Local government - hurricane Harvey

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We see a lot of articles here about how our government is dysfunctional, and at a national level it pretty much is.  However, here in Texas our local government knows how to act in an emergency.  They understand we cant wait for the Feds to provide relief, they understand they have to take the lead in mitigating a disaster. 

 

We have a very effective county level of government, which normally we dont see much of, until there are disasters like Harvey.  Then they step up and organize the efforts to set up shelters, to get people out of harms way, and to request the help that is useful from the Feds.  They help to coordinate resources so we had something like 200 shelters in place within a couple of days of the flooding starting.  They worked with the city to organize large shelters at the Convention Centers, which each held a peak of 10K people.  These shelters came with cots, food, clothing, minor medical supplies.  Eventually when FEMA showed up, they had tables where people could get help filing forms online for their insurance and flood relief.  These places were staffed with volunteers, they were clean, orderly, and safe, since they also had onsite security.  You can contrast this with the disaster that was the  Superdome during Katrina.  These shelters appeared almost immediately, and the logistics of this can only boggle the mind, since they were set up in the midst of the flood with rain falling at multiple inches per hour.

 

There were a great many citizens who showed up with boats, and high water trucks to help people get out of harms way.  These folks were made more effective because of the work of the county workers.  They set up the assembly points where people went to volunteer, they organized where the help was most needed and directed the rescue efforts.  

 

The country published maps on line that showed what roads were flooded so people and  supplies could navigate the city.  With many, many roads flooded, finding a route from A to B, to help people was not easy. 

 

The local government is giving high praise to FEMA in this disaster, but that is because they know how to use FEMA.  They ask for supplies, but they dont depend on FEMA for organization.  They asked for high water military trucks and got them within hours.  They asked for cots for people to sleep on , and got them within hours.  They didnt expect FEMA to set up shelters, and organize local restaurants to provide food for those people, how could FEMA know the city well enough to do that? 

 

Local governments need to take the lead in these kinds of situations.  They know where the problems are, they know what areas will flood, and what buildings are safe to use as shelters.  We can expect the Feds to provide resources, but we cant expect the Feds to provide logistics.  Logistics are everything in this kind of situation.  You have to get help to people who need it.

 

This is  an article about what a local Houston grocery had to do, to keep as many stores as it could functioning, so it could get food and supplies to people.  It is an interesting read.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/inside-story-what-took-keep-texas-grocery-chain-running-chip-cutter

 

This is not something new.  I have lived through four hurricanes in Houston, a couple were direct hits like Ike, which took  down the Houston power for almost a week.  In all these cases the city and county governments went above and beyond  what  I think would be reasonable. In all these situations they solved the problems first, with the help of our friends and neighbors, and ask for help from the Feds later.  When people asked the Mayor how this will be paid for, he simply said, we have to make everyone safe as soon as possible, and sort out the money with FEMA later, we dont know what they will pay for  right now, and we dont care.

 

Of course there will be the usual fraud, and insurance scams afterward.  That comes with every disaster like this.  But the important thing I see is that we have a government in place that can avoid chaos when the area gets into trouble.  They calmly and carefully address the problems, and things get done.

 

A special shout out for our first responders, many of which didnt get to go home during the flood, but had to sleep at work, because roads were not passable.  They worked to help people, not always knowing what their situation was at home.  However, their efforts would not have been nearly as effective without the leadership and planning that our local governments had done. 

 

I have complaints about the city like anyone does.  Im sure mistakes were made, but I continue to be impressed with how this level of government, in this state, works when times are toughest.  Im sure a lot of that has to do with the attitude of most Texans which is that we take care of our own.  We dont wait for others to come to our rescue.  Michael Dell donated $36M to help with the recovery.  I dont care how much money you have, that is a lot.  Lets hope it is wisely spent.

Comments

Dino Manalis Added Sep 4, 2017 - 8:51am
Good, I'm glad the president also donated $1 million for disaster relief, local; state; and federal governments have to work together to help people and businesses recover from the disaster.
Skip Stein Added Sep 4, 2017 - 9:37am
Great story and update.  I'm from Texas/Houston and the spirit of the people is amazing.  A true testament to how the core of America responds to each other.  No one cares about race/color/creed, just people in trouble being helped by others; who themselves have been devastated but able to assist.
 
It also demonstrates and very visibly shows the falsehood of the liberal groups who spew hate, do violence and try to destroy America; their absence in force, aid and comments speaks VOLUMES of their true evil nature.
 
