How Long Will It Take Houston’s Floodwaters to Drain?

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By Laura Geggel

Houston has turned into a giant bathtub after being inundated with relentless rains from Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.

But while most bathtubs drain quickly (as long as they aren’t clogged), it could take days, if not weeks, for the water in Houston to subside, experts told Live Science.

Just like a bathtub, the city is largely covered with impermeable surfaces, such as asphalt and buildings. This means that most of the water can’t seep through the ground, but rather has to travel through the area’s system of canals and slow-moving bayous, which can become clogged with debris, said Richard Luthy, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – Houston has turned into a giant bathtub after being inundated with relentless rains from Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.

    I see that the next tropical storm Irma, is already causing concern and could be heading for the Caribbean, Florida, or the Eastern USA!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TlRPAGmSvE

    Worries over a well organised storm slowly crossing the Atlantic and gaining Strength, already named Irma. At the moment the Windward islands of the Caribbean are in its path.

  2. History from previous years, suggests that by the time the alphabetical list of hurricanes reaches names beginning with “I”, this is where the more powerful and damaging storms are found!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-41156051

    Hurricane Irma has been upgraded to a powerful category four storm as warnings have been issued for several Caribbean islands.

    The hurricane had sustained winds of up to 220km/h (140mph) and was likely to strengthen in the next 48 hours, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

    Irma was projected to hit the Leeward Islands, causing storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rain.

    The US state of Florida has declared a state of emergency.

    It comes as residents in Texas and Louisiana are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which struck as a category four storm, causing heavy rain and destroying thousands of homes.

    However the NHC warned that it was too early to forecast Irma’s exact path or effects on the continental US.

    Irma was set to reach the Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico, by late Tuesday or early Wednesday (local time), the centre added. The storm was moving at a speed of 20km/h (13mph).

    It may cause rainfall of up to 25cm (10in) in some northern areas and raise water levels by up to 3m (9ft) above normal levels, the NHC said.

    Puerto Rico also declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Governor Ricardo Rossello announced the opening of emergency shelters able to house up to 62,000 people, and schools would be closed on Tuesday.

    Long queues of people formed in shops, with residents stocking water, food, batteries, generators and other supplies.

    Hurricane warnings have been issued for the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, St Barthelemy, Saba, St Eustatius, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands. It means that hurricane conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.

  3. It seems that part of the problem of flooding derives directly from the anti-planning, anti-regulation, mentality!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/business-41074691

    Houston: ‘The wild west’ of development

    Some experts argue that the flooding in Houston was made worse by the city’s rapid expansion in recent years.

    New suburbs have diminished the region’s capacity to absorb rainwater, they say.

    The Washington Post has a nifty graphic showing how Houston has changed between 2001 and 2011.

    The article quotes Sam Brody, director of the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at Texas A&M University.

    “The stormwater system has never been designed for anything much stronger than a heavy afternoon thunderstorm,” he says.

    “Houston is the Wild West of development, so any mention of regulation creates a hostile reaction from people who see that as an infringement on property rights and a deterrent to economic growth.”

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