Flood of Celebrities at Chamber Gala

The North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce held their 41st Annual Awards Ceremony and Swearing-in last Friday, January 19th at the Houston Hobby Airport Marriott.

It was a night sparkling with good food and great friends, dressed like Hollywood stars.

The featured speaker was Meteorologist Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District, and a celebrity spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Management, after the flooding and devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Lindner’s face became the most familiar on television, as he reported on the effects of the hurricane and the subsequent flooding throughout the county.

Lindner’s account of the flood was a painful reminder to many in the audience, who had suffered personal loss at their homes or businesses. But his talk brought a new insight into the pitfalls of trying to predict the weather and warn residents of potential dangers.

As Lindner said of the Hurricane, there was “nothing comparable in U.S. history.” It covered 2000 square miles, and dropped 43.7 inches of rain over several days. This was 12 inches more than the previous record.

He said that even in the Emergency Center, the staff had a hard time perceiving the strength of the storm, and the disaster to the public. And the magnitude of the disaster was measured by 8900 calls to 9-1-1 asking to be rescued from flood waters.

The Hurricane affected everyone from Victoria to Louisiana. In Harris County, Hunting Bayou, Greens Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, Luce Bayou, and the San Jacinto River all overflowed their boundaries.

Lindner recounted the worry that prevailed at the Emergency Center, as the rain continued through the September 2nd weekend, and then on Sunday September 3rd flooding hit. On that day all Houston freeways were under 8 to 10 feet of water in some sections, and travel was impossible, including emergency vehicles. The decision was made by the OEM to ask the public for help since all resources had been deployed. The OEM estimated that between 15,000 and 25,000 people were at risk that Sunday.

He told of the difficult decision that was made, to open the gates on the two reservoirs in West Houston. He said this was to save lives, regardless of damage to property. These dams were built in the 1940s, and not adequate for today’s runoffs.

Lindner thanks the traditional media, and the new social media, especially Twitter, for helping to communicate to the public. He said that pictures of the flooding were helpbul.

Lessons have been learned from this hurricane and flood, and he said that on January 1st of this year, new county regulations require building 36” above the 100 year flood plain.

For more photos, please see the full edition of this paper.