There will be time — in due course — to start thinking seriously about the future of a city that’s been devastated by Mother Nature’s awesome power.
It is beginning already, though.
Houston is still bailing out and digging out from impact of Hurricane Harvey. Residents remain displaced. Many thousands of Houstonians are grieving and wondering where they go from here, what they’ll do to rebuild their shattered lives.
Meanwhile, city officials have begun to start asking: What have we done to exacerbate this tragedy?
Houston is known as a city with limited urban planning guidelines. Over many years the city has quite willingly paved over grasslands and wetlands with pavement. They’ve built highways and bridges, paved streets, laid down parking lots, erected skyscrapers. Residential neighborhoods have sprung up where alligators once swam.
The result of all that has helped produced what we’ve witnessed in recent days. Indeed, Harvey’s savagery isn’t the first such incident to bedevil Houston. Hurricanes Ike and Rita, anyone? Hurricanes Carla and Alicia? Yes, we remember those events, too.
What does Houston do? How does the city cope with the potential for future disaster? I fear it’s too late. The city isn’t going to bust up the asphalt. It’s not going to knock down those buildings and bridges. It won’t shoo away the millions of residents who have flocked to the city.
I suppose the city is now left to ponder ways to control more tightly developers’ designs on future construction. I remember some discussion after Hurricane Katrina laid siege to New Orleans in August 2005 about how the city should rebuild whole neighborhoods washed away. There was some talk of turning former Ninth Ward neighborhoods into wetlands and relocating the residents who fled the storm’s fury.
Houston might need to ponder a similar response to recovering from the damage and destruction delivered by Hurricane Harvey.
A word of caution: Don’t dawdle, Houston. The changing climate might well produce another killer storm soon. I don’t need to remind our friends along the Gulf Coast — but I will anyway — that we are now entering the peak of the 2017 hurricane season.