Tag Archive for: Video

VR Video Shows What It’s Like From Driver’s Point of View to Get Swept Away in Flash Flood

Most people who die in floods die in their cars … after they drive into water. But how do you communicate the danger to people? It’s one thing to say, “Turn around; don’t drown.” It’s another altogether to get them to feel the risk and act on it. But this VR video (virtual reality) does an excellent job. The Clark County (Las Vegas, NV) Regional Flood Control District produced it. And it won first place in last year’s National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) Communication Awards.

Still frame from award-winning video. To see video, click here or on image.

Water Always Wins

They named their campaign “Water Always Wins” and produced a scary, virtual-reality video showing a car of teenagers returning from a day trip in the desert. As they get off the freeway near home, they approach a flooded intersection and decide to try to make it across. Their car becomes buoyant and loses traction. It floats down the road into deeper water. The floodwater starts to fill the interior of the vehicle. It loses power. The teens can’t get the windows down. Water pressure on the doors keeps them locked in the rising water. And pretty soon, the occupants run out of breathing space. (Spoiler alert: There is a rescue at the end.)

Made for the Desert, but Applies to Houston

The video realistically illustrates a worst case scenario (minus the rescue, of course). If you have a teenager learning to drive, this is highly recommended viewing. The video was produced for a desert audience, but the location could easily be Houston. I had a similar near-death experience on Little York when a bayou rose up over the road. I narrowly escaped. I must say that what I experienced bears a striking resemblance to what you will see in this video. And the water wasn’t even moving as fast as the water in this video.

Confronts Mortality Head On

Such videos have one problem though. They sometimes become so hard to watch, the audience rebels. Teenagers, especially, may try to make fun of it, because it confronts them with their own mortality. And most teenagers have an unshakeable belief in their own immortality. This video has received more than 5 million views. It also received thousands of snarky comments from teens.

Still, if I had teenagers in the house, I would make them watch it. Next time they come up to a flooded intersection, they may remember the video and forget their snarky comments.

To view the video, follow this link. The VR experience starts after a brief animated intro.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/22/2021

1273 Days since Hurricane Harvey

How LIDAR is Used to Develop New Flood Maps

The Texas Water Development Board published a new video today in their Texas Water Newsroom. The title: “Data from the sky informs flood planning on the ground.” The video explains how Lidar (light detection and ranging) data helps develop accurate, up-to-date flood maps.

900X Higher Resolution

Surveyors can acquire high resolution data quickly from the air using pulses of light.

Lasers mounted under planes pulse hundreds of thousands of times per second producing incredibly detailed images of the terrain.

Texas Water Development Board

The data has one square-meter resolution compared to the old standard of 30 square-meters used in older USGS surveys. That’s a 900x improvement (1m x 1m vs. 30m x 30m) in resolution.

That increased resolution lets mapmakers see much more detail in the landscape, including low areas where water tends to pool during floods.

Play the Video

Filtering Out Buildings and Foliage Reveals Terrain

By filtering out portions of the spectrum, say those that have to do with buildings and foliage…

Screen Capture from TWDB Video

…scientists can reveal the terrain under them.

Lidar Now FEMA Requirement for Mapping

FEMA now requires the use of Lidar in floodplain mapping. As the state continues to grow rapidly, Lidar helps floodplain modelers better understand what is happening on the ground during a flood.

Inspiring the Next Generation

This is a fascinating little video. It has enough meat for curious adults. It also has a wow factor for students that might someday inspire interest in science, technology or engineering careers.

Updated Harris County Floodplain Maps

Harris County Flood Control District uses Lidar data to help develop the next generation of flood maps for the region. FEMA last updated the maps in 2007 as a result of massive flooding from Tropical Storm Allison. The District could release preliminary maps as early as 2022. But it could then take several more years for FEMA to review and approve them. The FEMA process involves a lengthy public comment period.

Source: Harris County Flood Control District.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/16/2020

1114 Days since Hurricane Harvey

County Posts Video of Meeting in Which Conditions Were Added to Purchase of Perry Property

Yesterday’s Harris County Commissioners Court meeting contained two separate discussions of vital interest for those worried about flooding in Elm Grove. Thankfully, the Commissioners post video of their meetings online so you can hear exactly what they had to say as well as how they said it.

