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Most current design guidelines for floodways say to have a mud bottom for bayous, rivers, etc, because it will allow as much water as possible to be asorbed by soil and such.  Also, the waterway can make its self bigger that way.

 

I think the biggest thing is requiring homes be elevated at least a couple of feet.  I don't know what else to sugggest to save the neighborhoods that had water into the second stories though.

 

It is awful that the reservoirs weren't quite full yet and homes were flooding next to them.  Those homes are probably to close to the reservoir - it might need levees all the way around, though that would hinder drainage of the watershed.

 

A reservoir on Brays bayou is probably needed, but I don't even know where it could go

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Like all economic bubbles in which real risk is mismanaged and resources are misallocated, the opportunity to grow here has been underpriced for decades.  People were getting a good deal and kept coming to Harris County because, for all the jokes about swamplots, they didn't truly comprehend that their livelihoods were being lined up as cannon fodder. 

 

The physical footprint of Houston has already expanded hundreds of square miles beyond what a couple of new reservoirs and channelizations would compensate for.  

 

Rather than tearing down the last twenty years of housing "progress," returning it to pervious cover, and increasing the density of the remaining corridors, it would be much cheaper to agree on a Texan version of a Saudi style solution -- create a sustainable new economic city somewhere north along the Texas Central High Speed Rail and let Houston's economic sphere of influence expand there.  People who hadn't gotten to sell out to developers yet on the Katy Prairie will scream and yell - but if we are truly all Texans all in this together, we have no business trying to get the endless real estate supply bubble blowing in our area anymore.  

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5 hours ago, Timoric said:

What are the best ideas to alleviate Houston's flooding problems moving forward to keep new development dry?

1. More Western Reservoirs?

2. Put concrete all along Buffalo Bayou to replace mud bottom?

3. Widen the Ship Channel

4. Dredge and Deepen all or many bayous with concrete?

5. Move out the 100 year requirement for flooding for new developments to a 200 year or 500 year?

6. Raise improve existing Reservoir Walls, Lake Houston, etc

 

All fairly logical questions to ask after a catastrophe such as this. One thing that needs to be known is this was a historic event that couldn't be predicted. The 100 year flood plain and 500 year flood plain are not gauges on when it would happen, but the ODDS of it happening. So for instance if its a 100 year flood plain it merely says that in a given year the odds of a major 100 year flood happening is 100/1 odds and the same for 500 year which is a 500/1 odds. Its like predicting the next great earthquake or volcano eruption. Next to impossible to predict.

 

The better question to ask is, due to changes in our climate (whether manmade or natural) should we raise those odds and design accordingly? Whether one believes our climate is changing due to man or by nature itself the conclusion should be reached that, indeed, our planet is experiencing a shift in climate. Normal seasonal patterns are changing in regard to dates, el nino's are getting stronger, etc... etc... This means that we need to start placing a better emphasis on "Adaptability" rather than "Sustainability". Sustaining seems like a helpless effort and we are going to have to assume that there are going to be changes that happen to our climate that we won't be able to alter even if we become more efficient in areas of industry and infrastructure. We also need to drop the blame game on who is most at fault for the climate. Certainly we are effecting it, but also mother nature does not care whether we exist or not and will change with or without us. Its silly to presume that we can keep the Earth at any one temperature or have ways of preventing natural disasters. Floods will always happen no matter what. This is the way the world works. Not as we would like it to be or "should be", but how it actually is. The only real way to better protect our cities is through Adaptability. Adapting our cities with the knowledge that floods will happen and maybe at a higher rate. Instead of resisting the change we must work with the change.

 

With establishing this premise  now we need to ask, what would it mean to better adapt to our current and future situations. I imagine this means we need to start taking more proactive design measures in making sure we don't lose our cities. This might even mean drastically altering areas of our city and accepting a bit of a loss to save the whole. When I say, accepting loses, I'm speaking towards your first question of "More Western Reservoirs". To survive we are going to have to become masters of flood waters. In a since its the old saying that you can either fear snakes or learn to be a snake charmer. Which would you rather be? We need to be better at managing floods and mastering their flows when they happen. For this we need to turn to places that have had successes in doing this. Look no further than the Dutch. These people are masters of managing floods. The intentionally design the landscape to create areas that are allowed to flood and areas which are not allowed to flood. They intentionally take loses in areas to protect the greater whole. In our case we could strategically design and place Reservoirs, not just in the west, but throughout Houston in areas that are very pron to flooding. Inevitably, this means we might have to shift peoples around in areas that are more pron to flooding and section areas of the city we deem unacceptable for flooding and ok for flooding. Some of these places can be very big and some very small, but we need to properly design this as a holistic infrastructure that integrates reservoirs, bayous, etc... We might even need to redesign our highways. I think an idea to consider is even turning our highways into acceptable areas that can be flooded if need be. Bury our highways so they essentially become emergency rivers if we need them.

