Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ike Devastation to Houston Could Have Been Worse

The Houston Chronicle this weekend featured an article depicting the dangers of a Category 4 storm in the Houston-Galveston area. Experts predict such a storm could cause $374 billion in damages in Harris County. These damages only include those caused by wind—flooding is another issue. If a hurricane were to strike the Galveston Coast directly, its wind damage could affect neighboring counties for miles.

With hurricane season just around the corner it’s important to be aware of the possible dangers associated with them. In September 2008, Hurricane Ike smashed into the Gulf Coast, killing 20 people and causing $25 billion in damages. This hurricane initiated the largest search-and-rescue in United States history, as well as increased awareness for these unavoidable natural disasters.

In Lessons from Hurricane Ike (Texas A&M University Press, 2012) edited by Philip Bedient, the damages to the Houston-Galveston area are examined further. Bedient, a Herman Brown Professor of Engineering at Rice University, directs the research team at the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. Incorporating SSPEED’s research with colorful maps and vivid photos, Bedient presents a straight-forward read on predicting and preparing for hurricanes.

“Ike revealed just how vulnerable the Houston-Galveston region is to a major storm, but Ike also helped us visualize the ‘worst-case’ storm scenario from our region,” said Bedient. “The main lesson from Ike is that we can avoid catastrophic damage from future storms if we choose to act.”

Although the last direct hit to Galveston was in 1915, it doesn’t mean it’s safe from further hurricane damage. Precautions are necessary for the upcoming summer of hurricane season. According to Bedient, if Hurricane Ike had hit 50 miles down the Texas Coast, damages would have quadrupled.

Lessons from Hurricane Ike shows that in the past decade there has been both increased hurricane activity and a higher incidence of powerful storms. Bedient gives a history of hurricanes affecting the Gulf Coast and methods for predicting and preparing for them. There is no telling what size storm will hit the Gulf Coast this summer; being informed and aware is necessary.
By: Madeline Loving

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