Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Houston: Scenes from a City Under Water

 by Nomad

Embed from Getty Images
Houston, the nation's fourth largest city and the most populous city in the state of Texas, is under water in the wake of the persistent Hurricane Harvey. The Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds made its first landfall on Friday, 25 August and raged throughout the weekend. By Monday, it was clear that Harvey was going nowhere. By Wednesday, Harvey was making its second landfall.
Harvey is easily the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Charley in 2004 and the first Category 3 or greater storm (winds of 111 mph or higher) since Wilma in 2005. Forecasters and government officials, scrambling to deal with a storm that popped up this week after being a mere tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico, warned of catastrophic flooding, ferocious winds and a storm surge that could reach 12 feet.
One thing that forecasters hadn't predicted was that the storm would become stationary and become a kind of pump of moisture from Gulf.
It's difficult to visualize how much water is being dumped on land that is barely above sea level. Popular Science points out:
The amount of rain dumped on the city is mind-blowing by any measure. Record-setting rainfall totals are coming in from rain gauges, including an astonishing 49.2 inches that broke the record for rainfall in the state during a Tropical Storm.
The National Weather Service even had to adjust the color coding on its rainfall map to account for all the water.
It is being dubbed a “one-in-1,000 year” event. Experts are now estimating that about 56.8 trillion liters of water (15 trillion gallons) have fallen on Houston, but it’s predicted that this will total 75.7-94.6 trillion liters (20-25 trillion gallons) of water will have fallen by the time Harvey peters out or moves on.
At least 18,600 people rescued from water across southeast Texas and at least 286,500 customers remain without power.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared that they will be there for “years”, and the economic and infrastructural damage is likely to be post-Katrina levels. Officials at the National Hurricane Center warned on Wednesday,
"Ongoing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding will continue in southeastern Texas."
While it is still too early to give any solid estimates on the cost of the damage, Bloomberg reported on Monday that a conservative preliminary estimate would be close to $30 billion with a distinct possibility of that figure to increase to something around $100 billion.

Still worse, analysts say that less than a third of Harvey’s losses are likely to be insured. For residents who have literally lost everything, the future is going to be as bad as anybody could imagine.
Most people with flood insurance buy policies backed by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. As of April, less than one-sixth of homes in Houston’s Harris County had federal coverage, according to Aon. That would leave more than 1 million homes unprotected in the county. Coverage rates are similar in neighboring areas. Many cars also will be totaled.
But the National Flood Insurance Program is barely able to keep its own head above water. The federal program, Bloomberg reports, already struggling with $25 billion of debt. And the existing program is set to expire on Sept. 30 and is up for review in Congress, which ends its recess Sept. 5.
Obviously, Congress is facing a unresolvable situation with budget negotiations set to begin this autumn.

For residents who have literally lost everything, the future is going to be as bad as anybody could imagine. Even now with the rains still falling, insurance experts warning that a lot of people are going to be facing "very serious financial situations."

Says Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute
“Most people who are living in these areas do not have flood insurance. They may be able to collect some grants from the government, but there are not a lot, usually they’re very limited. There are no-interest to low-interest loans, but you have to pay them back.”
Right now, Houston residents are just looking for a dry spot. Tomorrow? That's another problem.

I've put this collection of videos from eyewitnesses in south Texas.