Royal Pines Floods Neighbor on Less Than 1″ of Rain … AGAIN

On October 28, Royal Pines flooded a neighbor on less than an inch of rain. Two months later, on December 29th, the same thing happened again. The video below provided by the homeowner shows the volume of water funneled across her property by the developer.

Video from NW corner of Royal Pines

This video and the previous one from October demonstrate the dangers of clearcutting and redirecting drainage without first constructing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.

Altering Landscape Accelerates Runoff Toward Homeowner

The homeowner who shot the video lives adjacent to the left border in the photo below. Royal Pines has apparently sloped its property toward that corner where contractors will eventually build a stormwater detention basin.

Looking N across Royal Pines. This and other photos below taken on 1/3/23.

Land now slopes toward where video was filmed at left corner. But that area used to slope in the opposite direction. See details below from the USGS NATIONAL MAP and the developer’s plans.

Green arrow on left shows location of homeowner’s property. Red X within V-shaped contour shows exact location of low point (graph on right) before clearing and grading the land.

There used to be an 8-foot drop east of the homeowner’s property. But now, instead of water flowing directly north to White Oak Creek, it flows northwest.

The general plan for Royal Pines (below) shows the same V-shape in the proposed detention basin (upper left). The line represents the edge of the floodplain and confirms that the developer A) knew about the slope and B) changed it.

Royal Pines
Royal Pines General Plan.

Silt Fence, Trench Ineffective Against That Much Water

The video above and the photos below show that silt fence makes a terrible dam against even small rains funneling toward a point from such a large area.

Exercise in futility. A series of silt fences have done little to catch and slow the water...or the silt. Note erosion deposited in woods.
Looking south. The developer apparently tried to divert runoff racing toward the homeowner with a trench. But erosion from the barren land rapidly filled it in.
Runoff also collects at the entrance to Royal Pines. Looking ENE from the entrance at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway.

Unfortunately, the developer plans to build homes there, not another detention basin.

0.88 Inches of Rain Fell in Two Hours

The graph below from the Harris County Flood Warning System shows that .88 inches of rain fell in the two afternoon hours before the homeowner shot the video.

Homeowner shot video after first two bars on left.

The table below shows that that much rain in two hours constitutes less than a 1-year rainfall event.

atlas 14 rainfall probabilities
Atlas 14 rainfall probabilities for this area.

That’s consistent with actual observed events and climate records. According to the National Weather Service, on average, we can expect rainfalls greater than 1 inch 14 times per year in Houston. That’s about once per month.

Woodridge Village Revisited

The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked the developer’s engineering company to revise its plans. The homeowner says that according to the engineer’s office, not even a 6-7 foot tall berm around that portion of the property would be enough to stop all the water flowing in that direction.

So, what lessons can we learn from this example? As with Woodridge Village, don’t clear and grade this much land before constructing detention basins!

The first sentence of Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states that “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in the state, or permit a diversion … to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/2023

1963 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Some Still Deal with PTSD, Five Years after Harvey

Five years after Harvey, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) still haunts many of the victims. Readers have written me about how hard they find it to shake painful memories.

  • Some complain about periodic flashbacks, often related to a trigger event, such as looking at a photo of a cherished possession they lost in the flood.
  • Others still panic in thunderstorms or can’t sleep when it rains.
  • Many feel rising anxiety as they track each new storm crossing the Atlantic.
  • Dozens feel anger at or get depressed by the slow pace of mitigation.
  • Two even told me recently that they may move away. Recovery after Harvey was so traumatic that they “can no longer live with the risk of flooding again” as one succinctly phrased it.

Recurring, Unwanted, Intrusive Thoughts

These different reactions represent a spectrum that most likely reflects a blend of the individuals’ experiences and tolerance for risk. The thing they all have in common: recurring, unwanted, intrusive thoughts that they find disturbing or disruptive.

Even though PTSD symptoms may not be as strong or as frequent as they were immediately after the storm, some still find them hard to shake and difficult to handle.

