Houston, TX

What caused the flood in Houston and how often does it happen?

Marisol Gallagher

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Houston, TX - There are some reasons as to why Houston is prone to flooding. One of them that might be surprising is the fact that the city itself was designed to flood.

Most of the streets in Houston were made to be filled with water each time heavy rain poured. These streets have a higher center to make sure the water flows to the sewers. Although this system can be inconvenient, especially for driving, it has to be done in order to prevent the water from entering the houses and other buildings.

With 22 interconnected bayous throughout the city, Houston is also called the Bayou City. Developers built every structure in the city around this natural waterways’ intricate system while using them to alleviate the flood. As an attempt to control the water flow, the major bayous were deepened and widened. On regular weather, the full water bayous will drain to Barker and Addicks reservoir.

In case of an anomaly like Hurricane Harvey that keeps the rain pouring steadily for 7 days, the bayous and reservoirs will fail to drain the accumulating water which results in breaking the banks and spilling the water into the streets.

Next, water will get into the houses and buildings as the flooded streets will overwhelm the drainage system. In the end, over 150,000 houses flooded, while the buildings around the waterways got more damaged.

Normally, the streets in Houston will get flooded multiple times in a year. But it drains quickly and results in no lasting damage. Although it has happened more frequently, major flooding that causes widespread flooding is quite rare. Those that happen in the last decade are most likely caused by climate change where higher temperatures lead to rising tides, heavier rainfall, and hurricanes.

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