 

Going into your question about adding concrete to bayous. I would advise simply educating yourself on our past actions to show this idea of yours isn't a new one and it actually makes the problem worse. You are not wrong for thinking it. It seems logical right? Put in concrete and straighten the bayous and the water will flow faster = no floods. However the opposite happened when we did this back in the 40's and 50's and into the late century. It actually caused more flooding and not only that it made the floods more dangerous! Because of the straighter path and no way for water to get into the ground it made the waters run faster and in times of floods it was a disaster. Faster floods, while not lasting as long, cause more damage than floods which stay longer, but flow slower. In slower floods you will only get water damage, but in a faster flood your house will be carried away with the flood! This also went against how these bayous naturally were meant to work. Bayou literally means a slow moving creek. Its purpose in being curvy and even muddy is to help control water flow. We need to work with that advantage and design them to do their job better overall. Yes in this way the floods stay longer, but its way better than a flood that moves faster. 

 

The other points I'm actually open to hearing suggestions on! I don't know what those effects would be, but the first two I know quiet a bit of history. Probably the most important thing in all of this is to not make any knee jerk reactions and assume that whatever measures we need to do have to be ways of flood prevention. That is impossible. Instead we need to think about flood management. All of your points though are very great to bring up. It at least starts a conversation.

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12 hours ago, Timoric said:

What are the best ideas to alleviate Houston's flooding problems moving forward to keep new development dry?

1. More Western Reservoirs?

2. Put concrete all along Buffalo Bayou to replace mud bottom?

3. Widen the Ship Channel

4. Dredge and Deepen all or many bayous with concrete?

5. Move out the 100 year requirement for flooding for new developments to a 200 year or 500 year?

6. Raise improve existing Reservoir Walls, Lake Houston, etc

 

  • Require all new residential developments and all existing and new commercial developments to have enough detention for 6 to 12 inches of rainfall in a 24 hour period
  • Continue the RebuildHouston plans that  install huge amounts of storm sewer capacity under streets
  • Prohibit any rebuilding of properties that have 3 or more flood events, and then buy them out
11 hours ago, cspwal said:

Most current design guidelines for floodways say to have a mud bottom for bayous, rivers, etc, because it will allow as much water as possible to be asorbed by soil and such.  Also, the waterway can make its self bigger that way.

 

I think the biggest thing is requiring homes be elevated at least a couple of feet.  I don't know what else to sugggest to save the neighborhoods that had water into the second stories though.

 

It is awful that the reservoirs weren't quite full yet and homes were flooding next to them.  Those homes are probably to close to the reservoir - it might need levees all the way around, though that would hinder drainage of the watershed.

 

A reservoir on Brays bayou is probably needed, but I don't even know where it could go

 

The morons who bought in Canyon Gate need to lose their homes with no compensation. The developer that thought it was a good idea to build there needs to be tarred and feathered and shipped out of town on a rail. That subdivision is inside the Barker Dam. I have little sympathy for anyone who bought property that is 10 feet lower than the top of the dam. Where did they think the water would go in a big event?

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I would say that more areas need to be bought out and converted into greenspace, a la what happened after Allison, especially struggling retail (what if the bulk of West Oaks Mall became a huge reservoir lake?!). Perhaps also some sort of parallel "emergency spillways" for bayous.

 

There also needs to be rules on retention ponds, I know College Station instituted detention ponds a while back for commercial and large residential developments, and I think that has prevented flooding. Nothing like a parking lot that gets sopping wet with just the slightest of downpours...

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9 hours ago, IronTiger said:

I would say that more areas need to be bought out and converted into greenspace, a la what happened after Allison, especially struggling retail (what if the bulk of West Oaks Mall became a huge reservoir lake?!). Perhaps also some sort of parallel "emergency spillways" for bayous.

 

There also needs to be rules on retention ponds, I know College Station instituted detention ponds a while back for commercial and large residential developments, and I think that has prevented flooding. Nothing like a parking lot that gets sopping wet with just the slightest of downpours...

If you took West Oaks Mall and some of the nearby houses, it would b about 100 acres. That's not large at all, nor is there an existing way to get water there from the West. The detention needs to be built in the developments, and the flood maps need to be realistic, so developers don't build so far into the 100 year flood plains.

