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Texas A&M University
Friday, May 18, 2012
False Sense of Security Despite Forecast of Fewer Hurricanes,
Warn A&M-Corpus Christi Scientists
– Predictions that the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than just about any time in the last 30 years do not mean that Texas Gulf residents should let their guard down, according to scientists at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Last year, Dr. Gary Jeffress, director of the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science, and his team of surveyors re-measured 20 known elevations along the Texas coast as part of the National Height Modernization Project. They found that many areas have dropped as much as 1.5 feet since the elevations were last measured in the 1950s, largely due to subsidence, the lowering of the Earth’s surface due to extraction of oil, gas, and water from beneath the ground. At the same time, climate change is causing sea levels to rise, making it more likely that areas not previously considered as vulnerable to flooding will be at risk.
“We’re not trying to alarm anybody, but people need to understand the risks of flood damage along the coast,” says Jeffress, an expert in measuring storm surges associated with hurricanes. “Sea levels have risen considerably since elevations were first computed in 1929 by the federal government, which means that areas designated as being 9 feet above sea level for flood insurance purposes are really more like 8 feet or lower. And, it’s only going to get worse over time.”
Jeffress stresses that even one hurricane anywhere along the Texas coast can be dangerous for all residences and businesses close to the water. He points to Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in Harris County, Texas, in 2008, as an example of what can happen when construction is based on outdated data. The storm caused $29.5 million in damage when an entire Country Roads Estate subdivision in LaBelle, Texas, west of Beaumont, was inundated with four feet of water. More than 200 miles south on North Padre Island, the storm caused a 3-foot surge that completely covered area beaches and flooding sand dunes.
Learn more about the Conrad Blucher Institute's work:
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