The letter below expresses disagreement with two recent ReduceFlooding.com posts about a proposed Flood Mitigation Benefits Index. It is from Michael Bloom, P.E. While I disagree with almost all of his claims, I am reprinting his letter verbatimbecause I encourage healthy debate. Compare the posts and draw your own conclusions. – Bob Rehak, Host, ReduceFlooding.com.
Why are we Using the Index When it Produces Inconsistent Results that are Not Intuitive? Mr. Rehak provides an example that holds the current population and current risk the same, but changes the total prior investment amounts, as illustrated in the table below:
Prior Investment ($)
Current Population (Number)
Current Risk (% Annual Chance)
Mr. Rehak looks at these results and writes: “So, spending more money to get the same results increases benefits? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? That’s both depressing and confusing. You spend 10X the money; flood risk remains the same; and the “benefit” increases!!!??? You would think spending less money to achieve identical results would be more beneficial. It certainly is for taxpayers.”
Everyone should be depressed and confused by this result if the FMBI was illustrating the results for the same location. Mr. Rehak appears to make that inference when he writes: “spending more money to get the same results increases benefits.”
But Area A and Area B are two different locations. The FMBI is just telling us what the current conditions are at two different locations in the county. One location had 10 times the prior investment than the other – but both locations still have the same current risk.
Worse, in this case, BOTH locations have risks that are ten times the current standard of care for new developments – which require structures to have less than a 1% annual chance of inundation. Clearly, both locations need more flood risk investment. The FMBIs of 2 and 20 both are extremely low, meaning they need help, regardless of the prior investments. A high FMBI indicates that no additional help is needed in that location. A low FMBI indicates that additional help is needed in that location.
The table included in the middle of my February 17, 2022, post entitled “How Should We Decide Where to Invest in Flood Risk Reduction?” presents additional examples showing how the FMBI changes from location to location with only one changed variable. It also provides narrative explanations of each sequence. Notice how the index values are greater than 3,000 (sometimes greater than 20,000 or 100,000) in locations where the current annual chance of inundation is less than 1%? Again, a high FMBI means we don’t need to make more investments in that location. A low FMBI means that location needs more help.
Isn’t the FMBI Trying to Prove Inequitable Investments in Flood Risk Reduction? To some extent, partially, yes, it is. This was always an important aspect of the FMBI, when it was originally proposed as the “Flood Benefits Index (FBI)” by Dr. Erthea Nance and Iris Gonzalez in May 2021. I have continued to advocate for its use as one of four input variables we should use to create our county-wide “heat map.” This is explained in more detail in my other article. Mr. Rehak is concerned about the taxpayer. I am also. I don’t think the taxpayers of Harris County should pay for flood risk reduction projects in areas that already have a high FMBI. Said another way, it is a waste of taxpayer money to invest in additional flood risk reduction projects in areas currently with less than a 1% annual chance of inundation.
Isn’t the FMBI Measuring per capita Investment Associated with a Certain Level of Flood Risk and Mistakenly Calling that a “Benefit?” Mr. Rehak writes: “The more people you help with any given sum, the more the benefit goes down. Voila! That makes it look as though the highly populated watersheds (that have received the overwhelming majority of prior investments) have received little benefit. And that may be the point of this formula. It will send even more money to those same areas.”
This interpretation again seems to stem, I think, from Mr. Rehak’s belief that the index will be used to compare the same location at different times – before and after various investments. This is not the proposed use of the index. The proposal is to use the index to describe the current conditions at all locations in the county at the same time.
I’m not sure I understand Mr. Rehak’s concern about the index being a per capita value. The more people in an area who benefit from prior investments the better. Wouldn’t we want to invest in areas that help the most people?
Mr. Rehak accurately notes that the index goes up in locations with fewer people and down in locations with more people; this will incentivize planners to direct future investments in those higher population areas. He writes: “The more people you help with any given sum, the more the benefit goes down.” This is true, but Mr. Rehak’s statement doesn’t connect it to the past and it omits how the index will be normalized by area size. Index values will be calculated for similarly sized areas. This will allow an apples-to-apples comparison of per capita investments. The index is intended to incentivize future investments in areas with more people in cases where risk and prior investments are equal because we want to help as many people as possible.
