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Experts urge preparedness for extreme weather on Texas Gulf Coast

ABC 13 Houston logo ABC 13 Houston 4/23/2021 KTRK

With less than two months before Atlantic hurricane season begins, 2021 has already seen some historic moments in Houston weather.

In observation of Earth Day on Thursday, April 22 (7-8 p.m. CDT), ABC13 hosted a one-hour town hall, taking a deeper dive into extreme weather and its human and financial impacts across southeast Texas.

ABC13 chief meteorologist Travis Herzog and chief forecaster David Tillman gathered experts to help answer your questions about these threats and how to prepare.

We also looked back at Hurricane Harvey and catastrophic flooding, February's historic winter storms and the one-year anniversary of the deadly tornado in Onalaksa.

Panelists for Thursday's town hall included:

  • Dan Reilly, NWS Houston Warning Coordination Meteorologist
  • Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas A&M University state climatologist
  • Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Rice University Kinder Institute of Urban Studies founding director

Images of our city under siege by rising water are nothing new, and concerns about the issue of continual flooding have grown in the days following Hurricane Harvey.

In February 2017, nearly six months before Harvey, only 1% of Houstonians described flooding as the biggest problem facing area residents, according to the Kinder Institute. In 2020, 11% said it is the chief issue for people living in Houston.

This February, a once-in-a-generation winter storm brought Texas to its knees as the coldest temperatures in 122 years hit the state, killing at least 111 people and causing an estimated $130 billion in damage.

The historic winter snap also exposed the vulnerabilities of Texas' power grid and water systems, as freezing temperatures left some residents without electricity and clean water access for days and even weeks after the cold air left the region.

On April 22, 2020, an EF3 tornado touched down on Lake Livingston's west coast near Onalaksa, killing three, injuring 33 and destroying 235 homes as it cut a swath through San Jacinto County at 140 mph.

After the tornado, Onalaska's mayor told Eyewitness News nearly 20% of the homes hit by the storm were not insured, leaving many storm victims to fend for themselves.


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