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Four things Houston-area leaders must do to prevent future flooding disasters

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Read full article in the Texas Tribune

…This may seem like a freak occurrence. But it’s the third catastrophic flooding event this region of 6.5 million people has experienced in three years. And scientists and other experts say that much of the devastation could have been prevented. …They say local officials need to account for more frequent and intense rains that are sure to come with climate change, rather than looking to what has happened in the past in their search for solutions.

Here’s what local leaders could have done to protect the region — and what they must do to prevent such disasters in the future.

Preserve and restore as much prairie land as possible

Much of northwest Houston used to be covered in prairie land, where tall grasses could absorb huge amounts of floodwater….

Restrict development in floodplains and buy flood-prone homes

Buildings continue to go up in vulnerable floodplains all over Harris County. A few years ago the city of Houston tried to ban new development in the most flood-prone areas. …

Plan for climate change

In planning for flooding from future storms, local officials largely look to past rainfall totals and weather patterns. But climate change will heighten the risks that the region already faces. That’s particularly true because it sits so close to the Gulf of Mexico, where sea levels are rising and waters have been warming as the planet gets hotter….“The exact same storm that comes along today has more rain associated with it than it would have 50 or 100 years ago,” renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told The Texas Tribune last year. Hayhoe said Houston needs to plan for more frequent and intense rainstorms, just like many other cities in the country….

Educate the public

Hundreds of thousands of people have moved to the Houston area in recent decades; it’s consistently ranked as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. But people who move to flood-prone areas are often unaware of the risks….

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