By Michael Bloom, P.E.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/10/2022
1776 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/20220709-Screen-Shot-2022-07-09-at-4.37.23-PM.jpg?fit=1167%2C1200&ssl=112001167adminadmin2022-07-10 09:35:492022-07-10 09:50:38Response to Concerns About Flood Mitigation Benefits Index (Part II)
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flash flood watch for most of the Houston region. The watch will last through 7 P.M. this evening.
Flood Warning Through Saturday Morning For Smaller Areas
In addition, NWS has issued a flood warning for counties to the west and east of Houston. See map below.
NWS predicts minor flooding for East Fork San Jacinto near New Caney affecting Harris, Liberty and Montgomery Counties.
Persons with interests along these streams should keep alert to rising water and take all precautions to protect their property. Do not drive or walk into flooded areas the depth and water velocity could be too great for you to cross safely. Avoid any water covered roads and find an alternate route. Livestock and equipment should be removed from the flood plain immediately. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather radio or other news sources for further updates. Turn around, don`t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles. Additional information is available at www.weather.gov.
Today’s Forecast: More Heavy Rain Probable
According to Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner, “…deep tropical moisture to the west will help create a series of upper level disturbances once again today. The result: scattered showers and thunderstorms that should begin with daytime heating. As a disturbance approaches the area this afternoon from the west, showers and thunderstorms will likely become slightly more organized.”
The air mass over the Lake Houston Area remains capable of heavy to excessive short term rainfall rates. Yesterday, 5-7 inches of rain fell over northeast Harris County in 4-5 hours. 8-12 inches fell over Austin County near Bellville.
Rainfall today will likely average between 1-2 inches over the region, but isolated totals of 5-6 inches will be possible. Short range models indicate areas along and northwest of US 59 could be the prime location today for heavy rainfall. However, much of this will depend on:
Where storms develop
If and where any training develops
If any storms anchor in place.
Grounds are saturated from the recent rainfall. During the last 7 days, that rainfall has averaged 5-7 inches over much of the region with isolated totals of 10-14 inches.
Watersheds are already elevated this morning due to the recent rainfall and ongoing run-off over the area. Additional heavy rainfall will quickly run-off creating new rises.
Rapid onset flash flooding of streets and poor drainage areas will be the primary concern today, but should heavy rainfall impact already elevated and swollen watersheds some flooding would be possible.
We should get a break from the rain Thursday and Friday, but more rainfall could enter the picture by this weekend, driving up rain chances yet again.
Before Harvey, Jennifer Parks lived in the Forest Cove Townhomes with her husband, four kids and cat. They absolutely loved the river lifestyle and the friendships they built with neighbors. Harvey was the eighth of seven floods in five years. It destroyed their 4-story townhome, a close knit community and a life they loved despite the trouble. This is a story about how a flood changed the trajectory of six people’s lives forever.It’s the latest in a series of Impact stories.
2019 Fire Brings Back Memories of 2016
Rehak: You lived in the complex on Timberline at Marina Drive that burned on July 4th this year?
Parks: Yes. We were the four-story unit at the end, two doors down from where there was another fire in 2016.
Rehak: How many fires have there been there this year?
Parks: Three. Two during the week of July 4th and one earlier over by the pool.
Rehak: The fire department came out in force for this one. They had 10 fire trucks plus two ambulances. It was impressive.
Parks: When we had the fire back in 2016 there were 32 fire trucks. The whole street was lined all the way. On both sides. Every truck in Kingwood, plus Porter and Atascocita came in. It was craziness but people lived there, then. So lives were at stake. Now, the townhomes are abandoned.
“We Always Flooded on My Husband’s Birthday”
Rehak: How long did you live there?
Parks: Five years. We moved in at the end of March, 2013. We had our first flood on Memorial Day. My husband’s birthday was Memorial Day and we always flooded on his birthday.
