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Protecting the Houston area from the next hurricane

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Published on Nov 11, 2011

To protect Houston and Galveston from future hurricanes, a Rice University-led team of experts recommends building a floodgate across the Houston Ship Channel adding new levees to protect densely populated areas on Galveston Island and the developed west side of Galveston Bay. The team also recommends creating a 130-mile-long coastal recreation area to sustainably use wetlands that act as a natural flood barrier.

The recommendations appear in a new report this month from Rice University's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. The report follows more than two years of research into lessons learned from Hurricane Ike, which made landfall at Galveston Island in September 2008. Ike caused 112 U.S. deaths and is the third-costliest storm in U.S. history, with damages estimated at $30 billion.

"Ike was a Category 2 storm, and Houston and Galveston stand to suffer greater losses from stronger storms, particularly if they hit south of Galveston Bay," said Phil Bedient, director of the SSPEED Center and Rice's Herman Brown Professor of Engineering. "As we studied this, we also met with leaders from industry and government to determine the most realistic and feasible way to protect lives and property from the next big storm."

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