Hurricane Harvey a Sober Reminder That Resilience Requires Mitigation and Adaptation

Wishing Houstonians continued strength, fortitude, and safe passage this week, Hazel Borys considers resilience.

2 minute read

August 30, 2017, 6:00 AM PDT

By Scott Doyon


Texas Flood

AMFPhotography / Shutterstock

"Most of us faraway bystanders are observing Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey with concern at the devastation as well as encouragement at the stories of compassion. With sympathy to the current human suffering from Harvey, we are wishing Houstonians continued strength, fortitude, and safe passage this week. No amount of comprehensive planning or zoning reform can prepare a city for the sort of flood Houston is currently experiencing. An expected 50” of rain in a few days makes this an event that no place in the world is likely to sustain without massive personal and economic impacts. Perhaps not even the Netherlands, who has led the world in stormwater management for hundreds of years, with protection, prevention, and preparedness."

"This volume is more rainfall in 3 days than annual amounts in very wet regions. The rainiest cities in the U.S. – Mobile, Pensacola, and New Orleans – average 67”, 65” and 64” of rain per year. Portland and Seattle average 36” and 37”. 50” in a few days is highly unusual in hurricane history, and is perhaps a 1,000-year flood. That means that there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of it happening in any given year, and not that we should only expect an event of this magnitude every 1,000 years, an important but counterintuitive distinction. Regardless of what kind of planning Houston would’ve done, preparation for this intensity is a challenge."

"A good deal of brilliance has been shone on how climate change is – and is not – involved in progressively more extreme storm events, like this piece by David Roberts. Clearly, we must both adapt and mitigate climate effects as quickly as we can. It is becoming increasingly clear that adaptation and mitigation isn’t an either/or choice."

Borys shares short interviews with two planning gurus, Ben Brown and Scott Bernstein, and points to a number of resources that may help us with our global commons problem.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 in PlaceShakers

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.