It’s Official: Harvey Flood Mitigation Is Taking Longer than World War II

Sunday, May 9th will mark a special day in the history of flood mitigation. We will have spent more time responding to Hurricane Harvey – and accomplishing little – than it took us to win World War II. December 7, 1941 to VJ Day on August 15, 1945 was 1349 days. On May 9, 2021, it will have been 1349 days since Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas and the Gulf Coast.

USS Arizona burning after forward magazine exploded, afternoon of December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

What Happened to American Determination and Unity?

After Harvey, we stood united in a sense of grief, loss and determination. We vowed to implement measures that would make us more resilient against such storms in the future.

In the Lake Houston Area, we had a three part mitigation strategy:

  • More upstream detention to help offset future releases from Lake Conroe.
  • Dredging to eliminate blockages in the rivers.
  • Additional flood gates on Lake Houston so we can shed water as fast as Lake Conroe sends it downstream.

Less in. Faster through. More out.

Grading the Report Card

So how have we done?

We Need More Emphasis on Action

Imagine if we had still been studying an appropriate response to Pearl Harbor after 1349 Days. Somehow, we’ve confused studying problems with fixing them. Thought has become disconnected from action, or worse, substituted for it. This is not America’s finest hour.

It’s not that we can’t mitigate flooding problems. It’s that we’re not organized to do so in a timely way. We study these things endlessly. We value perfection more than protection.

We have compounded a natural disaster with:

  • “Paralysis through analysis”
  • Divided responses on the federal, state and local levels that have no central coordinator
  • Contradictory priorities between upstream and downstream interests
  • Complex, often contradictory, organizational requirements.

We CAN Be the Solution

We need to re-engineer business processes to focus on what matters:

  1. Helping people rebuild their homes, businesses and infrastructure…
  2. And reducing the risk of future disasters…
  3. In the least amount of time possible.

That’s it. It’s that simple. The first two are clear statements of intent to unify purpose. And the third is a simple goal by which everyone involved can measure individual efforts.

In the coming days, I will publish a series of articles on how to streamline the business processes built up around flood mitigation and disaster relief. One will be authored by George P. Bush, the state’s highest disaster relief official. And another will be anonymous to allow several people to speak freely and frankly.

My goal is to stimulate a public dialog that can help us get closer to the goals listed above.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/7/2021

1347 Days since Hurricane Harvey