We are wrapping up from your Harvey experience. We are some of the truly lucky ones. We battled water but won so the damage we experienced is trivial. We have stories to tell and altered perceptions of Nature but those are part of life.
Across the metro Houston area, thirty percent of the landmass was under water and 35,000 people are in shelters. I have not seen any estimates of the number of people who are out of their home sheltering in hotels or with family, friends or relatives. We have seen stories of people who lived in two story houses inviting neighbors in one story houses into their second floors. I wonder if it is 100,000 people more? That would be the equivalent of the entire population of our county in Montana evacuated. We figured out that the percent of Harris County that was under water was equivalent to half of Rhode Island being submerged. With the additional flooding in Louisiana, it approaches covering all of Rhode Island and part of Delaware.
Mom, at age 95, can say that she has never seen anything like this. We had to laugh with one of the “boy’s” memories of Carla, Allison and the Tax day flood. He is only in his 60s and when we reminded him that this is now being judged as a once in a 500 year or once in a 1,000 year flood the absurdity of being able to compare really hit home. The traditional way of thinking, building to the “100 year flood plane” which translates to building for a flood that would have a 1% possibility of happening in any given year, seems to have lost its meaning.
Houston has experienced three 100 year floods in the past five years (maybe three years depending on the new source). It is important to think on that. At Mom’s house, we are considering how to redesign the landscape to redirect water for the future. Even with normal rain, the water patterns have changed over the over the 40 years she has lived here and I think that they have changed in the past year but it is hard for me to say for sure. Perhaps the increased water at her backdoor is the result of trees growing and tilting the patio. Maybe the slab foundation has settled over the years. Perhaps it is the increased commercial building in the area. It is hard to say or to generalize from an n of 1, as we say in research and statistics.
I know that words climate change are politically charged these days but it is impossible to say the interaction between humans and the built environment and the Natural environment has not changed. During the span of years Mom has lived in this house the population of the United States has grown from 220,000,000 people to 324,0000,000 people. The population of Harris County more than doubled in the same time span going from 2,180,400 people to 4,633,511 people.
I could not find a count of housing units from the census when Mom moved here forty years ago but since the turn of the millennium over a third of a million (362,105) housing units were added since 2000 bringing the total housing units from 1,298,130 to 1,660,235 for 2017. The Washington Post cites a report from Texas A & M showing that “Between 1992 and 2010, 30 percent of the surrounding county’s coastal prairie wetlands were paved over.”
As Humans we have an impact on our environment. We take up space and we rearrange things to our liking. That can be good but it is also something we need to think about.