Instead of bracing for the next hurricane or tropical storm, imagine a city embracing it.
That's the idea behind extensive planning and infrastructure development in Houston, a city that has weathered more than its share of tropical storms and hurricanes.
"What if we forged an alliance with storm water, slowed it down, and turned it into a temporary amenity and even a long-term economic benefit and lifeblood for our cities and communities?" writes Rives Taylor, an architect who sits on the Mayor's Water Conservation Task Force in Houston for Fast Company magazine.
Houston doesn't have an impeccable record when it comes to city planning, but some of its successes are worth replicating elsewhere, Taylor says. For example, when storm waters surge, dry reservoirs built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the '30s and '40s transform into suburban lakes. Parks with soccer fields, softball fields and tennis courts with natural drainage were built, turning the landscape into a recreation area.
In the city, designated streets were built lower, to transform into canals during storms, while others were built higher for emergency access. The soccer and rugby fields at Rice University are sunken to collect and drain water. Hospitals were retrofitted with "submarine-like" doors that control the flow of water.
"Heck, gulley washers (as I refer to furious rains) might even be construed as something good for the rose bushes or, more generally, the landscape, which in turn, keeps our cities cool and sequesters the carbon dioxide that’s likely causing the problem in the first place," Taylor continues. "The ultimate goal is to transcend the crisis and turn those flood waters into an asset. Lemonade out of lemons. That kind of thinking -- part of larger disaster planning -- saves lives and economies and that’s big stuff."