Absorbing The Water

Absorbing The Water

By

Leonard Zwelling

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/31/us/houston-harvey-flooding-urban-planning/index.html

Houston has never seen flooding or any other natural disaster like the floods that accompanied Hurricane Harvey. And no other city has responded as did Houston to such a disaster.

The emotional toll on the city might be every bit as heavy as that wrought by the storm in dollars and property loss.

If there is one thing that we try to take pride in here it is the harmony of our various variegated people and the sense of community encouraged by Houston’s governmental, commercial and faith-based institutions. That becomes hard to remember in the face of such an overwhelming natural disaster.

But rather than look backward in concern for what could have been done differently, if anything, Houstonians will look forward—short-term and long-term.

The short-term response will be hard.

There are many displaced people and many homes in need of repair. I suspect that there will be an influx of businesses to repair homes flooding into the city over the next few weeks. Let’s hope the majority are honest and legitimate. The last thing we need is a deluge of flim-flam artists worsening the tragedy that has already occurred. School needs to start up. Businesses large and small need to return to service and manufacturing. People need to try to get on with their lives despite this massive disruption in normalcy, both here and to our east and southwest.

Long-term response will be harder.

What is clear is that the Houston’s first responders need more water vehicles. My city of Bellaire appears not to have had any boats of any kind. I am afraid that boats will have to become part of the equipment of every police and fire department in the Houston area. And not small ones. Indeed, “we need a bigger boat.”

What is also clear is that Houston may need to consider several other changes.

If roadways can be raised in key areas like highway feeder roads, this might be the time to do it. God forbid the Trump Administration gets an infrastructure bill passed and that Houston uses its share of the federal largesse to raise some low spots in the pavement.

Houston and Harris County are going to have to face the unlimited growth that has put housing developments in the way of reservoirs and bayous. I know Houston is famous for its lack of zoning as well as its proliferation of cement for as far as the eye can see. The city just paid a price for its lack of green space. Perhaps consideration of whether that price is too high would be timely.

I love Houston. I have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else. I am very saddened by the events precipitated by this freakish storm, but also recognize that it could happen again—tomorrow. While this disaster is fresh in our minds, we should consider the changes we can make in our city that might lessen the damage when the inevitable next storm hits.

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