Risks Facing Houston This Hurricane Season

Risks Facing Houston This Hurricane Season

Hurricanes and tropical storms are often the most destructive and costly natural disasters in Texas. Since the National Weather Service began keeping track, more than 120 tropical cyclones have struck the Lone Star State, amassing billions in damage.

Historically, storm surge is the leading cause of destruction from hurricanes and tropical storms. According to a report from Core Logic, Texas is at risk of suffering costly storm surge damage this hurricane season; $113,665,173,112 worth of damage to be exact.

What is Storm Surge?

Storm surge is a natural phenomenon that occurs when factors relating to water, atmospheric pressure, wind and bathymetry collide. High winds and low pressure from a tropical cyclone cause seawater to build up in front of a storm. As it moves across the ocean, the strong winds inside the system act like a plow and push the built-up water closer to shore.

Every storm category has the potential to bring destructive storm surge. One cubic yard of sea water weighs nearly one ton, so battering waves from the surge can easily demolish buildings and cause massive destruction.

How Hurricane Damage Impacts Infrastructure Costs and Developers

Storm surge and other hurricane-related damage have the potential to cause billions in repair costs. Just one inch of water in a building or home can cause up to $25,000 worth of damage. With the potential for such destruction, infrastructure challenges are often in the spotlight.

Hurricanes have wreaked havoc on municipalities. These natural disasters have cased billions worth of damage to public utility plants and infrastructure, often leaving residents without water or power for days.

Hurricane damage can also change where and how new homes and structures are built. Following Harvey, Harris County approved new regulations on building construction in flood-prone areas by increasing the required elevation for new homes and other structures. Now, depending on where the structures fall on the flood map, new developments are required to be elevated by two feet above the 500-year floodplain. To comply with these new regulations, builders and developers must utilize strategies such as zero-net fill compensation or pier and beam foundation.

Predictions for the 2019 Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-normal hurricane season for 2019, though it has equal potential to be above or below average. The science agency forecasts a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season. The NOAA also predicts there will likely be between nine and 15 named storms, of which four to eight could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes.

Thankfully, Texas has had a relatively quiet hurricane season thus far. There have only been two named storms: Andrea and Barry. Andrea dissipated after encountering dry southern air, posing no threat to the Lone Star State. However, the Texas coast barely missed a potentially disastrous storm when Hurricane Barry blew towards the east. The category one storm brought 75 MPH winds and up to 15 inches of rain to some parts of coastal Louisiana.

Hurricane Preparedness

Being prepared for a hurricane is vital. Harris County and various other outlets provide useful information on how to keep you, your family, pets and home secure during the natural disaster. Listed below are multiple sources to help you prepare for a hurricane:

  • Hurricane Preparedness and Evacuation Information: Harris County provides a brochure featuring information on how to build a disaster supply kit, evacuation routes for southern Texas and helpful evacuation tips.
  • Disaster Preparedness Guide: The City of Houston offers a disaster preparedness guide that includes information on how to make an emergency plan, how to prepare your home and how to build a disaster supply kit for pets.
  • Be Ready for a Hurricane: The United States Government provides information about what to do before, during and after a hurricane strikes.

Hydrology & Hydraulics Engineering Services at Jones|Carter

When storms happen, the water must go somewhere. Jones|Carter has a team of engineers dedicated to drainage plans and hydraulic modeling. Consult with our H&H team to learn more about what our team does.