J8.1 Taking Katrina Storm Surge Resilience Lessons to Galveston Bay

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 11:00 AM
Room 344 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
William Read, Former Director, National Hurricane Center, League City, TX

One of the recurring lessons taught by storms like Katrina, Rita, and Ike is just how vulnerable the Gulf coast of the US is to storm surge. Post Katrina actions included a massive overhaul of the storm surge protection system in southeast Louisiana, thus improving the regions ability to withstand the surge from all but the strongest storms. To the author's knowledge, no other coastal community in the US took action to reduce their risk from surge.

The Galveston Bay region is highly vulnerable to storm surge, with over half a million people at risk along with the major industries and port facilities. Because of this vulnerability, the approach of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008 required massive and complicated evacuations. More people died in the Rita evacuation than from the impacts of the storm. Potential losses from a category 4 worse case scenario exceed $100 billion. Protection from the risk of storm surge would greatly reduce both the volume of people needing to evacuate and the catastrophic losses potential surge would cause.

Researchers at Texas A&M Galveston and Rice University have developed a detailed plan to greatly reduce the risk of surge in the Galveston Bay region. The plan calls for a coastal spine along the barrier island and Bolivar Peninsula with flood gates at the Galveston and San Luis Pass entrances to the Bay. The system borrows from the success the Netherlands has had with their surge protection system.

The talk will focus on the surge risk before and after building of the protection system. It will also address the societal and fiscal challenges facing adoption and implementation of the plan.

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