Vulnerability assessment of the Houston-Galveston area for Hurricane Harvey

Authors: Gainbi Park*, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Zengwang Xu, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: hurricane damage, storm surge, flooding vulnerability, social vulnerability, Hurricane Harvey, population change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 1, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Houston-Galveston region causing extensive damage such as rain-induced flooding, high wind damage, and storm surge along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Especially, the hurricane produced intense rainfall over Houston metropolitan area, resulting in severe flooding further inland. Hurricane Harvey's impact on Houston highlights again the vulnerability and resilience of coastal population to hurricanes in the United States. The objective of this study is to investigate what makes people and places more susceptible to hurricanes considering both physical and social vulnerability. First of all, we derive the spatial extent of wind damage and the inundated areas by storm surge and heavy rainfall. A simple meteorological model (HURRECON) will be used to estimate the impact of wind damage, and the inundation areas will be determined using a SLOSH (Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) model and verified high water marks. Second, this study examines the impact of urbanization and land cover change on potential runoff to delineate the flood-prone areas over time. To do so, we employ the Soil Conservation Service curve number (SCS-CN) method. This study further explores the underlying vulnerability within the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, we attempt to understand what population groups have been exposed to this deadly catastrophic hurricane in space and over time based on their demographic and socio-economic characteristics. This study will enhance our understanding of hurricane vulnerability of coastal cities. It also helps local emergency managers to establish effective mitigation strategies tailored to at-risk populations.

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