The Professionals’ Perspective

So, I contacted two local, highly respected therapists, Janice Costa LPC, LMFT, and Joni Adams M.A., LPC-S, to learn more.

Both said that they rarely see clients with Harvey trauma as their main complaint these days. But Harvey does often come up when dealing with clients’ other concerns.

Said Costa, “Things pile up. It wasn’t just the flood. It often relates to dealing with the aftermath.”

Chain-Reaction Traumas

That fits with what people have told me. One trauma piles on top of another. At first, it might have been throwing out treasured family heirlooms, such as a grand piano. Seeing belongings piled at the curb. Losing privacy as strangers gutted your home. Dealing with absentee contractors. Living in travel trailers for 18 months. Applying for financial aid. Waiting years for a check, then being denied. Depleting savings or cashing in their kids’ college funds to pay for repairs. Living with the consequences of that as kids apply to colleges. Losing a lifestyle once loved and friends cherished.

We’ve all heard similar stories.

The trauma caused by a storm like Harvey can have extensive and long-lasting consequences. Like a series of dominos, one thing leads to another, triggering recurrent and unwanted thoughts of the original event.

Said Costa, “They’re still trying to process one trauma, when something new happens. It’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Trigger Events

Without revealing any patient information, both Adams and Costa talked about things that trigger flashbacks.

Said Adams, “Many people find that anniversary dates of trauma events are triggers. So are stimuli similar to the client’s experience (such as heavy rain, street flooding, weather notifications, or storms in the Gulf).”  

Costa mentioned that sometimes the traumas can be unrelated or only loosely related. For instance, one reader told me about the death of a parent. The parent had taken in her daughter’s family after the storm. At the parent’s funeral, the memories of Harvey, mixed with grief, became overpowering for the daughter.

Blended Traumas

Adams echoed Costa’s observations. “Although clients may not present with Harvey complaints as their primary reason for entering therapy today, it likely still affects some. Some already had a trauma history when Harvey hit. Then they experienced more trauma in the years following. Harvey gets blended into the client’s internal reality as opposed to being seen as an isolated trauma event that happened five years ago.”

“Because of my son’s allergies, we couldn’t move back in until all the drywall repairs were finished.”

“For some clients, the correlation between Harvey and current PTSD symptoms may be clearly identifiable,” said Adams. But in others it may be hard to link symptoms directly to Harvey alone.

The woman who owned the house above, for instance, was struggling with the aftermath of a divorce and her son’s medical issues when Harvey struck. She told me with a tear in her eye, “I can’t do this anymore.” Her parting gift to Houston was emotional testimony to the SJRA board about her experience. During her talk, she broke down crying; so did some in the audience. Shortly after that, she moved closer to family in another state.

Progression of PTSD

Said Costa, “After Harvey there were people who had symptoms of PTSD within a few weeks. Some took much longer to show symptoms. Not everyone who flooded got PTSD. 

“With the flood many people dealt with multiple traumas. PTSD can often be dealt with within six months, but in some people it can become chronic and last for years. There definitely are people still suffering from PTSD caused by the flood.” 

Costa also talked about how PTSD might manifest itself in people’s lives today. It varies from client to client. “Intrusive thoughts about what they went through, avoidance of external reminders, negative changes in thoughts and mood, and changes in reactivity are all recognized symptoms. People may still be having nightmares, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts, inability to concentrate, and more anxiety than in the past.”

“Some feel like their brains are stuck in danger mode.”

Janice Costa, LPC, LMFT

Costa also talked about children and people in their seventies. “Children who have PTSD,” she said, “may be emotionally numb for a period, or have depression and/or anxiety.”

“I also see people in their seventies with these negative flashbacks,” she added. “They can crop up after being dormant for years.” When I asked about why, she theorized that it might relate to the extra time that people in retirement have to ponder life. She observed, “They aren’t consumed by the obligations of work and raising kids.”

EMDR Therapy

Many people who experience fears, anxiety, or sleep problems may not realize that therapy could help. Both Adams and Costa mentioned the success they have had with EMDR therapy. People continuing to struggle may wish to explore the EMDR International Association site. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The Association says, “EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movement), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.”

