Imelda is another reminder Texas isn’t ready for climate change

by | Sep 20, 2019 | Environment, Policy

On Thursday, Tropical Storm Imelda brought extreme flooding to southeast Texas, bringing with it more than 40 inches of rain in some parts of the region. A chorus of emergency alerts lit up phones and blared through car radios. Schools closed. Many in the Houston region sheltered in place at work. Streets became rivers that did untold damage to countless cars, save the monster trucks barreling through the deep waters to save the stranded.

All of this led to the state of Texas issuing a disaster declaration for 13 counties, including Harris County, where residents could not shake the familiar feeling from two years ago when Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

“This happened very quickly,” Mayor Slvyster Turner said on Thursday, according to the Houston Chronicle. “But it’s just demonstrating that in this day and time, climate change is real. And we no longer have to be concerned just with a hurricane. We have to be concerned with almost any sort of weather system that can quickly evolve into a major storm and produce a great deal of rain.”

Imelda, already one of the wettest tropical storms on record, is a reminder that Texas isn’t equipped to deal with climate change. Only so much can be done to the infrastructure in Houston and Beaumont, which also got hit hard by Imelda, to mitigate flooding. “No drainage system in the world can handle 6′ of rain in an hour,” said Houston area meteorologist Matt Lanza in a series of tweets.

In the past five years, Harris County has experienced at least four 500-year floods, with Imelda expected to be the fifth.

With multiple studies finding man-made climate change as the supercharging culprit behind Harvey and other hurricanes, there’s little to debate. The longer Texas waits, the less ready its residents will be for the increase in severe weather events, wildfires and droughts predicted under climate change.  

Texas Republicans don’t take climate change seriously. Most telling, several climate change-related bills filed earlier this year in the state legislature that would have allowed Texas to study and plan for climate change were ignored in their respective GOP-led committees.  

“I couldn’t even get a hearing,” Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat who filed one of the bills, told The Signal last month. “[Republicans] know that it’s happening. They see the science from NASA, from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). I fear that we’re reaching a tipping point.”

“I’m not a scientist,” said Abbott last year when asked about the role of climate change exacerbating disasters like Harvey. He’s also not a doctor, engineer, small-business owner, or teacher but still makes policy on these and many other issues.

The latest climate change science from the IPCC, a collaborative effort by the United Nations that includes more than 1,300 scientists from around the world, predicts a rise in global temperatures between 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Texas and other southern states are expected to face the worst effects of climate change in the U.S.

Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images 

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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