God Bless Texas and the USA.  #MAGA and more!
Thomas Sutrina Added Sep 4, 2017 - 9:44am
Actually a lot of local government are effective.  It seems that as the city gets larger it gets more dysfunctional.  I relate this to may experience in large corporations.  Those directly serving the customers know what they want.  But the manager one level up has less contact.  Three layers up and the manager has no contact with the customers but has a lot of contact with those dealing with money.  What is important to that upper manager is the decisions he is making.  He measures performance of the managers below him on how well they help him achieve his goals.  
 
In cities the measure of performance is the political goals of the party.  If they are not focused on people individually then the city will not be focused on individuals.  Progressivism, modern liberalism, socialism what ever you want to call the philosophy of the Democratic party and leadership in the Republican Party think about  collective groups like race groups or income groups and dealing with the group problems.  Individuals within a group are expected to blend into the group that they are a member of.   The welfare of an individual is not considered since they should have blended in.
 
Dysfunctional government occurs when individuals do not blend in to the group and do thing opposed to the group.  Government that does not consider people will not follow the group rules can not deal with them effectively.
 
Those Citizens that decided to help each other are examples of rogue actions of individuals.  Embrace them and adjust the government's actions is what Texas has done.   Ask them to fit into the plan that government created is New Orleans.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 9:52am
Thomas, some truth to that.  The county and city  government in Houston are less political than most.  What I mean by that, is that I cant tell you what party any given council member is, or the what party is the county government.  As you say, they  are close to the action, and need to make things work.
 
Houston is pretty large, the 4th largest US city.  So I dont know if the politics comes in as a function of size.  I suspect it comes in based on the political aspirations of the politicians.  The people in city council are not trying to run for Governor, or President.  Our county leader has been in place for more than 20 years, and he is not trying to run for another office. 
 
They are not trying to cover their ass, or spin things when times get tough.  They are member of the community.  The truly impressive thing is the amount of planning ahead of time that goes into making the logistics work, under these kinds of circumstances.
Thomas Sutrina Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:07am
Actually the thinking I presented how the city became dysfunctional.  The city did not have a functional evacuation plan.  So they did not call for an evacuation because they would have people in their cars not moving on the roads if tornadoes spun up by the hurricane happened.  They treated the city population as a body of one.  They should have had an organized neighborhood by neighborhood evacuation plan in place with the city vehicles blocking access by other neighborhoods to the evacuation route.  Thus the most prone to flooding by salt water and then rain areas of the city would have been evacuated first. 
 
The opening up of the flood gates to lower the reservoirs was a plan able event.  A day or two before they were actually open gates, the evacuation of the neighborhoods that would be flooded could have happened with time to move good up stairs or out on a truck.  They even should have knew how high the water would be by address.  
 
Flood insurance could have been sold.  In fact it should be sold in any river valley in the country today.  The likelihood of a flood in Huston of this size was a century event so the fee would have been a penny on a $1000 value.    And the government could have regulated that into every home insurance package.  Those with a risk of a century event like flood and tornado be covered at this very low rate as part of home owners insurance.  A fee of less then $10 per year for 90% of the homes.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:25am
Thomas, it would be helpful if you spoke of things that you know about.
 
1. It is not possible to safely evacuate a county of 8M people.  It just cant be done. Where would they go? how would you get them gas, food, water, shelter, etc.  They DID evacuate those areas that were most flood prone, near the levees, and near the Brazos River and Buffalo Bayou.  That seems like a sensible compromise.  We had areas of mandatory evacuation and areas of voluntary.
 
Years ago with a previous hurricane they tried to voluntarily evacuate the city, it was a mess, and only a small fraction of the city actually hit the road.  You had cars running out of gas on the highways, you had people stuck without water in 100 degree temperature.  They had opened the freeways both sides to go away from Houston, but it just could not accommodate all the cars, and there wasn't enough gas and supplies to keep everyone moving.  You can say this is poor planning, but no one can plan how to move 8M people, and get them on the road safely. 
 
2. Flood insurance WAS sold, and many people DO have flood insurance. In fact if you live in the 100 year flood plane, it is required to get flood insurance in order to get a mortgage.   Some of the areas that flooded were not in the 500 year flood plain, and we had rivers that rose higher than in any recorded history.  So yes SOME homes flooded that  did not have flood insurance.  Many had insurance.
 