The meeting went from 10am well into the evening hours. So you can go directly to the relevant portions, I’ve provided the timing code below. All are approximate. Here’s the link: https://harriscountytx.new.swagit.com/videos/62513. Make sure you go to Section V of the video.

County Discusses City’s Partial Adoption of Atlas-14 Standards

The first discussion lasts approximately 10 minutes from 5:20 to 5:30 into the video. It related to Item 1V on the agenda, the adoption of Atlas 14 standards by municipalities within Harris County.

At 5:20:07 John Blount, the county engineer, talks about adoption of Atlas 14. That was one of the original conditions that Commissioners placed on the purchase of the Perry property, i.e., that the City adopt a series of changes to floodplain and drainage regulations related to Atlas 14.

Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis uses that opening to introduce Elm Grove as a topic that wasn’t on the agenda. See Ellis at 5:21:25. He asks how we can get neighboring counties to participate.

Rodney Ellis
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis speaking on Woodridge Village buyout

At 5:22:29, Blount clarifies that the proposed rule changes would apply to the City’s ETJ (extra territorial jurisdiction. That includes most of southern Montgomery county. Blount explains why that’s important. “It’s about protecting our investment in projects so their benefits are not eroded.” He then clarifies that what the county proposes the City adopt is really “Best practices.”

Then, at 5:23:20, Ellis asks whether adoption of Atlas 14 will affect the prioritization of bond projects. Blount confirms it will.

At 5:24:50, Ellis asks whether City has already adopted Atlas 14. Blount explains the City adopted part but not all of the County’s recommendations. “They say they’re going to but they haven’t,” says Blount. “Adopting halfway isn’t helpful,” he says. “They need to adopt the whole thing…both storm-sewer sizing and detention-pond sizing.”

5:27:50 Hidalgo says “It’s about sustainable growth. We want to make sure we’re not flooding people downstream as we grow.”

5:29:50 Hidalgo transitions the discussion to buyouts and land conservation.

Intro to Discussion of Bond Costs and Elm Grove

The second important part for Elm Grove residents runs 42 mins. In this portion of the meeting, Ellis craftily draws Russ Poppe, executive director of Harris County Flood Control, into a discussion of cost escalation relating to flood bond projects. It later becomes clear when the discussion shifts to Elm Grove that Ellis worries the Perry purchase could consume so much money that it would delay or cancel Precinct One projects. This section runs roughly from 7:53 to 8:35.

If the narrative below sounds disjointed, that’s because it was. People kept interrupting each other. The discussion becomes heated. Ellis keeps repeating the same points over and over again as though his fellow commissioners are dullards and don’t get it.

Price Increases and Status of Bond Budget

At 7:53, Ellis queries Poppe about price increases for mitigation projects. Poppe explains that because of increase demand, the price of riprap is up 3X. Poppe also explains that “haul rates” have increased because they are now hauling dirt farther, i.e., beyond the 500-year flood plain. He says, “The biggest component of our costs is the excavation and hauling of dirt.”

7:56 Poppe talks about buyouts (Item 1B on the supplemental agenda). He talks about available funds, the process, number of homes bought out to date, and 400 applications “in process.”

Ellis Shifts Discussion to Perry Buyout

7:58:10 Ellis raises issue of Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village buyout in Montgomery County.

7:58:30 Ellis talks about original conditions for purchase: City would adopt Atlas 14 including inside its ETJ, that Montgomery County would also adopt Atlas 14, and that the City would contribute assets equal to half of the purchase price. He then estimates that the cost of additional detention ponds on the property could range from $20 – 30 million. Poppe confirms that as accurate. 

7:59:30 Ellis adds up component costs: $14 million to acquire, possibly $30 million to develop. “That’s $44 million,” he almost shouts as he leans into the camera.

Ellis Proposes New Condition to Purchase

At 7:59:51 Ellis proposes a new condition to the sale. He wants the county’s offer to Perry to now say that half of development costs must also be covered by the City…not just the half of the purchase price. He also says that the City must actually adopt the Atlas 14 requirements in their entirety, not just “promise to adopt them” at some point in the future. Finally, he wants the Atlas 14 requirements to apply to the City’s extra territorial jurisdiction.