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13 hours ago, Ross said:

That subdivision is inside the Barker Dam. I have little sympathy for anyone who bought property that is 10 feet lower than the top of the dam. Where did they think the water would go in a big event?

How many of the home buyers knew about it?  I have a feeling few did - they were sold it being quiet and near a park.  The developers for sure knew it was - and I bet a class action by the home owners (or their insurance companies) would be successful. 

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How much would it be for the state or the feds to buy out all the houses that would be flooded before the Barkers and Addicks topped the levees?  I feel like that would be a good start - it would at the very least allow the reservoirs to fill up before there's danger of significant flooding over there.  I bet a bunch of the residents whose houses were just flooded would love a visit by a government employee offering them (the original) market value on their house that was completely destroyed by flooding.

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I wonder how much it would cost to buy out the main section of Meyerland and turn it into a detention basin (and nice park) that would help reduce flooding downstream in the Medical Center. It has flooded multiple times there, at least two of the past three years and I'm pretty sure in Allison too.

 

The key in all this is to accept that we're not going to completely solve the problem of flooding, and not to make Houston cost as much to live in as San Francisco.

 

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Meyerland might be too expensive to buy out, and requiring houses to be raised by 3-4 ft plus the brays bayou improvements should suffice there.  What I think is nuts it the idea that there are houses that are inside the reservoirs when they are working as designed.

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On 8/31/2017 at 10:01 AM, cspwal said:

How many of the home buyers knew about it?  I have a feeling few did - they were sold it being quiet and near a park.  The developers for sure knew it was - and I bet a class action by the home owners (or their insurance companies) would be successful. 

 

Sorry I call BS on that. When purchasing a home, there is information out there for all to see if they go looking for it. I mean, if I'm thinking of buying behind a reservoir, it's not that far of a leap to ask yourself "is this house in danger of flooding?". As harsh as it may sound, naive homebuyers are just as much to blame. 

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12 hours ago, intencity77 said:

 

Sorry I call BS on that. When purchasing a home, there is information out there for all to see if they go looking for it. I mean, if I'm thinking of buying behind a reservoir, it's not that far of a leap to ask yourself "is this house in danger of flooding?". As harsh as it may sound, naive homebuyers are just as much to blame. 

I agree.  

 

The issue becomes those homes a little further out behind the dam.  I would be curious to know how many of the flooded homes behind the dam require flood insurance based on the flood maps.  By definition, all of those people knew the risk.  For the folks who did not need insurance but flooded anyway, it is quite easy to ask about flood risks (and see maps of infrastructure), flood plains, etc before you buy.

 

I had never owned a house in Houston that required flood insurance.  But I always did flood research before buying each house.  And, then I bought a flood policy anyway.  It really is "cheap" piece of mind.   In Houston, just about everyone needs a flood policy, IMO.

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3 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

I agree.  

 

The issue becomes those homes a little further out behind the dam.  I would be curious to know how many of the flooded homes behind the dam require flood insurance based on the flood maps.  By definition, all of those people knew the risk.  For the folks who did not need insurance but flooded anyway, it is quite easy to ask about flood risks (and see maps of infrastructure), flood plains, etc before you buy.

 

I had never owned a house in Houston that required flood insurance.  But I always did flood research before buying each house.  And, then I bought a flood policy anyway.  It really is "cheap" piece of mind.   In Houston, just about everyone needs a flood policy, IMO.

As far as I can tell from the FEMA flood map site, the area that flooded behind Barker Dam is in the 100 year flood plain, ie there's a 1% chance of flooding in any given year. That means flood insurance is required by lenders, unless the property owner can provide an elevation certificate that shows the structure is above base flood elevation. I personally think the maps were drawn incorrectly, given the amount of flooding, but the developers, etc always fight these maps tooth and nail, and FEMA does make mistakes, like they did after Allison along White Oak Bayou near 11th, where properties were put in the floodway because the models, as HCFCD and FEMA later admitted in community meetings, were used incorrectly. I do think that when you have property that is within the boundaries of a flood control structure, and has an elevation that's 10+ feet lower than the structure spillway, logic tells you that the property has a more than 1% chance of flooding every year, and should be placed in the highest risk zone.

 

Here's the Harris County site for flood maps http://www.harriscountyfemt.org/ and it has links to the FEMA site that has the official maps you can print

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15 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

I had never owned a house in Houston that required flood insurance.  But I always did flood research before buying each house.  And, then I bought a flood policy anyway.  It really is "cheap" piece of mind.   In Houston, just about everyone needs a flood policy, IMO.

 

Yep. I pay what works out to less than $40/month for a flood policy, and our house has never come close to flooding, even during Allison, Ike, and now Harvey. Even if your house has never flooded from storms, you aren't immune from a water main break. 

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1 minute ago, mkultra25 said:

 

Yep. I pay what works out to less than $40/month for a flood policy, and our house has never come close to flooding, even during Allison, Ike, and now Harvey. Even if your house has never flooded from storms, you aren't immune from a water main break. 

Here's the definition of flood from FEMA:

 

Flood.

  • A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties (at least 1 of which is the policyholder's property) from:
    --Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
    --Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
    --Mudflow;or
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.
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:(
 

"Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, which covers the city of Houston, said Friday that Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called it a conservative estimate. . .  Seventy percent of Harris County’s land mass, or about 1,300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water, Lindner said."

 

--David Tarrant today in the Dallas Morning News

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7 hours ago, strickn said:
:(
 

"Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, which covers the city of Houston, said Friday that Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called it a conservative estimate. . .  Seventy percent of Harris County’s land mass, or about 1,300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water, Lindner said."

 

--David Tarrant today in the Dallas Morning News

I believe that the number of flooded structures in Harris county will be higher than this.  And that is just Harris county......  

 

oh, and Jeff Lindner rocks.  New local superstar.  His press briefings were terrific.  Facts, plain facts, plainly spoken.  Terrific!

Edited by UtterlyUrban
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16 hours ago, strickn said:
:(
 

"Jeff Lindner, meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District, which covers the city of Houston, said Friday that Harvey flooded an estimated 136,000 structures in Harris County, or 10 percent of all structures in the county database. He called it a conservative estimate. . .  Seventy percent of Harris County’s land mass, or about 1,300 square miles, was submerged by at least 1½ feet of water, Lindner said."

 

--David Tarrant today in the Dallas Morning News

 

It is hard to believe that 70% of the county was under 1 1/2 feet of water, especially when everything else I've read has said 25-30% of the county was under water. If 70% were under water, then way more than 10% of structures would have flooded. Think they got the figure turned around. 

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9 hours ago, strickn said:

Not so much taking the torch as stepping into the void left behind by our last one;  how soon we forget them!

 

Neil Frank might say "I'm not dead yet!" (although he has gotten on in years, and I believe he is 85 now). KHOU has been known to bring him back when there is a major storm headed our way, and in fact, he was on briefly as Harvey loomed:

 

Dr. Neil Frank discusses Hurricane Harvey ' 10 p.m.

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Houston was protected by the Katy Prairie which absorbed way more water than the reservoirs can hold. But, we allowed mega developers make bank and we paved a massive amount of the prairie. And, if that wasn't bad enough, we allowed mega developers to the North clear cut the piney woods for housing.

 

We can't concrete ourselves out of this mess. We need to SAVE the remaining Katy Prairie to our West and the woods to our North. If government won't do it then we need a public land trust that'll outbid developers. It also wouldn't hurt to take back as much as we can. Greenspoint might be a good place to start. Buy it, rip it down, and turn it into another Bear Creek type park. 

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8 hours ago, KinkaidAlum said:

Houston was protected by the Katy Prairie which absorbed way more water than the reservoirs can hold. But, we allowed mega developers make bank and we paved a massive amount of the prairie. And, if that wasn't bad enough, we allowed mega developers to the North clear cut the piney woods for housing.

 

We can't concrete ourselves out of this mess. We need to SAVE the remaining Katy Prairie to our West and the woods to our North. If government won't do it then we need a public land trust that'll outbid developers. It also wouldn't hurt to take back as much as we can. Greenspoint might be a good place to start. Buy it, rip it down, and turn it into another Bear Creek type park. 

So, where would you put all the people who live out West, if those developments hadn't been allowed? What do you say to the property owner who saw nearby property sell for huge amounts, but he has to take a minimal amount? Where does the money come from to buy out thousands of properties and raze them? Hard questions with no simple answers.

 

I don't think the original prairie would absorb the amount of water Harvey dropped. The 1929 and 1935 floods are good indications of that. The flooding to the West might have been reduced, but that's it.

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I had read that the Brays Bayou project in progress actually did prevent/reduce flooding...where it was completed. The big problem with the flooding was that recent infrastructure improvements HAVE curbed the floods, it's the older stuff that didn't. I certainly don't think mass demolition is the answer, at least not on the scale Kinkaid is suggesting. I would propose requirements on detention ponds in new development, as well as converting existing long-vacant spots (like the Main Street McDonald's site mentioned) into drainage areas with permeable asphalt lots.

 

By the way, Google Maps updated to show Houston as of 8/30 with lots of flooding, including the Sam Houston Tollway near CityCentre turned into a rather lovely looking canal, until you know it's not supposed to be there.

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in the last 17 years we've had a 500 year flood, a 1000 year flood, and the most destructive drought in the city's history. Climate change + over development of sensitive and flood prone land is 100% the cause of our woes. 

 

Asphalt lots, detention ponds, and converting a few pod sites isn't going to cut it no matter how hard you try to ignore the overwhelming evidence. 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, KinkaidAlum said:

in the last 17 years we've had a 500 year flood, a 1000 year flood, and the most destructive drought in the city's history. Climate change + over development of sensitive and flood prone land is 100% the cause of our woes. 

 

Asphalt lots, detention ponds, and converting a few pod sites isn't going to cut it no matter how hard you try to ignore the overwhelming evidence.

The floodplains need to be redrawn, that's for sure. Can't have a 500 year flood and a 1000 year flood in a city less than 200 years old. So obviously, more of the city is in a floodplain than thought. Mass demolition is not going to be the answer to the city's woes. It would be different if the city was shrinking, so demolishing existing homes is going to just push out sprawl even further at best. Houston is not SimCity, and you can't just give yourself carpal tunnel with the bulldozer tool, and your 17 years is an awfully arbitrary number just to get the most disasters in and account for Allison, even if there were no major floods or other significant natural disasters in the 1980s and 1990s (I don't know enough about Houston history to say that for sure).

 

One thing I agree on is the sprawl problem, though not in the way you're thinking. Most developments have not included proper retention ponds, but it's also the infrastructure itself, a lot of the city was built fairly fast fairly cheaply in the 1970s and 1980s and that's been a problem. I know for a fact that roads like Long Point Road will easily flood just during a brief but hard rain.

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The term "X year flood" is starting to make me a bit stabby.  A "100 year flood" means there is a 1% chance of flooding in a given year, a "50 year flood" means 2%, and so on - it doesn't mean that it will be another 100 years (OK, 84 years at this point) until another Allison level event. 

 

Likewise, no two storms are the same.  At Mollusk Manor the water didn't come up as high as it did during Allison, but it came up twice (on successive evenings) rather than once.  Meyerland did fine during Allison but now routinely gets clobbered.  The Theater District hardened itself against an Allison level flood, and got socked when the water came up higher than it did during Allison.  OTOH, the submarine doors did their job and the bulk of the downtown tunnel system did not get dunked, as it did during Allison.

 

The bottom line is that we do need to modify the flood maps and our building practices, as occurred after Allison.  Areas that are at risk of repeated flooding need to be returned to a more natural state, as occurred in Friendswood after Allison.  We can't remove all risk, because we're not clairvoyant, but we can perform the equivalent of "Doc, it hurts when I do this (hits head with hammer)"  "well, don't hit yourself in the head with a hammer."

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I think one thing is for sure, the government needs to step up and buyout the homes they've condemned between hw6 and bw8 that are still flooded as part of the draining of the reservoirs. Turn that area into parkland and never develop again.

 

It's not the government (our) fault that people decided to develop along those waterways, but it is the government's fault for not buying up this property in the first place, and we need to take it on the chin to buy those properties out so that developers can't put unsuspecting people there in the future. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, samagon said:

I think one thing is for sure, the government needs to step up and buyout the homes they've condemned between hw6 and bw8 that are still flooded as part of the draining of the reservoirs. Turn that area into parkland and never develop again.

 

It's not the government (our) fault that people decided to develop along those waterways, but it is the government's fault for not buying up this property in the first place, and we need to take it on the chin to buy those properties out so that developers can't put unsuspecting people there in the future. 

 

 

Have any home in this area been officially "condemned"??????

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13 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

Have any home in this area been officially "condemned"??????

 

There's a lawsuit against the government on behalf of the people living in the homes that are still flooded as a result of the reservoir releases.

 

https://www.courthousenews.com/houston-residents-blame-city-dam-related-flooding/

 

My understanding is they are claiming inverse condemnation. Which I really don't understand the technical bits, but the 30,000 ft view of it makes sense: the government took an action to save countless lives and billions of dollars, this action resulted in the flooding of a number of homes (thus condemning them), and the government should be on the hook to pay for the damages it caused.

 

Or as they say in star trek: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

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