Parks: Yeah (also laughing sarcastically) it was nice. At first, we would flood from the streets when the storm drains backed up. The first time I ever saw the river come over the bank was Memorial Day of 2016. It filled the area up like a bowl. People would drive around to look at it and splash water into our garage. It ruined everything we had on the floor.
Eight Floods in Five Years
Parks: We had a total of eight floods including Harvey in the five years we lived there.
Rehak: (Incredulous) Eight floods in five years!
Parks: Yeah. We had to move our vehicles and water got into the first story. Usually it would just splash in, but for the Tax Day flooding, we had three feet of water. That was the first time we left our house in a canoe. Then that Memorial Day we had eight feet. That was the second time we left in a canoe. Then there was Harvey. We had 20 feet.
Rehak: How many?
Parks: 20 feet is what FEMA measured.
Rehak: Oh geez!
Parks: It went over my TV in the second story.
Man Cave on First Floor
Rehak: Were those apartments vacant on the ground floor?
Parks: They were all built with the garage on the first. We have a big truck that did not fit in there. So we had a bar, darts and lights. Ours was decked out. It was more of a man cave than a garage. We never managed to get a lava lamp. But it was pretty cool. We were the neighborhood hang-out. We were always told that we were the welcoming committee.
The kids would be playing board games in the front. They had a TV, a table, a microwave and a refrigerator. It was like a snack hangout area. People would walk by, see us out there, and be like, “Hey, how you doin’!” That’s how we’d meet all the new neighbors. We were just in a friend’s wedding who we met that way. He went by one day to get the mail at stopped in to say hi. It was a very tight knit neighborhood to say the least.
Sense of Community Lost
Rehak: What brought you together?
Parks: Just living close to each other. Plus, the backyards were large. The driveways were very long. And then there was a big beautiful field. We have four kids. So our kids were always back there playing and we were outside. We did a lot of landscaping and gardening and we helped other neighbors. I think just being outside all the time was a large part of it because it was such a beautiful area to be outside.
Rehak: It’s easy to see why you miss it.
Parks: That’s how we made friends. And then there was the canoe.
Parks: A neighbor with a canoe kept rescuing my children. Needless to say, we became very close with him. His name is Bob.
And then there was all the bonding during cleanups. After the bigger floods, the sand deposits were crazy. It got in your house. So there was a lot of pressure washing and a lot of cleaning.
The first story had Blowout walls. They are intended to blow out with a flood.
Repairs and Clean Up Brought People Together
Rehak: So you had to rebuild those.
Parks: Yes. The structural walls with cement and cinder blocks … there was a lot of rebuilding those, too, and sand removal and pressure washing. The whole neighborhood just kind of came together. We would go from one drive to the next. Someone would be shoveling sand out of one. Someone would be pressure washing the next. I think that brought us really close together. We helped each other out. Then the Memorial Day flood happened and it was like ten times worse.
We had the Red Cross truck here three times a day with food. It was amazing. My kids joked, “Heyyyyy! We’re getting snacks from the Red Cross today!”
Rehak: Red Cross Cuisine!
Parks: Yes. And you know, it wasn’t bad…considering you work all day, and then you come home and you’re going to pressure wash or shovel sand. Because with sand come roaches and to try to keep the roaches out of everybody’s house, we’re trying to move the sand as quickly as possible.
Rehak: I hadn’t even thought about that.
Parks: It was disgusting. You would shovel it to scoop up sand and roaches would just scurry. And we never had roaches before the Memorial Day flood. Never! It was baaaad.
Why They Stayed Despite Flooding
Rehak: If you flooded eight times in five years, why did you stay?”
Parks: The first few weren’t that bad. Then the next two were big and really rough. We contemplated what we were going to do. One big argument for staying put was that our kids went to Foster Elementary school. It was and is an amazing school. And we didn’t want to pull our kids out. Another big factor was finding another rental in the area that was within our $1400 budget. That was just not happening unless it was an apartment. And we really didn’t want to do an apartment. Finally, there was also the beauty. Every time we felt we couldn’t go through another flood, we’d take a look at how beautiful it is here. We’d say, “It’s worth it to stay. And we have our community here.” So we stayed.
“You Know We’re Not Coming Back This Time, Right Bubba?”
I have a video of my husband and Bob in a canoe. As Harvey was receding, they went back and got our cat. In the video, it’s like the most heart wrenching thing you will ever hear. Bob says to my husband, “You know we’re not coming back here this time, right Bubba?”
Every single time I watch that video it brings me to tears because it tells you how much that place meant to all of us. My husband and I actually got married there. It’ll be four years in October. We got married right on the river bank. We had party tents in our driveway and we had a big wedding. It meant so much to us.
I get a little defensive when people say, “Oh, you lived in the crackhead apartments? No, it was not crackhead apartments in any way, shape, or form! Sorry if I get a little defensive.
Too Heartbreaking To Go Home Again
Rehak: When you go down to your old neighborhood today, what does it make you feel?
Parks: I don’t go down there. I can’t. It’s heartbreaking. It’s disgusting. It amazes me how in two years … how it got so bad. A friend who is a police officer was down there after the last fire. He took pictures and there’s graffiti all over my beautiful garage. Like disgusting graffiti. And it’s…it’s gang graffiti. It’s absolutely gang graffiti. There are gangs living in my beautiful home.
Our house was completely redone after the 2016 fire. All the walls. All new appliances. Everything was brand new. Flooring and carpeting. It was beautiful. So that’s the other thing people don’t know because they hadn’t been inside the townhomes. A lot of them were gorgeous.
Rehak: Did your kids end up in a different school?
Learning Firsthand What It Means to Be Homeless
Parks: We actually were able to stay. Because our status was “homeless,” which is always interesting, our daughter was able to stay for fourth grade at Foster without any question. That was fantastic. But then for the fifth grade we would have had to transfer. Her guidance counselor told me to note, “mental stability of the child at stake due a natural disaster.” And so she got to stay for fifth grade and finish up at Foster.
Rehak: Tell me about the homeless aspect for a second. What did that mean in practical terms?
Parks: We were fortunate. I’m involved in Cub and Boy Scouts. One of my Cub Scout friends, she actually lived here her whole life. She knew that in the ’94 floods, a couple of the townhomes collapsed. So after Harvey she was, “Get out, get out, get out, right now.” She said, “Come stay with me.” I only knew the family for two years from Monday night Scout meetings. But we ended up living with them for months while we bought our current house.
We were actually renting the townhome in Forest Cove, but wound up having to buy a house because we were “homeless.” It took time. While we were looking, we were considered “displaced due to natural disaster.” They condemned the townhomes pretty quickly. We couldn’t even think about going back because of structural damage. What else?
School Restores Sense of Normalcy for Kids
Parks: So the kids got free lunch at school.
Foster Elementary was one of the highest impacted elementary schools between teachers and students because of where it is and because it services Forest Cove.
Many of the teachers were impacted, too, and the school did amazing things, incredible things really … like blankets were donated to the kids. Something so simple. But my daughter didn’t have the blanket that she grew up with anymore. So you know having a new blanket was something really special.
They gave all the kids year books that year.
When the book fair came around, they gave the kids gift certificates.
They were just a lot of little things that happened even after we bought our house.
We moved in the day before Thanksgiving so we were pretty quick. Others were displaced for so much longer and still are. We were fortunate that we had friends and family that helped financially. We were able to furnish our new home. We have all this stuff and a beautiful house. But getting there was not fun.
Friends Now Farther But Not Forgotten
Rehak: I certainly understand that. What has happened to your old circle of friends? Are you still in touch?
Parks: We are. Except for one who moved pretty far away … out to Crosby. We see Bob at least on a weekly basis. That was a hard transition from seeing him every day to now only once a week or so. He bought a house in Porter. His daughter … I see her at least two or three times a week still.