3. Most of the flooding of Buffalo Bayou was due to the rain.  About 10% of the flooding is due to opening the flood gates, as not a lot of water is being let go each hour.  Most of the rain had passed before they started letting water out of the reservoirs. Yes it slows down the rate at which the water recedes.  People within the flood prone area of the Bayou were mandated to evacuate, not all of them did.  People do what they do.  The police had to go door to door to get them out.
 
Unlike you I live in Houston, and I have little problem with how this flood was handled.  Most cities, if they received 50 inches of rain, would have fared worst than Houston in my estimation.
MJ Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:27am
Great article Bill!  I am sure Donald Trump`s quick response had a lot to do with the positive outcome and help to the people in distress.
I just LOVE your President!
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:33am
MJ, what exactly did DT do in Houston?  Yes FEMA released some trucks, and the Coast Guard did its usual spectacular work, but that doesnt require action from the President.  His visit actually was a bit of a nuisance, since the rescue helicopters had to stop flying while he was here.
 
Best I can tell the Feds are just now getting up to speed with how to help with the rebuilding, and yes their help will be appreciated.  However, the Feds are not able to do much when the disaster is happening.  That is up to the local government, and local population.
S.R. Morris Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:33am
Make no mistake, Houston like all cities which fall victim of natural disaster, will look to the Federal government for mountains of aid. In other words, the great state of Texas takes care of its own no more than the great state of Louisiana.
MJ Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:42am
Bill, all Trump needed to do was to show up and he did.
What did the previous one do with Katrina?
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:48am
S.R - First I was speaking about the role of people during the disaster. 
 
We did not have people sitting and waiting for the Feds to help, while the rain was falling.  We did not have the scene of the Superdome, where people went without food, without security, without volunteers, and without local organization.  The Superdome turned into a truly dangerous place to be during Katrina.   We did not have to bring in the Army in order to restore order, and help get the city functioning.
 
I think anyone close to either of these disasters can appreciate the difference in how it was handled by local governments during the disaster. 
 
Yes there will be Fed funds needed to help with  the rebuilding.  I hope it doesnt all disappear into a black political hole like it did in Louisiana.   Louisiana got some $120B in Federal relief and three years later many of its schools had still not reopened.  Five years after the event people were still trying to figure out where the money had disappeared to.  Lets hope we do better in Houston.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:50am
MJ, the difference in saving people is not whether the President shows up or not. Trump showing up in Houston saved not a single life, or provided a single person shelter.  The role of the Feds will come later, when the rebuilding starts.
 
Obviously you havent lived through one of these things.  Read my article about all the things that were done to help mitigate the disaster.  These were done by local government people, who largely disappeared during Katrina.
MJ Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:53am
Bill with all due respect you do not understand the emotional value of a President being present just after a disaster.
Maybe, just maybe because of his visit everyone pulled together?
MJ Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:56am
I have noticed you did not reply to my question about Katrina?
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 12:12pm
Well MJ, I was in the disaster, so think I know at least as much  as someone half a world away.  I live in Houston, in case you didnt read the  article.   The city was already pulled together before he showed  up.  He didnt do any  harm, but he hardly was the reason why the city did as well as it did.
 
Reasonably the Feds cant do much during a disaster.  They dont know the city, and they cant get resources in place fast enough to make a difference.  They also dont have the local logistical plans for every  city, that a county and mayors office has.   What the Feds can do is help once the situation is stabilized.
 
In Katrina, yes Bush made a bad situation worse.  However, most of the problem was that the local government abandoned the city when the floods started, and they waited for the Feds to come and rescue them. In Katrina local police were participating in the looting.  The Feds had to send in the Army to restore order more than a week after the flood because the local government could not get things under control.  So that was the  big difference.  If we waited for the Feds before lifting a finger, our situation would  have been much worse as well.
Dave Volek Added Sep 4, 2017 - 3:57pm
Bill:
 
Great article. I spent a little time in Houston in the 1980s and I learned that Houston is not one big city. It is a collection about 20 municipal governments, each with its own mayor and council. I am wondering if you have any comments on how well these jurisdictions worked together so well.
 
I am also wondering, and you kind of alluded to, about the lack of political party lines in your municipal government(s). Are your munificipal elections fairly free of party politics?
 
