Harris County Judge Ed Emmett: Hurricane Harvey ‘By Far The Worst’

But “improvements do work,” Emmett said, citing the example of the Texas Medical Center, which he said hasn’t flooded since Hurricane Allison in 2001. “We’ve just got to have the political will and financial resources to do it.”

Timely relief will be key to Hurricane Harvey recovery, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told Maggie Martin of Houston Matters during a Houston Public Media Facebook Live conversation on Tuesday.

The storm, he said, was “by far the worst, no question,” that he’s experienced in 10 years as Harris County judge, and preparing for it presented complex challenges.

“I like to say lightheartedly there's a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings because we got through the storm,” he said. “Those warm, fuzzy feelings will go away very quickly if people still have debris in their front yard and if they haven't gotten relief from FEMA in terms of individual assistance or housing assistance. Those two have to be job one.”

Improvements to mitigate future flood risk are also important, he said. Because of changes such as installation of flood doors at the Texas Medical Center, which suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage after Hurricane Allison in 2001, “The medical center hasn’t flooded again,” he noted. “So improvements do work. We've just got to have the political will and financial resources to do it.”

Is a third reservoir a possibility for the area? For years, Emmett said, the idea for a reservoir “has been on the plans” for Cypress Creek, which experienced severe flooding due to Harvey. “But years ago, it was decided not to build it, because nobody was ever going to live that far out. Well, obviously we've grown. And now it makes it more difficult to construct it because the land's become more valuable.”

Meanwhile, Emmett emphasized the need for a comprehensive hydrology study. “We need to think about where are the natural watersheds, where does the water flow naturally in our area,” he said. “And then we need to complete the jobs that are already planned on the various watersheds. The Brays [Bayou] project is the one that everybody talks about the most.”

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