Where Houses Shouldn't Be
Our podcast examines who bore the costs of Hurricane Harvey in the Fleetwood community located in West Houston. Fleetwood is a neighborhood downstream of the Barker and Addicks reservoirs, which were deliberately opened by the Army Corps of Engineers during the hurricane and flooded the neighborhood, some homes with six feet of water. Residents of the area did not know that they were in the reservoir spill zone and could be deliberately flooded.
One of my major contributions were interviewing Professor Phil Bedient of Rice University at the SSPEED Center and Caryne Craig who survived the Hurricane but lost her home from flooding in the Fleetwood neighborhood. I also used Adobe Audition to create our podcast episode.
"The podcast not only clearly demonstrated a lot of work, but it was fascinating and really well put together. As you know, I was excited about this topic. The podcast really delivered. It was impressive, to say the least.
Professor Jason Cons
University of Texas Professor of Anthropology
"Where Houses Shouldn't Be" Shownotes
Our podcast examines who bore the costs of Hurricane Harvey in Fleetwood, a neighborhood in Houston. Fleetwood is downstream of the Barker and Addicks reservoirs, which were opened during the hurricane, causing the neighborhood to flood. Residents did not know that they could be deliberately flooded. No one had flood insurance. How did this happen? Andrea Lloyd, Ambrose Lozano, and Elise Smith decided to investigate.
We interviewed several people, including Sean Hart, a boy who grew up in the neighborhood, and Caryne Craig, current president of the Fleetwood HOA and a small business owner. As they told their stories, we found commonalities between them; they didn’t know they were in a flood plain, and they took financial and emotional damage as a result of the storm. Since they didn’t know they could be flooded, and the neighborhood had never flooded in recent memory, no one was prepared to evacuate and many people lost necessary and sentimental items they could have saved if they were warned sooner. Residents had long term emotional issues as a result of the storm as well. Some of those who were flooded received FEMA aid, but still lost money as they rebuilt, either by selling their house at a loss, or by needing to take out a loan to rebuild. Caryne Craig was forced to downsize due to financial hardships while trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Almost 200 jobs were lost.
We interviewed Professor Phil Bedient from Rice University who studies environmental and civil engineering with regards to Hurricane Harvey. According to him, the dams had to be opened due to the sheer amount of water Harvey dumped on the city, but the houses didn’t need to be built there. There had never been flooding in the area, but the 1 in 1000 year storm caused the filling of the reservoirs. Theoretically this means a storm that magnitude shouldn’t happen again, and Fleetwood should be safe for a long time, but due to global warming increasing the amount and severity of hurricanes, bigger storms are becoming more likely. As for why houses were built in the floodplain? The fact that the government only bought so much land around the dams when built, as well as human need for profit, and the faith in the dams’ ability to keep the area dry led to the building of housing in the area in the 70s and 80s without additional drainage infrastructure. Development leads to less ability to drain the area, as roads and buildings cannot absorb water. The development in the area meant the water lingered, causing even more damage to houses.
Not much can be done now in regards to the area, other than modifying the dams for better drainage. The residents have flood insurance now, but the area will continue to flood as long as heavy storms continue to hit Houston and Houston continues to have a drainage problem. The dams will continue to protect downtown, and Fleetwood will be caught in the consequences.
For more reading on Urban Development and Harvey:
Zhang, Villarini. “Urbanization Exacerbated the Rainfall and Flooding Caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.” Nature (London) 563.7731 (2018): 384–388. Web.
For more reading on global warming and Hurricanes:
Shuckburgh, Mitchell. “Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria: How Natural Were These ‘natural Disasters’?” Weather 72.11 (2017): 353–354. Web.
For more information about Professor Bedient’s research on Hurricane Harvey, including future plans to mitigate drainage in Houston:
For information about the dams and Fleetwood flooding: