November 2017 Meeting

November 09, 2017
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
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Reliant Crowne Plaza Hotel
8686 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX

Hurricane Harvey: Lessons Learned and the New Normal

About the Speaker

Philip Bedient BIOGRAPHY (B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from University of Florida)

 Dr. Philip B. Bedient is the Herman Brown Professor of Engineering in the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, where he has served since 1975. He teaches and performs research in surface hydrology and flood prediction systems, coastal resiliency and disaster management, and storm water quality control. He has been analyzing complex hydrologic systems, and developing and running advanced hydrologic and hydraulic models his entire career.

He served as Chair of Environmental Engineering at Rice University from 1992 to 1999. He has directed 70 research projects over the past 42 years, has written over 200 articles in journals and conference proceedings. He has authored several textbooks, and is lead author on “Hydrology and Floodplain Analysis” (Prentice Hall, 6th ed., Print date Jan 2018) used in over 75 universities across the U.S. Dr. Bedient received the Herman Brown endowed Chair of Engineering in 2002 at Rice University. He was elected to Fellow ASCE in 2006 and received the prestigious C.V. Theis Award from the American Institute of Hydrology in 2007. Bedient received the Shell Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science (1988-1993).

 In 1998 Dr. Bedient invented the first real-time flood warning system (FAS) used in the U.S. FAS was developed for the Texas Medical Center using NEXRAD radar and real time hydrologic prediction. The system has been in place for almost 20 years. When T.S. Allison hit Houston in 2001 causing $5 billion in flood damage, he was involved for over five years with the redesign of the infrastructure near the Texas Medical Center to manage flood flows based on HEC models and SWMM simulations. FAS4 has just been released this year. He has recently worked on major floods on Houston bayous in 2015 and 2016, impacts of land use through time, and potential flood control measures in complex settings.

 In 2006 Dr. Bedient formed the Severe Storm Prediction (SSPEED) Center with funding from Texas after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit gulf coast. He is the director of the Center (since 2007) consisting of a team of five universities and 15 investigators from the Gulf coast dedicated to improving severe storm prediction, education, and evacuation from disaster. SSPEED has received over $8 million in funding from the Houston Endowment since 2009 and is currently developing the Houston-Galveston Area Protection System for mitigating storm surge in the region. Most recently he has worked to understand the impact of urban expansion on major floods that impacted Houston in 2015 and 2016, and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.


Harvey was the largest rainfall and most damaging flood event in US history.

By all measures it's widespread impact was a devastating blow to the Houston area, Harris County and surrounding counties. It dropped between 36 and 52 inches along the Texas coast over 5 days, exceeding all rainfall records, with up to 20 inches in a day. However, two earlier events from 2015 and 2016 also brought widespread flooding to many parts of Houston. Most bayous during Harvey were over bank by as much as 10 ft, and flooded an estimated 136000 homes in Harris county alone, greatly exceeding the TS Allison impact of 2001.

 While the area deals with a significant recovery effort, there is a massive call to action on the part of politicians, governmental agencies, and thousands affected by this event. There is concern with the statistical basis of rainfalls and floodplain mapping in Houston. There is a concern about the number and frequency of large floods. Development patterns and styles have come into question, as homes have been either built in 100 yr floodplains or taken into those floodplains over time. Estimates say over 47 % of homes flooded in Allison in 2001 were outside the floodplain. Many homes were built within and behind Addicks/Barker reservoirs, many with no knowledge that they were in harms way (over 8000 were flooded there alone), and flooded as water reached record setting levels.

 New technologies have allowed the measurement and prediction of floods to make great strides since the mid 1990s, (Radar, LiDAR, GIS, hydrologic models, floodplain updates) and the Houston area has benefitted from some of these efforts, but clearly we need to do a better job of educating and warning the public about the inherent risks they face along the Gulf coast. With such a low slope area, watershed models need to be regionalized to represent overland flow more accurately and to address over flow areas.

While the plan forward is daunting, there are a number of positive steps that are occurring and should lead to improved conditions for the future. The community as a whole is having frank discussions about policy changes on storage and detention requirements, needed green infrastructure improvements, and perhaps a third regional reservoir above Addicks. There are calls for better floodplain mapping and perhaps a higher risk standard. Also there is a renewed interest in flood warning systems to better inform the public about risk within specific watersheds. There is still a great deal of suffering out there after Harvey, but the three big floods we have just seen should cause a change in the way Houston expands in the future.



$0.00 Member Tickets

$20.00 Guest Ticket

$300.00 Luncheon Sponsorship/Exhibitor Table