 
 
Mentor Added Sep 4, 2017 - 6:02pm
its nice that everything is now getting in place
Bill Kamps Added Sep 4, 2017 - 9:48pm
Dave, the county Judges (Commissioners most other places ), really take the lead on the disaster mitigation.  That helps tie the cities together.  The counties each have their emergency centers.  The Judges are really the unsung heroes in that they actually have logistical plans for what to do when there are hurricanes, power outages, etc.  The counties did a good job of keeping people informed of the evacuation routes that were still possible.  They worked together rather well as the storm moved from Victoria, to Houston to Beaumont.
 
The logistics are really what are fairly amazing. When the Convention Centers opened each for 10K people, there were volunteers in place, to get people situated, there was a buffet line from multiple restaurants, clothes for people, and a computer process in place to check people in and out.  They didnt just open the doors and let people fend for themselves.  There were some 200 shelters operating in the city, and by all accounts, the people that went there were well treated.
 
Something else I thought that was fairly amazing.  When the rain started all the buses were taken off line and moved to high ground.  Once they started needing to move people around, they used the Metro buses to move people to the shelters from the assembly points, and then move them between shelters to balance the load.  This kind of thing doesnt happen  without  prior planning.
 
The elections for city government, city council, and county government really do not identify closely  with parties.  From living here 30 years, these are fairly common sense people.  While no government is perfect, the fact that they keep a lot of the left/right fighting out of the mix, makes it easier for them to work together when they need to.  Some of the county Judges have been in place for 20 years or more, so this helps a lot, these  are not politicians looking for their next position.   You dont become county Judge, and not expect to work your butt off.
Leroy Added Sep 4, 2017 - 10:15pm
Great article.  I wondered why it appeared to be more successful than in the past.  I think people will remember the pathetic responses by Bush and O and say what a great job Trump has done.  Has he done anything?   I doubt it.  Nevertheless, he may get the credit. 
 
Sounds like Texas is the model to follow worldwide.  I learned something.
Dave Volek Added Sep 4, 2017 - 11:03pm
Thanks Bill. That was a good synopsis that there are other ways to do governance. I agree with Leroy: Texas should be a model.
Flying Junior Added Sep 5, 2017 - 2:32am
Dino,
This article was not about the president.  BTW, he has not yet donated $50.  Chances are that he will release the money from his foundation not his checking account if he ever gives one cent.
Flying Junior Added Sep 5, 2017 - 2:36am
More to the point, thank you Bill for a first hand account. God bless the people of Texas.  Walter Cronkite grew up in Houston, born about five years before my Dad.  Hurricanes.  Humid, hot summers.  Must be something going on.  I believe it's the jazz and blues on the radio and in the clubs.
 
Remember, October is always beautiful.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 5, 2017 - 2:43am
A lot of people tend to forget that local government makes up the first responders to any disaster, large or small.
wsucram15 Added Sep 5, 2017 - 3:50am
MJ..
Its not very Christian of you to judge another when you yourself live in a glass house. I dont think that is approved in the bible by Jesus.

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE AFFECTED BY THIS? Trump did not visit them all, my cousins are down there and they didnt see him..they were helping. 
The Texans learned from Katrina, NOLA is the neighbor on the east and aren't waiting on the federal govt after seeing what happened during Katrina in Texas and in New Orleans.  But it has nothing to do with Trump, yet.

With regard to that "other President" ..it was Bush, Im sure you were trying to insult someone else which would really have been a waste of your time.   Bush had his shortcomings and his reaction to Katrina was horrible.  But what was MUCH WORSE was the treatment by the federal government to the victims of Katrina and New Orleans in general.   So you completely missed the point of Presidential visit in response of federal aid.
 
Flying Junior Added Sep 5, 2017 - 3:56am
wsu
 
You dumbass bitch to call out another commentor on their Christianity.
wsucram15 Added Sep 5, 2017 - 4:12am
Sorry Bill.. The article was great and I hope all goes well in Texas. Keep us updated.  Im glad FEMA was more prepared and funded this time around.
wsucram15 Added Sep 5, 2017 - 4:25am
Flying Junior..
Your lack of knowledge on Christianity or MJ and I, is astounding.
If you think she is the only person I ever called out on judging..you would be mistaken. If you think I have not been called out on different things, you would be mistaken.
Christians are supposed to do that, its actually in the bible.  James 5:19-20.  If its public, call it out publicly, if its not then handle privately.
She has "called me out" as well. 
So here is my thing people call me out on..
Go Fuck yourself....sideways until you know what you are talking about.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Sep 5, 2017 - 5:33am
Good on ya Bill. Informative. Long road ahead but they planned their work and appear to be working their plan. Sounds like you're on top of it too. 
Bill Kamps Added Sep 5, 2017 - 6:59am
The big  thing I have seen is there has to be a plan, and that plan has to evolve over time as we see what works and what doesnt work.  The Feds cant be expected to fill that role of what to do when the rain is falling, that would mean that they have plan for each major metro area, and that is just impossible. 
 
