What’s your risk? The future of flooding

News maps show how often some areas in Houston may flood
News maps show how often some areas in Houston may flood

HOUSTON – If you’re familiar with the Texas Gulf Coast, you already know the flooding threat we face all too often.

But there is another component to that problem, and it appears to be getting worse.

The sea level is rising and with it the potential for incredible new problems.

HISTORY WITH HURRICANES

Rita, Ike, Harvey, those names mean something different to each of us.

You have most likely endured a few of them. And so far, we’ve bounced back and we’ve been doing it since 1900.

“You simply cannot deny the creative power of people in the aftermath of storms,” said Kimber Fountain, author and Galveston historian.

But mother nature keeps coming at us.

The current curse word is Nicholas.

The hurricanes are tangible, painful reminders of nature’s power.

But something else appears to be threatening us.

“CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL”

“Climate change is real, it’s happening right now because of us, and it’s mattering for coastal communities that are seeing increases in water levels around their coastlines,” said Dr. Daniel Gilford, a climate scientist.

His group, Climate Central is dedicated to helping families, businesses and governments understand the consequences of global warming.

Climate Central map of 2050 (Climate Central)

That means for our region by the year 2050, our coastline will be underwater.

Climate Central created an interactive map to better explain the problem.

WHAT IS YOUR RISK?

Climate Central now offers custom flood risk analytics, maps and tools. Sea level rise and coastal area flooding are growing threats worldwide. They can help you:

  • Plan: Where should I buy, sell, build, or move?
  • Protect: What do I need to protect, by how much, and when?
  • Assess: What is the threat to my existing portfolio, assets, or infrastructure?

By 2050 large swaths of Galveston, Bolivar, Tiki Island, Kemah will be underwater.

NUISANCE FLOODING

But it won’t happen overnight. So-called nuisance flooding will gradually get worse and worse. Nuisance flooding is water flooding an area from higher than normal tide levels.

According to NOAA, in 2021 Galveston will have 9-16 days of nuisance flooding. In 2030, it will see 15-30. By 2050, Galveston may see as many as 215 flooding days.

“So, a few inches, six inches, eight inches -- we’re seeing with sea-level rise could really make a big difference for coastal communities such as Galveston,” said Gilford.

According to this same data, you don’t have to be on the coast to be in trouble.

RISING SEA LEVELS IMPACTING INLAND HOMES

John and Mary Sullivan have uncommon durability. They live along Clear Creek in League City. Technically it’s fresh, but with the tides, it floods more often.

Their home is raised 11.5 feet and they still flooded during Harvey.

Fortunately, during Nicholas, the water stayed under the house, but they still needed to power wash and do a good cleanup.

The Climate Central maps put the Sullivan’s creekside oasis underwater by 2050.

So what does Sullivan think about that?

“Well I’m not an engineer, but they were able to do it in Louisiana. I’m sure we can do it here,” said Sullivan.

Galveston did in fact already do “it” a century ago when it built the seawall.

“It is still today. One of the most monumental feats of civil engineering that has ever been accomplished in the history of our country,” said Fountain.

In the long term, an upgrade is in the works for the coastline with the Ike Dike/Coastal Spine, which is a protective barrier.

In the short term, when it comes to that nuisance flooding, Fountain says islanders somewhat take it in stride.

“We also do our best to protect, for instance, the downtown businesses when the streets are flooded. There’s always a big push to inform people that you can’t drive through these waves because you’re going to flood the buildings. It’s just a matter of us being aware and taking these extra steps,” said Fountain.