Hurricane Ike’s death and destruction vividly pointed out the need for protection from hurricane storm surge in the Houston-Galveston region. And, as bad as Ike was, we who live and work around Galveston Bay dodged a bullet. Before Ike hit, the forecast predicted a 25 foot storm surges up Galveston Bay. We were looking at possibly a $100 Billion hurricane, which could have killed hundreds, left thousands homeless and jobless and devastated the nation’s largest petrochemical complex and crippled its busiest port.
This terrible scenario can be prevented. We can apply best practices and existing technologies used in the Netherlands and New Orleans to protect our region. The coastal spine concept is the approach the Dutch used after their 1953 surge disaster. They shortened their coast by combining barriers and gates to keep surge out of internal waters. They shared their methods with New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and today New Orleans has the Greater New Orleans Barrier that protects the city from storm surge. We are using that knowledge here as a solution to protect the Galveston-Houston area.
We at Texas A&M University at Galveston have been privileged to work with Dutch institutions and other strong partners to better understand how to protect our region’s people, economy and environment from hurricane induced storm surge.