There are certain things the Feds can do.  Certainly the  Coast Guard plays a big role because of their helicopters, and their skill at rescuing people.  The Coast Guard did some fabulous work.  The Feds can also make equipment available, big trucks, generators, etc.  But the locals have to have a plan to deploy them.
 
The Red Cross has large trucks that are set up to serve hot meals.  Quite a few restaurants set up food lines at shelters, at the police station downtown, and other locations to feed people.  
 
What helped tremendously were the online maps the county provided that showed the flooded areas and what roads were passable.  First responders, volunteers, and any kind of help, has to get where it is needed, and if you dont know the open roads, it can be impossible to get from A to B.
 
The Feds role really comes in after the fact.  Paying the flood insurance in a timely way, FEMA with its recovery resources, and helping people get back on their feet, providing temporary housing for those people completely out of their homes, helping to pick up debris.  Last week already, the Mayor was asking for trucks and crews to help the city start picking up the debris that people pulled from their homes.  The city has some of this, but not nearly enough.
 
We are fortunate that most of the people who were flooded can still live in their homes.  Most got under 3 feet of water, and while this is awful, you can still live there once you take out the carpets, and wet drywall.  There are 2-3 areas of the city where the homes flooded to the roof, and some buildings flooded to the second floor.  These areas will need temp housing and we will see how well FEMA does at that.
 
It is easy to compare to Katrina and NOLA, but that was a much more complicated situation.  In NOLA the city is below sea level, so the water came  in and did not leave.  They lost power in nearly the whole city, and we did not, we did not lose water supply in Houston.   In Beaumont they lost water, and you could see how much  more complicated things got, trying to get water to even a modest sized city.  Bottled water is very heavy and difficult to  move enough to take care of a city.
 
The big failure in NOLA was a failure of local government.  Yes it took the Feds too long to move in, but the problem there was everyone sat around and did little to nothing until they showed up.  By then they had to send in the Army  because the city was falling into chaos. 
 
It is easy to blame a President, or give credit to a President, but we all know when the rain is falling he cant do jack.  All he can do is tell the Fed agencies to cooperate and help. In the case of Trump, Im sure he hasnt spent a lot of time thinking about FEMA, and nor should he.  Bush said some really stupid things during Katrina and that just showed how disconnected he was.  He did the same thing with his "Mission Accomplished" during the Iraq war.  Publicly being clueless is not a good thing in a President.  Trump was fine, he showed up, he said more or less the right things, and said there was a lot of work to be done.  That's all he  really can do.  How well FEMA does will depend a lot on how the agency has evolved over the past few years, not so much what has happened on Trump's watch.
 
George N Romey Added Sep 5, 2017 - 11:18am
Good to hear the local resources were there.  We're look to see how long term FEMA and other agencies do.  The question is what will this and the potential Irma storm do to the viability of the insurance industry?
wsucram15 Added Sep 5, 2017 - 1:48pm
When did we ever discuss yosemite and yellowstone?  Just refresh my memory. I have never been to Montana but do know Yellowstone is there.  I know Yosemite though a fried of mine did her recovery there. Weird but true.
 
I dont like judging you know that...and you do it alot with a place that I live in...  you live as a white person in a corrupt South Africa...its like the pot calling the kettle black.  Now dont give me a bunch of crap about that.  You refuse to talk about that, you  come on here and talk about the US, like you understand the place. 
 
I tried to approach you as a christian, take offends if you like but look up my reference of James 5:19-20.  Then talk to me. 
 
