News Feature | November 24, 2017

After Barely Escaping Harvey, San Antonio Preps For Future Hurricanes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

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After a treacherous hurricane season, some southern cities are shoring up their disaster preparedness plans to prevent future sewage and water crises.

San Antonio is among them. The path of Hurricane Harvey nearly crossed the city this year.

“In the ensuing months, city planners in San Antonio have had to reckon with that near-miss — and the questions it raised: Is the Alamo City ready for the kind of disastrous flooding that struck Houston? Could it happen here? What is being done? What more can we do?” KSAT reported.

San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) did not predict or sustain water outages due to Harvey this year. Yet planners say it is “a matter of when not if” catastrophic flooding will hit San Antonio, which endured major floods in 1997, 1998, and 2002, the report said.

“Should a storm like Harvey hit our area, preliminary model results show that the Olmos Basin would receive enough water to fill the Alamodome 41 times, which equates to more than 23.3 billion gallons of water,” the report said, citing officials with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA).

The city took steps in the aftermath of previous flooding to make some preparations.

“[SARA’s] first steps were to update its very outdated watershed maps and computer models using a $1.4 million grant from FEMA, combined with $12 million of SARA’s money. The maps went into effect in 2010. Developers must now use SARA’s models when they plan projects to deal with the rain that falls on their offices, malls and housing developments,” the San Antonio Express-News reported.

River authority data show San Antonio would have faced major stormwater challenges if Harvey had hit the city.

"The flood models show us that it would be catastrophic event there's no doubt about that but our event would be different," said Stephen Graham, assistant general manager of SARA, to FOX San Antonio.

"In (Houston’s) Harris County the water had nowhere to go,” Graham added. “It's very flat, the water mounded up and mounded up and stranded people in their homes for days."

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.

Image credit: "view of san antonio texas river walk 2011 riverwalk usa arial," Tim (Timothy) Pearce © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: