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The cumulative effect

We really need to give a lot more thought, and action, to this.

As the flood-weary city of Houston recovers from yet another historic storm in the coming days, rubber-gloved mucking brigades and tow truck armies will swoop in to clean up the physical mess. But more and more, Houstonians are finding that the toll of these repeated floods reaches far beyond the physical. The events have changed the very way our city feels.

A Rice University study published earlier this month found that nearly 20 percent of flood victims surveyed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey reported post-flood PTSD, depression and anxiety. And more than 70 percent said the prospect of future flood events was a source of worry.

Harvey was the third “500-year” rain event to hit Southeast Texas in three years. This week, Tropical Storm Imelda also earned that distinction, as some areas received more than 40 inches of rain, paralyzing the area as highways morphed into parking lots and first responders performed more than 2,000 rescues Thursday alone. And many residents are now asking themselves: Is Houston worth it?


Ronald Acierno, director of UTHealth’s Trauma and Resilience Center, compares the cumulative effect of Houston’s weather events to a combat veteran who experienced improvised explosive devices in crowded marketplaces.

“Just as they may experience stress just being in a busy shopping center, new flooding can elicit anxiety or panic in victims of previous flooding,” said Acierno. “Even if they’re not affected by the new flooding or the danger isn’t as intense, the similarity will trigger a response.”

Acierno said “emotionally draining” is a good term for the frequent flooding’s effect on those for whom the toll doesn’t constitute PTSD.

“We don’t need to pathologize normal responses,” said Acierno, a professor of psychology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

Acierno said seeking treatment or connecting with other people going through the same experience is the most protective way people can deal with the constant stress.

I couldn’t find the study in question, but these two articles from Texas Climate News do a good job summarizing what researchers have learned since Harvey. Obviously, climate change is a huge part of the problem. That’s a bigger problem than anything Houston and the greater Houston area can solve, though every government entity should be doing all they can. In the shorter term, we need to be moving quickly and decisively towards greater resilience. That’s going to cost a lot of money, and the state and the feds are going to have to do their part. We all know now, it’s just a matter of “when” for the next massive flood event, whether it’s one we see coming like Harvey or not, like Imelda. We know it’s out there, and it’s going to happen. What are we doing about it?

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  1. Manny says:

    The City has no money;
    The Federal Government is living on borrowed money;
    The State has no money:

  2. robert says:

    We spend more money responding to floods than preventing them!

    I ran for city council 10 yrs ago, I mentioned in my interview with Kuff , that Lane Lewis mentioned that we need to invest 500 million dollars and that he was absolutely correct to address drainage and flooding.

    Everyone said that we don’t have the money, we have have spent gazillions of dollars in the last 10 yrs and are no better off, smh

  3. Manny says:

    Robert, drainage and flooding are two different things. If you mean flooding as like “street flooding” than you are correct. Having better drainage just directs the water some where else that will probably flood unless you have a very very large place to detain the water.

    But 9 inches in 90 minutes is a lot of water to redirect. Maybe Climate Change is real? One would think that people would learn to stay out of high water in the streets.

    I personally think that streets should be designed to collect water to protect homes.

  4. robert says:

    Look at what the Dutch say…they think we are so stupid, because when there is rain/flooding we just want to get rid of the water, send it to the Bayous.

    Then when there are droughts, we’re crying there is no water. They manage both with one system.

  5. Manny says:

    Not disagreeing with you Robert, the question is where is the money coming from? You solve that first and then one can deal with the flooding.

  6. Mike says:

    You get the government you pay for. Raise taxes on the highest earners to pay for the infrastructure we need.

    Hoarding isn’t just about food or other supplies.

    Money can be hoarded, too.

  7. robert says:

    Increased water bills….Boston did the harbor cleanup 30 yrs ago, was paid in increased water/sewer bills .

    It has to be done, how much has been spent in Houston after all the floods, and where does that money come from?

  8. Andrew says:

    The drainage and flooding projects need to accelerate the pace. City council and the mayor drag their feet and fail to approve many flood control projects.

  9. Manny says:

    Robert at least let us be honest, there was at least $100 million from the federal government and it took 30 years to clean it up, not cleaned up 30 years ago.