I mean really MJ.  Im going to argue with you anytime you talk crap about my country..we have discussed this, I do not disrespect you.  You can have any opinion you like even that America sucks..as long as it is justified by what you speak and honest.
Just like when you didnt like how the helicopter pilots didnt evacuate the towers by landing to help people on the top floors.  Your rescue people would have done better..maybe they would have.  But it didnt happen there.  It happened here and you had no idea what you were judging..again.
I will address you as a Christian..if you want to disrespect and judge others.
Donna Added Sep 5, 2017 - 1:52pm
Bill- I am glad you and your family, friends are all well. That is the most important thing i took from all of this..You are safe!! I was sent a clip from 60 minutes on a man from  out there who opened his whole store to all..What a humble man he is, My Best to all who have been inflicted by this horrible storm..long road ahead, but form all i have read and seen, you are well organized as you said, and will survive, Texas Style..)0(
Bill Kamps Added Sep 5, 2017 - 2:46pm
Thanks Donna.  Funny you dont look like a Donna, but I guess that is another story.  
 
Yes I am fine, I live in the oldest part of the city, which is also the highest in elevation so we did not flood.  However, I was not able to get to the office today because there are only two bridges over Buffalo Bayou that are not covered up, and I didnt get to one of them before the traffic was so bad I decided to work from home.  
 
Mattress Mack is the guy with the furniture store.  He has some rather campy commercials for his furniture stores.  He opened his multiple stores as shelters and allowed people to sleep on his unsold furniture.  He also brought in food and clothes for the people that came to his place.  He always steps up, and helps people when he  can. 
 
Donna Added Sep 5, 2017 - 3:36pm
Bill- that is my dad, i use the picture in his memory. He passed in 2016.
Yes the Mattress King! The man is an amazing soul..When you hear him speak, it is as though he owes all of them, so humble..
Glad you were not in the zone, although i am sure many friends and family, co-workers are.
Jenifer Frost Added Sep 5, 2017 - 5:03pm
What a mess it was, but it is good to know that things are getting better. 
Dave Volek Added Sep 5, 2017 - 9:04pm
Bill
I have another angle to your story that maybe you can shed some light on. CBC TV showed us an areal map of metro-Houston. The engineer inside me saw that there really wasn't a great path for water to clear out in this very flat city.
 
Would you say this was a failure somehow in governance to develop a city plan for more bayous and reservoirs to move and store water in big rainstorms?
 
Would you say that the system of mostly non-partisan county judges--now that a Tuesday morning quarterback can really see the plays that should have been played--be able to take some of those damaged areas and zone them for water control?
 
What happens in Houston will be so interesting!
 
 
 
MJ Added Sep 5, 2017 - 11:11pm
Sorry, I don`t do boring!
Bill Kamps Added Sep 6, 2017 - 11:52am
Dave, like every city there are a few plans that never got implemented that would have drained the area better.  The matter is complicated.  For example the dams and levees are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers.  They do a great job, but changing things literally requires an act of Congress, and you know how much they get done these days.  The Corps was out  in force during the storm to  make sure  everything was working ok.  For example one levee had some seepage, and they had to determine if there was risk of it breaking, there wasnt as  it turned out.
 
One big issue is that we have huge reservoirs on the west side of the city, and they filled up. Normally they are empty and are golf courses, and picnic  areas.   We dont have an underground way of draining them into the Ship Canal.  That would keep the drainage from keeping the flood waters high along Buffalo Bayou, which is what is happening now.  Most of the  bridges over the Bayou are still impassable, and of course the water in the homes near the Bayou is not going down because of the reservoir  drainage.   Changing anything with the reservoir requires Congress acts.
 
A second issue, is that  there is a fair bit of land near the Brazos river that used to be pasture, and was really bottom land.  I know someone that used to own some of that land before they put homes on it, and it routinely flooded when they  owned it.  They had to move the cows out of the water so they wouldnt get stranded. So developers built where they really shouldnt have, and now people's homes flood a lot.
 
It is difficult to stop people from building on land for many reasons. And if people aren't going to bother to get a topo map, when they buy near one of the largest rivers in the state, then are they doing their own due diligence? 
 
The flood insurance does stop, if you flood too often, so if there is a mortgage, and your flood insurance stops, you wont be able to rebuild.   However, that is an expensive way to limit where the  homes get put.
 
Anything to do with water is very complex because of all the agencies that get involved.  Its does not matter how well the people work together.  We do have quite a few holding ponds, now, that store water so the smaller bayous have more time to drain before leaving their  banks.  The city is supposedly set up to get 15 inches a day and drain ok, that sounds about right since we got more than 25 inches in 24 hours this time around.  When it rains enough, no plan works very well.
Thomas Napers Added Sep 7, 2017 - 5:10am
“Im sure a lot of that has to do with the attitude of most Texans which is that we take care of our own.”
 
