USA: Has Houston gone insane? New homes in the flood plains
One in 5 new homes permitted in Houston in the year after Hurricane Harvey is in a flood plain, according to an analysis of city data by Chronicle reporters Mike Morris and Matt Dempsey. About 615 permits were issued in the 100-year flood plain, which has a 1 percent chance of going underwater in any given year, and 600 were approved in the 500-year flood plain, which in any year has a 0.2 percent chance of inundation.
But don’t let the fractions fool you. Scientists say climate change is causing so-called 100-year and 500-year floods to occur more frequently. Given that reality, one might expect public officials to halt new development in flood plains. Instead, their actions suggest that living in the Bayou City means accepting the fact that your house and high water may one day develop a close relationship.
Instead of moving more people out of flood-prone areas, Mayor Sylvester Turner wants houses built higher and improvements made in the city’s drainage infrastructure. “Houston cannot and should not abandon a third of the city to avoid flooding any more than San Francisco should abandon numerous established neighborhoods that could be affected by earthquakes,” he said.
“No one is talking about flood plain development being dangerous — that it’s unsafe, it’s unwise,” said Jim Blackburn, of Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center. “What you hear from the city is there’s a minimum requirement and you have to meet it. That’s not leadership on this issue.”