Despite flood control projects, Houston remains vulnerable to floods

Published 9:01 am Thursday, May 28, 2015

HOUSTON — The flooding, property damage and loss of life as torrential rains this week hit the Houston area should be no surprise.

“It happens fairly frequently,” says Sam Brody, director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Beaches and Shores. “Houston is the No. 1 city in America to be injured and die in a flood.”

The Harris County Flood Control District, the agency working in recent years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on hundreds of millions of dollars in projects to ease the flooding impact, has been around since 1937, itself a product of catastrophic flooding two years earlier.

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“Houston is so vulnerable,” Brody, who’s been studying the issue for 15 years, said Wednesday. “There’s very little topography. They’ve added hundreds of miles of pavement and can’t keep up with all the positive initiatives. … So we get these floods.”

Flood control efforts on Buffalo Bayou alone, one of several that meander throughout the nation’s fourth-largest city, have cost a half-billion dollars over the past decade. They’ve included bridge replacements, and the addition of detention ponds for rain runoff and green spaces that serve as parks in normal times.