Therapists use EMDR to help people recover primarily from trauma and PTSD symptoms. However, therapists also use it to treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences.

Other therapies sometimes used include Trauma Resolution Therapy and Desensitization Therapy.

If you still experience PTSD symptoms, you may want to explore one of these alternatives. The memory of Harvey may never go away. So, it’s best to learn how to live with it. It could become burned into our collective consciousness under the heading of History. After all, we still talk about the Galveston hurricane of 1900!

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/27/22

1824 Days (Five Years) since Hurricane Harvey

Landfall Map from Hurricane Record study

Hurricane Records

Today, I discovered a fascinating 49-page document produced by the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center. It contains hurricane records going back to 1851. It covers the deadliest, costliest and most intense U.S. tropical cyclones and other frequently requested facts. Unfortunately, it only goes through 2010. But the wealth of information on the period it covers more than makes up for that.

Like the Baseball Encyclopedia for Weather Geeks

It’s like the Baseball Encyclopedia for tropical storms…a must read for weather geeks and anyone who wants to impress out-of-town friends. Texas plays a prominent role in this chronicle.

From Page 8. Mainland United States tropical cyclones causing 25 or more deaths, 1851-2010. The black numbers are the ranks of a given storm on Table 2 (e.g. 1 is the deadliest all-time – the Galveston Hurricane of 1900). The colors are the intensity of the tropical cyclone at its maximum impact on the United States.

A look at the lists reveals striking facts. For instance:

  • Fourteen out of the fifteen deadliest hurricanes ranked Category 3 or higher intensity
  • Large death tolls resulted largely from storm surge 10 feet or higher
  • A large portion of the damage in some of the costliest storms resulted from inland floods caused by torrential rains
  • One third of the 30 deadliest hurricanes ranked category 4 or higher
  • Only seven of the 30 deadliest hurricanes occurred between 1985 and 2010 while more than two thirds of the costliest hurricanes occurred during the same period.

A Look Behind the Facts

All costs are adjusted for inflation, so that’s not the major issue. Migration is. 1990 Census data showed that 85% of U.S. coastal residents from Texas to Maine had never experienced a direct hit by a major hurricane. But we have more risk now because more than 50 million people have moved to coastal areas since then.

The study warns, “If warnings are heeded and preparedness plans developed, the death toll can be minimized. However, large property losses are inevitable in the absence of a significant change of attitude, policy, or laws governing building practices (codes and location) near the ocean.”

Filled with Tables, Maps and Insight

One of the most interesting features: maps that show the tracks of record setting storms during the entire period and during each decade.

Amaze your friends with trivia, such as:

  1. Average number of tropical cyclones per year AND how it has varied in different periods.
  2. Years with the most and least hurricanes and landfalls.
  3. Earliest and latest hurricane formations (hint: March 7 and December 31).
  4. Longest- and shortest-lived hurricanes.
  5. Lowest pressure in the Atlantic basin.
  6. Most hurricanes occurring in Atlantic basin at one time.
  7. Number of hurricanes in each month.
  8. Hurricane strikes of various categories by state.
  9. When hurricanes are most likely to strike different areas.
  10. Average return periods for hurricanes in different areas.
  11. Hurricane landfall CYCLES.

That last one really caught my eye.

Hurricanes tend to cluster in certain areas during certain decades!

Biggest Lesson Learned

The study concludes with another warning. “The largest loss of life can occur in the storm surge, so coastal residents should prepare to move away from the water until the hurricane has passed! Unless this message is clearly understood by coastal residents through a thorough and continuing preparedness effort, a future disastrous loss of life is inevitable.”

To read the full study, click here.

This is a genuine work of scholarship dished up in a way that makes it accessible to the general public. That takes some talent! Credits go to Eric Blake and Christopher Landsea of the NHC, and Ethan Gibney of the National Climatic Data Center.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/8/22 based on a study by NOAA, NWS and NCDC

1774 Days since Hurricane Harvey