About six months ago, Houston woke up to a new reality, ushered in by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.
As the city became submerged by record rainfall and flooding, local leaders and experts quickly realized that traditional wisdom about flood planning, and about how intense tropical cyclones can even get, might not apply anymore.
Adjusting to that new reality has taken time, and is in many ways just getting started: you can’t completely reshape how a city deals with flooding overnight.
“Change is not easy, but we have to change how we build in our city,” said Marvin Odum, Houston’s Chief Recovery Officer and former Shell Oil president.
The city has proposed stricter rules for building in flood-prone areas, which is a big deal for a place that’s historically avoided regulations in favor of unrestrained development. The rules are designed to protect larger swaths of Houston against bigger storms, but Odum acknowledged there has been pushback.