And Jane and Rob. It’s gone from seeing them every day to once a month now.
Rehak: On balance, are you happier now?
Learning to Live with Moderate Neighborhood-Ness
Parks: I don’t know if you can compare. Everything in our lives is pre-Harvey or post-Harvey. Which kind of sucks. I would say that the happiness is different because we’ve made friends with our neighbors in Woodland Hills. We just don’t see as many people as often. But we still have moderate “neighborhood-ness.” I would say we’re equally happy.
I can tell you that the six to twelve months after Harvey was very, very difficult. Probably the most trying time in my life and my husband’s. And my kids! My kids were thoroughly traumatized, to say the least.
Rehak: Your lives were turned upside down.
Parks: It’s hard when the kids say, “Hey Mom, do you have X? And I have to say, “I’m sorry. No, we won’t have that anymore.”
It’s little stuff like my daughter’s Build-a-Bear. And all their school supplies that were sitting on our kitchen table. We had to get new school supplies all over again; I had just bought them the week before Harvey. That was fun. (Rolling eyes.)
Rehak: Not easy on a young family’s salary.
Husband Forced into New Job That Takes Him Farther from Family
Parks: And my husband did private construction. All of his tools were in our living room. Before Harvey, we moved them up from the garage so they wouldn’t get flooded or stolen. Then our living room flooded. We didn’t just lose our house. My husband lost his job, too, because we couldn’t just go out and replace thousands of dollars in tools. So he ended up going back to the oil fields and travelling. It’s not so bad on me, but…it’s hard on the kids.
Rehak: When you saw those townhomes burn, did you still have an emotional attachment to them?
July 4 Fire Triggered PTSD
Parks: I’m so ready for them to just be gone. I don’t even care how they go. I’m tired of the community badmouthing them; they were not bad places. But at the same time there’s some PTSD. Because of the 2016 fire, all that trauma comes back really fast when we see fire.
We had so much fun there for so many years. Ironically, we had a big fire pit out front and we would burn whatever was laying around. It was right on the river. We had crawfish boils over there and now we’re like, “Oh my gosh! This place is gone.” In a not-so-comfortable way.
Parks: Adding insult to injury?
Parks: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. “Insult to injury.”
Posted by Bob Rehak on July 30, 2019
699 Days after Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Exterior-Parks-Home-1-e1650134710966.jpg?fit=1200%2C675&ssl=16751200adminadmin2019-07-29 16:28:222019-07-29 17:00:35After Eighth Flood in Five Years, Forest Cove Townhome Renter Forced Out and Burned Out
Good to have the Pearl Harbor Day flooding in the rear-view mirror. And good that the worst predictions did not come true. So what happened? Did we just get lucky? Or did something go right for a change? It might have been a little of both.
Here’s what I know at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, about when the flood was expected to crest and flood multiple neighborhoods.
Lake Conroe Releases Have Peaked
According to Jace Houston, General Manager of the SJRA, releases from the Lake Conroe dam have likely peaked. The current release rate of 8181 cfs falls far short of previous floods and short of 9,000 to 11,000 cfs release rates predicted earlier.
Less Rain than Expected
That’s because we got less rainfall than predicted. Most of the area, including Lake Houston and upstream from Lake Conroe, received about 4.5 inches or less instead of the 8 to 10 predicted earlier. And rain was fairly spread out over time. The heaviest rainfall seems to have happened in The Woodlands with some gages approaching 6 inches.
Aggressive Pre-Release by City
Finally, the City of Houston started releasing water from the Lake Houston Dam two days in advance of the storm. They took the lake level down two feet before the storm and kept releasing water during the storm. Had it not been for that, homes along the shoreline would almost certainly have flooded.
Trending Steady or Down
At this moment, every stream gage that the SJRA reports upstream from the Lake Houston area is trending down. The peak has passed.
Harris County Flood Control shows that the gages at US59, West Lake Houston Parkway and FM1960 also appear to have peaked.
