Staying out of the floodplain is the number one measure that Houston needs to take to reduce impacts from flooding.

Overbank flooding from the creeks and bayous is the deepest and most serious kind of flooding. But anywhere in Houston is subject to street or sheet flooding, the kind that occurs when the amount of rain exceeds the capacity of the storm drains. If an Allison lands in your neighborhood – 40 inches in one day, not four like Harvey – and you are not elevated above the level of street flooding, you will get water in your house even if you are far from a bayou or a floodplain. A storm well short of Allison could do the same.

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Our forebears knew what to do. They elevated their homes. They built with pier-and-beam construction three to four feet above the grade of their lot. And they very frequently elevated their lots above the grade of the street with fill dirt.

I live in this kind of neighborhood. Just over two years ago, I finished building a house in Eastwood, a subdivision built about 100 years ago in Houston's East End. I am a watershed scientist – thinking about flooding is a habit. I selected Eastwood for the same reason the original developers did – high ground that drains well. We are right between Buffalo Bayou and Brays Bayou – sounds like an area that should flood, right? Not at all – it is on a ridge between these two waterways. (OK — you won't get a nosebleed way up on this ridge — but water knows where to go: away from the ridge!)

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