Joe Henderson: Florida take heed from Houston horror – Florida Politics (blog)
Like all of you, I have been mesmerized watching reports about the catastrophe in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Just couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and couldn’t help thinking what it would be like if a storm like Harvey washed ashore from the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Florida got a taste of it last year when Hurricane Matthew snaked up the east coast, leaving an estimated 1 million people without power and causing $1.5 billion in damage. And that wasn’t a direct hit.
One of the news reports over the weekend focused on the urban sprawl in Houston and said that helped create this the carnage we’re seeing now.
Miles and miles of land that provided natural drainage has been paved over to create instant communities like Katy, just to the west of Houston. Now, the water has nowhere to go but inside thousands of living rooms.
I drove through Katy a few months ago as part of a Texas trip and couldn’t believe what I saw. They should call that place Concrete Katy, because if there was an open spot of land it looks like developers couldn’t wait to pave it over.
Its population is now estimated at 309,000 – more than the city of Pittsburgh. For perspective: the Katy area had about 140,000 in the year 2000. Annual population growth has been between 4 and 6 percent.
It reminded me a lot of the Brandon area, east of Tampa. People here claim that if Greater Brandon was incorporated into a single entity, it would be the fifth-largest city in Florida.
When I moved there in 1988 though, it was much different. It wasn’t unusual to see lots of green space and even grazing cattle. Much of that space is gone now, sold to make way for planned housing