Perhaps it has a lot to do with that attitude and perhaps it has to do with the socio economic makeup of Houston to New Orleans.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact the Federal Government learned a lot from Katrina.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact a lot of private boat owners from many states made many rescues and in Katrina they never thought to do that.  Perhaps it has to do with the density of New Orleans to Houston. Perhaps it has to do with something I didn't name.  Perhaps it has to with a combination of things.  We may never know for sure why things didn't get as bad in Houston as they did in New Orleans.
 
Besides, is taking care of your own really something to be proud of during times of need?  Sometimes the bigger person is one with enough modesty to know when to ask for help. 
Bill Kamps Added Sep 7, 2017 - 6:26am
Thomas, I agree, no two hurricanes and situations are the same.  NOLA was a much more complicated situation, if for no other reason, than a lot of it is below sea level.  I think all governments and citizens a like learned a lot from Katrina.
 
My point on taking care of our own probably overstated things, but the main things is that the local government was present and working hard during the flood, not waiting for the Feds.
 
Let's hope Florida gets through Irma with a minimum of problems.
Even A Broken Clock Added Sep 7, 2017 - 10:46am
Bill, I agree with you that the response organized through the governments of Houston and the surrounding towns was an order of magnitude better than that of Katrina and New Orleans. The difference in the death toll speaks loudly about the better response, and it is the initial response that has to be done by the people in place in the community. The Federal response has to come later with the programs set up for recovery.
 
I also applaud Houston for taking the lessons of Allison to heart. I saw the huge water-tight doors set up in the hospitals that kept the hospital system from flooding like it did in Allison. Just having the hospitals available vs. the flooded hulks lacking power in New Orleans was a great benefit.
 
I've written about the chemical plant and refinery end of this - for the most part, they also seem to have come through with remarkably little damage.
 
I also wish Florida good luck with Irma and hope that the core would stay about 40 miles off the east coast instead of the path being shown as of Thursday morning. That path (eye over Miami) would be horrendous.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 8, 2017 - 9:08am
Clock, each of these storms is different and bring  about different challenges.  That is why the local government needs to be on top of the situation it is not easy, because of the differences. 
 
Many tall buildings learned a lesson from Alicia, that their basements with their electrical equipment are at risk.  The building itself may be able to stand a hurricane, but a  high rise of any kind without electricity is not safe.
 
I see so many comments on different blogs about the Feds response to Harvey, etc.  The Feds help with the recovery, and they help in some niche areas during the disaster itself, but the Feds cant take the lead, because they dont know the city.  They cant have the city/county plans for what to do.
 
Several years ago we got a direct hit from hurricane Ike.  That was a more typical hurricane, less rain, and lots more wind.  Power was out in large parts of the city for a week or more.  We didnt flood, but had no power for two weeks, because of the large number of trees in our area.   So while both Harvey and Ike were hurricanes, the problems the city faced were very different.
 
 
George N Romey Added Sep 8, 2017 - 11:20am
Here I sit in Florida waiting.  I've left Miami and gone about 60 miles north to my brother as Miami is supposedly going to be in the eye of the storm.  I saw something on RT yesterday that FEMA only had about half a billion in cash to assist with storm recovery.  Too much money on bombs as usual and not enough for the US and its people.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 8, 2017 - 11:25am
George, stay safe.  Im not sure if 60 miles is far enough, but certainly it is better than not moving.  Hopefully you wont have to move again.
 
FEMA will  get more money, but as I described in this post, FEMA is not going to save the day while the storm is raging.  Much will depend on the planning that was done beforehand by the local government.
 
Unfortunately Irma is the real deal.  With most hurricanes, the high winds and storm surge cause most of the damage, since it doesnt rain long enough to cause flooding from the rain.  Harvey was an exception, for most of its life being more of a tropical storm, than a hurricane. 
Dave Volek Added Sep 8, 2017 - 9:34pm
Thanks for explanation Bill. These water issues are complex indeed. I hope there's no rebuilding in the lower areas.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 9, 2017 - 1:58pm
Bill,
Good article, and inspiring.  I suspect Houston did learn a thing or two from Katrina, including what not to do.  
 
This demonstrates what good government can do.  The locals have a vested interest in on-spot, on-time priority-setting, at least.  Deal with the problems now, and with the costs later.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 9, 2017 - 1:59pm
George R,
Good luck to you.  Maybe if we have more expensive hurricanes, we won't have the time or money to spend on bombs.