Florida and Texas often swap places in ranking 1st and 2nd in the U.S. for flood damage claims. Most recently, Hurricane Harvey resulted in estimated $125 billion in damages throughout the state of Texas. The flood damage extended from residential and business development to public infrastructure including roads, bridges, and drainage structures. During Hurricane Harvey, National Weather Service office in Houston observed all-time record daily rainfall accumulations on both August 26 and 27, measured at 14.4 in (370 mm) and 16.08 in (408 mm) respectively. An estimated 25–30 percent of Harris County—roughly 444 mi2 (1,150 km2) of land—was submerged by August 27. The resulting significant flooding caused moderate to severe damage to various roads, bridges, surface elements, and sewers. During and immediately after the unprecedented rainfall and flooding, Harris County personnel determined that an urgent need to inspect over 850 bridges and make necessary repairs.
Harris County has developed a cradle to grave approach to responding to ensure bridge safety, repairing structures that are damaged, and pursuing/receiving federal reimbursement for eligible repairs.
This begins with a method for rapid inspection of bridges. Directly following an extreme event personnel, who receive bi-annual training, are mobilized to visit and evaluate bridges for safety and to document any damage. The response system considers prioritization of locations to visit, based on stream data and on-the-fly flood inundation maps. Inspection teams transmit site reconnaissance data while in the field using a customized electronic form that is available via any mobile device (cell phone, laptop, etc.) that can connect to the internet. Information is received “just in time” and stakeholders/owners can instantly view data in a variety of formats (including user-specified sorting). Additionally, the system allows quick notification to other entities, such as Harris County Flood Control and Harris County Environmental, for any observations/repair items that require their attention.
The approach continues with emergency construction activity. Construction managers, designated before the extreme event, engage vetted contractors via federal aligned procurement procedures to perform repairs, document the post-construction condition, and document costs/descriptions of the repairs.
The final step is recovery and seeking of eligible federal aid from FEMA and/or FHWA. An outline and timeline of this process is incorporated into our approach. Additionally, the policies and procedures of both FEMA and FHWA are ingrained into the entire process in order to increase opportunities for federal reimbursement of eligible disaster repair activity.
Individuals and entities that could face an extreme event in the near future will benefit from learning about the cradle to grave approach, and how it was successfully applied during 2017 Hurricane Harvey, one of the most costly tropical cyclones on record. Real examples will be used throughout the presentation and live electronic polls will be utilized to foster audience engagement.