston area was so abrupt that it caught many residents, plenty of whom were already preparing for the storm, totally off guard with the speed it moved in. By dropping a whopping 20” of rain in the first 24 hours, the stage was set for what is turning out to be some of the most destructive flooding the area, and much of the country, has ever seen.
- From Inches to Feet By now the images of families being saved from rooftops should be engrained in our minds. Many of these residents knew floods were likely, but seeing as how the total rainfall caused some areas to flood upwards of 10 feet in under 24 hours, there simply was no time to get away safely without a boat.
- No End in Sight The rainfall is continuing right now and, according to every report, will not see a break until the coming weekend. That means that an additional and unprecedented 50” of rain is expected to fall on some areas in under a week’s time. This amount of water is too much for any community to safely handle, much less an area like Houston that normally sees fewer than 50” as their total average annual rainfall.
- Rainfall Away From Houston There are some security measures in place to protect from unexpected flooding in the area, specifically two nearby overflow reservoirs. However, due to the massive rainfall that is flowing into them, the city just Monday morning was forced to open them both to avoid additional areas being affected. This means that close to the coast, already affected areas near the riverbanks where the water is released to will have more ground water added.
- Storm Surge A term that most Americans may not have been familiar with until the flooding from either Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, but the flooding in Houston may be getting much worse yet from it as well. Now that Hurricane Harvey has returned to the water after touching down in Texas, the pressure system will once again cause ocean levels to rise as it begins its agonizingly slow journey eastward.
What To Do Now
It’s only natural to see the catastrophic effects of this flood and want to find a way to help out. We agree. That’s why we encourage you to find a way to help that works for you but remember to both protect yourself from pop-up phony charities and to never, under any circumstances, impede the work of the professionals. The last thing that anyone wants is a group of well-intentioned people to need their own rescue mission by wandering into unsafe areas. I’ve found this article with comprehensive donation and contribution strategies that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to help. But I’d also remind people that, more often than not, the best offense is a good defense. By that, I mean that, just like we all need to plan for any contingency for the safety and protection of our personal lives in the event of a tragedy, we need to do the same for our professional lives, as well. We’ve seen this before, and we’ve also seen the costs of when people forget the past with a phenomenon known as Hurricane Amnesia, and it ends poorly for those who aren’t prepared.
These waters will fall, eventually, and then the cleanup effort will be in full swing, no doubt. But as we’ve seen in the case of any number of natural disasters in the past, the lasting effects to the area will be felt for months and possibly years to come. When community infrastructure is damaged as much as it is in these situations, it can take businesses from being in the black to being irreconcilably in the red. Depending on the type of operation is it, companies that don’t have an automatic failover for their communications system in place as part of their business continuity plan risk tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost productivity. And when the recovery effort is likely to extend for as long as it is in Houston, that is more of a hit than the vast majority of businesses can safely endure.
We hope that everyone who remains in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey is safe and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the people who have lost their lives in this terrible storm. We will be eagerly looking forward to the cessation of beating this storm is inflicting upon the Gulf Coast communities.