A photographic tour of the Kingwood area this afternoon showed that the river came out of its banks at River Grove Park and US59 and was on the verge of coming out in many other places. Surprisingly, I saw no flooded homes, not even on Marina Drive in Forest Cove. However, I did hear of many affected by street flooding, especially upstream in Montgomery County.
Still Much Mitigation Work to Do
Ben’s Branch by the Enclave and Kingwood Library had standing water. That should be a reminder that the County needs to make cleaning out this stream a high priority.
One final point. Late this afternoon, I noticed a huge difference between the gages upstream and downstream from the dredging.
Normally, these gages all read the same elevation. One can partially attribute the differences to spreading of the river. However one must also consider the huge blockages in the river that the Corps has not yet removed. At the moment, one of the biggest is just downstream from River Grove Park. Another, the mouth bar, blocks the river between Kings Point and Atascocita Point.
The Lake Houston Area lucked out this time due to aggressive action by City officials, a conservative release rate by the SJRA and the kindness of Mother Nature. I hope we don’t press our luck and assume that these blockages make no difference. They do. We need to remove them.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/8/2018
466 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/CommandSiteNearlyFlooded.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2018-12-08 20:46:402018-12-08 21:33:30Whew! Luck and Aggressive Action Avert Major Flooding
The following is the forecast for the San Jacinto River basin including the West and East Forks and the mainstem below Lake Houston, as of about 8:30 p.m. Friday evening. Some forecasters believe rainfall, runoff and flooding could go higher. This post has already been updated once.
Major flooding forecast. Some uncertainty remains. Forecast could go a few feet higher. Jeff Lindner, Harris County meteorologist warns Northshore, Belleau Woods, Rivercrest, and Forest Cove will likely flood into early next week. Even elevated structures will be cut-off for several days.
Lake Conroe is currently releasing 2121 cfs as of 7 p.m. Friday. This is a small fraction of the expected flows along the West Fork.
This will be the inundation with a stage of 52.0 ft at US 59
NWS forecasts minor to moderate flooding along the East Fork at FM 1485. At 62 ft FM 1485 west of the river bridge will be impacted.
Mainstem below Lake Houston:
A rise to near flood stage is currently expected. A few low lying roads near the river could be flooded.
Overnight Rain Forecast
Lindner says, “Widespread rainfall of 1-2 inches has occurred over much of the area this afternoon with isolated totals of 3-4 inches over southern Walker and extreme northern Montgomery Counties.”
“Surface low is deepening northwest of Harris County and suggests increasing potential for heavier showers and thunderstorms. They will train from WSW and SW to the ENE and NE. Rainfall will continue to pile up at the rate of .5 to 1.5 inches per hour this evening and much of what is now falling is directly running off,” says Lindner.
The National Weather Service and Lindner expect areas along and NW of US 59 will receive the most sustained rainfall this evening.
Impact of Lake Lowering
Luckily for the Humble Kingwood Area, the City of Houston reduced the level of Lake Houston more than the 18″ they originally projected. As of this afternoon, the Lake was down to 40.5. That should give us some cushion against flooding.
Said City Council Member Dave Martin, “The gates at Lake Houston continue to remain open and will be adjusted as needed to allow for even more water to be released should that be necessary. In response to the lowering of Lake Houston, the West Fork of the San Jacinto River near Highway 59 has also lowered by 2 feet providing additional capacity in the river.
Expected SJRA Release Rates
According to Martin, the SJRA currently estimates that releases from Lake Conroe might peak at 9,000 to 11,000 cfs sometime over the weekend based on current forecasts. These amounts are relatively small in comparison to the rain events that our area saw during July 4, 2018 and Memorial Day 2016.
If you live in a low-lying area, monitor rainfall and water-level trends by visiting these web sites throughout the weekend.
Posted on 12/7/2018 by Bob Rehak based on info from Harris County & COH
465 Days since Hurricane Harvey.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/image001-1.png?fit=600%2C465&ssl=1465600adminadmin2018-12-07 20:01:502020-01-17 10:16:24West Fork Forecast to Flood up to 54 Feet