Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protecting Houston from the next big hurricane

Date:
November 15, 2011
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
To protect Houston and Galveston from future hurricanes, experts recommends building a floodgate across the Houston Ship Channel, adding new levees to protect densely populated areas on east Galveston Island and west Galveston Bay and creating an 130-mile-long coastal recreation area to preserve wetlands that act as a natural flood barrier. The recommendations follow a two-year study by more than a dozen experts at universities in Texas and Louisiana.

Hurricane damage.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rice University

To protect Houston and Galveston from future hurricanes, a Rice University-led team of experts recommends building a floodgate across the Houston Ship Channel adding new levees to protect densely populated areas on Galveston Island and the developed west side of Galveston Bay. The team also recommends creating a 130-mile-long coastal recreation area to sustainably use wetlands that act as a natural flood barrier.

Related Articles


The recommendations appear in a new report this month from Rice University's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. The report follows more than two years of research into lessons learned from Hurricane Ike, which made landfall at Galveston Island in September 2008. Ike caused 112 U.S. deaths and is the third-costliest storm in U.S. history, with damages estimated at $30 billion.

"Ike was a Category 2 storm, and Houston and Galveston stand to suffer greater losses from stronger storms, particularly if they hit south of Galveston Bay," said Phil Bedient, director of the SSPEED Center and Rice's Herman Brown Professor of Engineering. "As we studied this, we also met with leaders from industry and government to determine the most realistic and feasible way to protect lives and property from the next big storm."

Bedient said the study determined that storm-surge flooding could threaten thousands of lives in heavily populated West Galveston Bay communities like Clear Lake and Dickinson. The study also found that refineries and other industry along the Houston Ship Channel was vulnerable to storm surge greater than 15 feet.

SSPEED's study began with a 2009 grant from Houston Endowment to investigate how the region had responded to and been impacted by Ike. The endowment also asked for a set of recommendations about how to protect the region from the most devastating effects of future storms.

"In developing our recommendations, we were focused on creating a comprehensive plan that addressed the entire region as well as a realistic plan that would be affordable in today's economy," said Jim Blackburn, co-principal investigator on the project and professor in the practice of environmental law at Rice. "It became obvious pretty quickly that we could only achieve both of those goals with a hybrid set of structural and nonstructural solutions."

Recommended structural improvements include:

  • Build a floodgate across the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel at the Fred Hartman Bridge to protect ship-channel industry from storm surges up to 25 feet.
  • Construct a 20-mile levee along Texas Highway 146 to protect most Galveston Bay communities west of Texas 146 against storm surges up to 25 feet.
  • Build a bayside levee on east Galveston Island to protect urban portions of Galveston, including the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Recommended nonstructural improvements include:

  • Create a 130-mile-long coastal recreation area from High Island to Matagorda Island that would both utilize coastal wetlands as a natural storm-surge barrier and act as an economic engine for ecotourism.
  • Incorporate storm-surge data into flood-alert systems that can give advanced warning of impending floods in densely populated West Galveston Bay communities like Clear Lake.
  • Enhance public information and public disclosure of storm-surge risks in low-lying coastal areas, and strengthen and update building codes in those areas.
  • Provide emergency managers with a detailed database of critical infrastructure and facilities for use in assessing risk and planning for evacuation and post-storm re-entry.

"We met with dozens of leaders form both the public and private sectors, and the response has been very positive," Bedient said. "Ike clearly showed that Houston and Galveston are vulnerable. The key to engaging people is focusing on realistic solutions."

Blackburn said, "Hurricane-surge flooding is one of the most important issues in our region. We have focused on multiple solutions that can be funded from multiple sources, rather than relying on a single source or a single project. We think that this offers the best chance to develop alternatives that can be implemented in a reasonable amount of time. The time to act is now."

A copy of the SSPEED Center report "Learning the Lessons of Hurricane Ike: Preparing for the Next Big One" is available at:
http://sspeed.rice.edu/sspeed/downloads/Final_Paper_2011.pdf


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Protecting Houston from the next big hurricane." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111114112242.htm>.
Rice University. (2011, November 15). Protecting Houston from the next big hurricane. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111114112242.htm
Rice University. "Protecting Houston from the next big hurricane." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111114112242.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

AP (Nov. 23, 2014) First came the big storm. Now comes the big melt for residents of flood-prone areas around Buffalo. New York's governor says officials are preparing for the worst as the temperature is expected to rise and potentially melt several feet of snow. (Nov. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins