Hurricane Concerns Flood Minds Of Houston Property Owners
It has been nearly a decade since a hurricane last shook the nation's fourth-largest city. In that time, Houston has added nearly 1 million residents and millions of square feet of all property types. With flooding concerns going unanswered, officials worry a rough hurricane season could put Houston through its paces.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there is a 45% chance of an above-normal season in 2017. It predicts a 70% likelihood that there will be between 11 and 17 storms strong enough to name, with five to nine of the storms likely to become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes (category three or higher).
Those numbers are particularly worrying for Houstonians who have struggled with storms in the past. A 100-year flood is only supposed to happen once every 100 years, but Houston has had to deal with one two years running now; on Memorial Day in 2015 and on Tax Day in 2016. Combined the two floods took 16 lives and caused over $1B in damages.
"The flooding in Houston, because of the water table, is something that’s a significant challenge for everyone to deal with," Stream Managing Director of Property Management Bob Nowak said. "When there’s storm surge, water level can rise quickly anywhere in the city. Flash flooding happens within minutes."
Texas lawmakers and business leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump in April asking him to include $15B in his infrastructure budget to finance a coastal barrier wall aimed at protecting the Houston area. Even if the project is approved, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says construction could not start until 2024 at the earliest.
“The conditions of the Gulf are prime for an early storm this year,” said Francisco Sanchez, spokesman for Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “Now is the time to get ready.”
Nowak has been busy readying his property managers for the active season. Much of the advice he gives to tenants and clients is an echo of FEMA guidelines; always have a disaster supply kit, a plan for your family and your business and emergency communication contingencies. Most importantly, stay informed.
Nowak said before a storm employees should always make sure their offices are clean, as things often get blown around. They should back up critical files off-site, move desks and filing cabinets away from windows, lock everything and move equipment to higher elevations to guard against flooding.
For personal safety, FEMA urges that residents make sure their "go bag" has a first aid kit and any crucial medications. Everyone should be familiar with evacuation routes and shelter-in-place protocols.
With proper planning and preparedness, much of a hurricane's harm to human life and property can be mitigated. Still, without new infrastructure in place, Houston's best efforts still may not be enough to fend off the perfect storm.