Experts meet to discuss Houston's flooding problem, prevention

HOUSTON – There was a meeting of the minds at NASA tonight to discuss a major occurrence that has been on everyone's mind for the past few months: the impact of Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods that followed.

More than 100 people, including Fred Swerdlin of Clear Lake, turned out for a floodwater forum. Swerdlin was hit by Harvey, the Memorial Day floods two years ago and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

"In 2001, I took 3 inches, (In) 2015, I took 3 inches. This time, I took 5 inches into my house," Swerdlin said. "It's getting tiring doing remodeling each time."

The discussion among a panel of experts began with how we may have gotten to this point. Opinions varied and reasons included climate change, legislative policy and development in wetland areas.

"That juxtaposition of development patterns with wetland and habitat loss are two things that have led to where we are, given our recurring flooding issues," said Lisa Gonzalez, president of the Houston Advances Research Center, or HARC.

But the forum was also about potential solutions.

"The reports are that it's going to intensify and get worse," said Brandt Mannchen, of the Sierra Club. "So, we're going to have to do more than just get out of the current situation. We're gonna have to sort of get ahead of the ballgame."

In other words, this likely won't be the last time the Houston area will witness a widespread weather event. But there are practical steps to take to prepare for that possibility.

"Elevating houses. Even things like rainwater cisterns, rain gardens, rain barrels -- there are a lot of things that, a lot of strategies that homeowners can employ," Gonzalez said. "That coupled with those larger regional projects focused on retention, and green space and green infrastructure. All of those things are kind of a toolbox of strategies that we need to develop."

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