Column: California wildfires to Florida hurricanes, how the rich game climate change
This week brings a series of storms across the U.S, including catastrophic, catastrophic storms to the Pacific Northwest, severe storms in California, and a historic flood just north of New Orleans. But hurricanes Harvey and Irma were the first to strike Florida: The entire state endured the most destructive hurricane in its history, with death tolls that could be devastating in terms of economic and natural devastation.
But the floods that hit much of southeast Texas on June 1 were much less devastating — not quite as costly, not quite as deadly. Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas this week, leaving about a foot of torrential rain in place, but there was little more than a foot of water in the Houston area — and most of that water came from rain-swollen creeks, not the Gulf. But just because it was bad is no evidence that it would have been anything better had there been flood walls at the entrances to the Houston area’s major waterways — such as the Houston Ship Channel off the coast of southeast Texas, which leads into the Rio Grande Estuary, or the Port of Houston’s inland shipping waterway, Houston Ship Channel, which cuts through central Texas.
I’ll pause for a moment to consider the difference between a foot of water coming down the Houston Ship Channel from a storm with a 1-foot hurricane surge, versus a foot of water that comes from a storm with a 3-foot hurricane surge. If you put a foot of water in front of a 2-foot-high wave breaking on a beach, you’re going to do some damage. If you put a foot of water in front of a 3-foot-high wave breaking on a beach, you’re going to do a whole lot of damage.
The difference is that a foot of water coming from a 2-foot-high surge is not a foot of water coming from a 1-foot surge any more. When you put a foot of water on a beach, you’ve already got a foot of water on the beach. You’ve already got a foot of water coming out of the ocean. The difference is that a foot of water coming from a 2-foot surge is less water coming from a 1-foot surge — a foot of water coming from a 2-foot surge is less water coming from a 3-foot