4 takeaways from Jeff Lindner's talk on Hurricane Harvey, flood control

Coverage on Hurricane Harvey was one of the top Community Impact Newspaper stories of 2017.

Coverage on Hurricane Harvey was one of the top Community Impact Newspaper stories of 2017.

For its February luncheon, the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce invited Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, to speak about the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Harris County and the surrounding area. Lindner's talk included a discussion of flood statistics and safety tips. Here are four key takeaways:

Harvey’s damage rivals that of Hurricane Katrina

According to Lindner, Hurricane Harvey is the second most damaging storm in the U.S. behind Hurricane Katrina, the category 5 hurricane that hit the southern U.S. in 2005. Harvey caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, some of which is still being assessed, Lindner said.

A HCFCD analysis of the damage found that:

  • 300,000 vehicles flooded

  • between 100,000-140,000 structures flooded

  • 60,064 people were rescued

The effects of Harvey were unexpected, even to meteorologists

Although the storm was anticipated to be big, Lindner said the magnitude was not understood until much later.

“The comprehension of what two, three, four feet of rain was going to do was probably off, including for us, the meteorologists,” he said. “We all had an understanding that we were going to have flooding. We all had an understanding that it would be like [the] Tax Day [floods]. But, we did not have the comprehension that it was going to be all of the county and all of the surrounding counties."

Rainfall totals were unprecedented

Compared to previous storms, the acceleration of rainfall during Harvey was alarming, Lindner said. Within three hours, 15 inches of rain had fallen, and another 35 inches had fallen by the second day, according to HCFCD data.

One trillion gallons of water had fallen in four days, equivalent to 68 percent of Harris County’s rainfall in a normal year. The rainwater from Harvey would run through the Niagara Falls for 15 days and fill the Astrodome 3,200 times, Lindner said. The storm also dropped 6-7 more feet of precipitation than the Tax Day floods of 2016.

“Harvey exceeded the previous worse storm in American history by 14 inches,” he said. “It truly was off the charts.”

Tips for citizens caught in a flood event

Lindner said when an event like Harvey happens, it is better for community members in flooded homes to get on their roofs rather than staying in their attics.

“We learned from Hurricane Katrina that if you go into your attic, we cannot see you,” he said. “First responders cannot see you from a helicopter if you’re in your attic.”

Boat owners who are able to help during a flood should also call and coordinate with local officials for rescues, Lindner said.

“Every available government resource had been deployed,” he said. “Please call us and coordinate with us. We were sending—based on 911 calls—people to areas, and somebody had already rescued that [person] we did not know about. We were spending resources in areas that didn’t necessarily need it anymore.”


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