Hurricane Harvey’s Hot Pocket

Well, The Board has been on something of a hiatus for a few weeks, but I suppose I owe it to my readers to live blog about Harvey. I personally am safe and fairly dry right now and should be safe in a couple of days when this storm finally starts ending for people who have things as good as I do. Many others have not been so fortunate, and many more will face the effects of this storm for at least two more weeks. The Brazos River is going to flood, perhaps the severest flood ever recorded. Communities near the river are already being evacuated. The San Jacinto River, which circles around the northern and eastern sides of Houston is also expected to flood.

After losing a vehicle to the Tax Day Floods of 2016 I decided to evacuate to higher ground and better shelter only five miles away. After a two nights away I decided to return home since there weren’t any reports of major street flooding in my area. I thought I had planned the safest way home, but the street I had planned to use to get to a street I knew never floods was being shut down. They were still letting people out, but no one was allowed in because the local retention and drainage project was expected to spill over within hours. Even though there was just a little water on the outbound side I turned around, because I never drive through water. I was able to get on the road home down a back street that has been known to flood often, but it was passable, and I am home safe. Looks like I didn’t really need to shelter elsewhere as there is no flood debris on my street, and more importantly, none in my apartment’s parking area. Even so, I didn’t want to face the risk and am glad I left.

Harvey started out as not that unusual a storm. It was a small Caribbean storm that hit the Yucatan. Usually, these lose organization and just make a lot of rain in Mexico that they often don’t really mind there. Now and then, like Harvey, these storms re-form over the western Gulf of Mexico waters that I like to call the Hot Pocket. But they seldom get this intense. A high pressure system over central and western Texas slowed Harvey down and gave it time to strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane. This is very strong, and the devastation in Rockport and other areas near the landfall point is severe. I do not mean in any way to be insensitive to the losses of those further south, but it’s good Harvey hit a less populated area. I hate to imagine the devastation from wind and storm surge if Harvey had directly hit Houston and the densely populated upper coast.

Harvey is not over yet. Normally a storm like this would have just plowed and raged and be in Oklahoma by now. The same high pressure system that slowed Harvey and allowed it to grow, coupled with a high pressure system over Mississippi, have brought Harvey to a standstill. Rain which might normally have fallen in Nebraska, Missouri, or even Illinois, is falling in East Texas, and now also Louisiana.

Climate projection models mostly say that already wet East Texas is going to become wetter as the earth warms. I wonder if Harvey-like storms will be how that happens. I’ve already written about the ambitions plans to protect the Galveston Bay area from storm surge, but how can we protect against future Harveys? It’s already illegal in these parts to pour concrete without building a retention pond system.

This ongoing struggle here in SE Texas shows that global warming simply cannot be adapted to. Mitigation is the only real option in the ongoing debate.




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