He wants a 50:50 split of ALL costs and wants the City to put up assets to purchase and develop the land.

He wants City assets put up before the purchase so that development of the land won’t be in limbo.

He makes a motion clarify the offer. Garcia seconds the motion.

8:06:48 Cagle reminds people that the offer has already been sent to Perry. He says the letter went out without any requirement about the City’s participation in future development of the property.

Argument Over Past/Future Tense in Wording of ILA

8:07:20 Ellis shifts the discussion. He reads the original letter proposing an interlocal agreement (ILA) with the City. He complains about use of the word “executed”  in regard to the ILA. It says the Atlas 14 requirements “will be” executed when the ILA is signed. He worries about the future tense. He wants the letter to say “Once Atlas 14 regulations have been adopted” (past tense). By that, he means the deal will become effective once the City has adopted the regulations, not when they promise to adopt them at some unspecified point in the future.

It’s clear that he is wary of City promises. He worries about how long it might take to actually adopt Atlas 14. “They could adopt them 20 years from now.”

8:08:40 Ellis clarifies wording of his motion.

8:09:30 Ellis explains why he’s raising this subject outside of executive session: “to put the light of day on the deal.”

8:09:40 Ellis repeats: “My position is all three. Atlas 14. Half of purchase. Half of construction.”

8:10:20 Ellis paints the downside of investing in Montgomery County. “They could put another development up next door and benefit from $30 million worth of detention ponds we built without putting a dime up and doing nothing to stop flooding.”

8:10:35 Garcia interjects. He wants a policy about how Harris County spends dollars in another county.

8:12:10 Cagle agrees that he wants the City to adopt the Atlas 14 provisions before a purchase. Simply signing an interlocal agreement is not enough, he says.

Radack Proposes Deadline for City Adoption of Atlas 14

8:13:42 Radack says, “The City won’t adopt Atlas 14, so we might as well cut to the chase and adopt a deadline. That gives you a clear path.”

8:15:00 Ellis talks about how the project was “heavily lobbied.” “There’s a lawsuit on it,” he adds. He predicts people will say, “So when are you going to do it.” He implies, “Now, we’re liable” for anything that happens.

8:17:10 Hidalgo asks Poppe: How would you clarify the letter so the City knows Atlas 14 must be adopted (past tense), not just that they will adopt it (future tense).

8:17:20 Poppe reads the letter. It says, “Upon execution of the ILA, City of Houston will adopt by default…” Poppe thinks that language covers the problem.

“County Has Made No Commitment to Do a Project Out There”

8:18:00 Poppe says “We’ve made no commitment to do a project out there.”

8:18:30 Ellis goes rogue-elephant negative. “What are you going to do? Turn it into a birding park? You gonna pay for half of that?”

Hidalgo asks whether the language is clear. Poppe says “I will be happy to share the language tomorrow.”

Ellis says, “I want to make a motion so it will be clear.”

8:20 Ellis again makes the motion that includes the same three conditions: City contributes half of purchase and half of construction. City also adopts all Atlas 14 provisions.

8:21:30 Poppe reminds commissioners that the offer letter was already sent on the 14th of May, the day before the 15th deadline.

8:22:00 Hidalgo restates the motion.

Possibility of State or Federal Participation

8:22:15 At this point the discussion shifts a bit. They examine the possibility of 3rd party participation.

8:22:27 Ellis offhandedly reveals his motives at this point. He doesn’t want others taking money from his projects. “I know how this game works,” he says.

8:23:42 Cagle summarizes changes. “We want the City to ADOPT the standards.” “I’m fine with that,” he says. But then he adds that the second change, about construction costs, “hasn’t been in any of our discussions.”

8:23:55 Ellis asks, “Commissioner, what are we going to do with it?”

Cagle Reminds Commissioners of Two Key Elements

8:24:25 Cagle says, “There are two aspects to this development. One of them is that the developer is already putting in some detention ponds in advance and they did not go up on their price because of that work.” Cagle adds that he wants to build a plan before the purchase. He thinks they may be able to sell the extra dirt that needs to be removed. “Problem is though that that’s slower; it will depend on other projects that are going on in region.” By that he means there needs to be a market for the dirt.

Ellis Again Repeats Concerns

8:27:15 Ellis repeats his concerns yet again. “Houston should put up half of the price.” “Why is Harris County doing it all?” Then he goes back to his demands and says, “The current letter does not reflect all three of those conditions.”

8:29:30 Hidalgo clarifies motion. 

Radack Reminds Commission that No Estimates Yet Exist

8:30:40 Radack breaks in and asks how long will it take to come up with an estimate of costs. “It will be very difficult to do anything unless the City and State know how much it will cost.”

8:31:43 A very frustrated and exasperated Jack Cagle says “I feel slapped around.”

8:32:45 Cagle says, “If the second part of the motion is that our partners have to put in as much as we do, I’m fine with that.”

Cagle Makes Motion Reflecting Ellis’ Concerns

8:33:25 Cagle finally makes a motion that includes all three conditions, after Ellis defers to him.

8:33:30 The motion passes unanimously.

8:33:38 Ellis asks for yet another restatement of the motion.

8:34:00 Hidalgo reads the motion into the record.

8:34:44 End of Elm Grove discussion.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/20/2020

995 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Video of Barrington Evacuation During Harvey Makes Case for Lowering Lake Conroe, Nixing High-Rise Development

With barely a spoken word, this video makes an eloquent case for lowering Lake Conroe again this year. It also makes a powerful argument for denying the permit to build 5000 condos and high rises in the surrounding wetlands.

Evacuation from the Barrington during Harvey. Video courtesy of Kenneth and Colleen Ulrich. They moved to Kingwood from New Orleans after Katrina.

Surprise Evacuation

Kenneth Ulrich Jr. shot this video as he and his wife Colleen were forced to evacuate without warning from the Barrington during Harvey.

They share this video on the eve of a key San Jacinto River Authority board meeting. Tomorrow, the board will take up the question of whether to seasonally lower Lake Conroe again this year. The lowering would help provide a margin of safety against flooding like this until other flood mitigation measures can be put in place.

Lake Conroe boaters have complained about the inconvenience of the lower lake levels. The video shows what boating in Kingwood looked like 18 months ago as Harvey’s floodwaters rose.

Many residents escaped with little more than the clothes they wore.

Imagine Evacuating 15,000 People Like This

The video makes another powerful argument. Against the high-rise development proposed for Kingwood. Developers hope to build it around the Barrington which you see here. They want to build 5,000 condos immediately to the north and a string of high rises, including a 50 story hotel, immediately to the south. Kingwood has an average household population density of 2.71. That means this development could add 15,000 people to the area.

Every one of the 283 homes in the Barrington flooded. Imagine trying to evacuate another 15,000 people by boat during the next Harvey.

The developers have planned only one way in and out of this project – Woodland Hills Drive – which will be under water when the next big flood hits.

Clearly, they did not consider evacuation when they planned this development.

How to Register Your Concerns

If you have concerns about the high-rise project, email the US Army Corps of Engineers at: swg_public_notice@usace.army.mil . Make sure you put the project number in the title of the email: SWG-2016-00384 .

To voice your concerns to the SJRA board, attend the board meeting Thursday, Feb. 28 at:

1577 Dam Site Road
Conroe, Texas 77304

Speakers are limited to three minutes each. Business attire is recommended. To reserve time to speak you must sign in by 7:45. The meeting will be in the tall building.

Allow an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half to get there in rush hour traffic from the Humble/Kingwood area.

As always, these are my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/27/2019

547 Days after Hurricane Harvey

New Drone Video Shows Areas for Proposed High-Rise Development

Jim Zura, owner of Zura Productions, flew his drones again on January 8 after the most recent flood went down. This time, he’s sharing two videos. The first, shot from River Grove Park, shows the area south of Barrington. The second, shot from Woodland Hills Drive at Deer Springs, shows the area north of the Barrington. Together, they show you the areas for most of the proposed new Romerica high-rise development and marina.

Drone pans approximately 120 degrees across the Romerica property from Barrington to the West Fork of the San Jacinto. End of shot zooms into the narrow area between Barrington and small lake where high rises would be built.
This video starts on Woodland Hills at Deer Springs. It pans up to reveal the northern part of the proposed high-rise development, then pans south toward Barrington.

Both videos offer panoramic views of the areas that Romerica proposes to raise by 12 feet. Raising these two areas would destroy trees and wetlands, increase the rate of runoff, and alter drainage patterns. It would also likely worsen flooding problems upstream and around the proposed development.

Not Only Human Residents Worry

Clark McCollough, a resident of Kingwood Lakes, reported that two bald eagles live near the property being permitted. He supplied this spectacular photo which I am reprinting with his permission. The developer wants to fill in wetlands near the nests and mitigate the loss of wetlands by purchasing credits somewhere else.

Register Comments on Permit Application with Army Corps

For complete details of the permit application, see this post. If no comments are received by January 31, the Corps will assume there are no objections. Do not assume that this permit will be denied just because FaceBook has a lot of negative buzz about it. The Corps does not read FaceBook. The best way to ensure this development does not happen is to write. We need every resident in Kingwood to respond. Important: In your letter, state that you want a public hearing.

Comments and requests for additional information should reference USACE file number, SWG-2016-00384, and should be submitted to: 

  • Evaluation Branch, North Unit 
  • Regulatory Division, CESWG-RD-E 
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
  • P.O. Box 1229 
  • Galveston, Texas 77553-1229 
  • 409-766-3869 Phone 
  • 409-766-6301 Fax 
  • swg_public_notice@usace.army.mil 

Posted by Bob Rehak on January 10, 2019

499 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Take a Video Tour of the West Fork via Helicopter with the Army Corps

 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) hydraulic engineers conducted an aerial tour of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River aboard an Army Blackhawk helicopter. USACE Galveston’s hydraulic engineer Michael Garske narrates the video tour, which is fascinating for its candidness.


The tour’s objectives: to better understand the area’s dredging needs and to  scope out possible locations for storing the spoils.They identified numerous areas with excessive shoaling that contribute to area flooding and require dredging. Engineers estimate they will need to dredge from 1 to 3 million cubic yards.

Sand weighs about 100 pounds per cubic foot. So a cubic yard (27 cubic feet) would weigh almost a ton and a half. Three million cubic yards of sand would completely fill two and a half Astrodomes.

Results not yet final

So where would they put all this dredged material? Nothing is final yet. But it’s interesting to hear the engineers’ comments as they fly over random locations. See the video tour here.
According to reports from Harris County Flood Control, which is coordinating with USACE, the project is slated to start on June 8 and suppliers are being told they need to complete the project within a year.

Various Possible Scenarios Previously Examined

Here are some scenarios based on data from Brown & Root’s 2000 report on dredging, courtesy of David Seitzinger, a Kingwood engineer.  Seitzinger points out that Brown & Root also looked at dredging the West Fork. At the time, Brown & Root estimated that it would take 90 to 120 days to bid and mobilize the project. They estimated that one dredge could remove 5,000 cubic yards per day.

If that formula still holds true, a million cubic yards (the low end figure quoted by USACE) could be removed in 100 days using two dredges. If they need to remove 3 million cubic yards, two dredges would take 300 days.

Seitzinger looked at other options, too. Adding a third dredge cuts dredging time by a third – roughly two months to 200 days depending on volume removed.

Using 3 dredges could complete the project by mid-September – the peak of hurricane season – if they only need to remove 1 million cubic yards. That’s the best case scenario.

Worst case? Using two dredges to remove 3 million cubic yards would complete the project around the end of May in 2019.

Of course none of this considers weather stoppages for hurricanes and other flooding rains.  “Obviously the more dredges they can get in the river the better,” says Seitzinger.

The Army Corps plays a central role in many of the ongoing projects that affect Lake Houston. Please note the public-facing information sources that contain updates on their projects, including those in the Lake Houston area.

Online: www.swg.usace.army.mil
DVIDS: www.dvidshub.net/units/USACE-GD
Twitter: www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict

Posted May 5, 2018
248 Days since Hurricane Harvey