Houston Flooding – Business Impact
In a recent Firestorm and Black Swan webinar, Michelle Colosimo, Black Swan Solutions Director, explains the financial impact of closing down an airport for a day. In that day, the airport would lose $12 million in revenue. It is an extreme example, but signifies how disastrous shutting down a business can be for its livelihood. This is what businesses in Houston are facing due to flash floods from Monday.
After a torrential downpour Monday evening, the Houston metro area remained underwater Tuesday morning. An astounding 11 inches of rain fell over the city causing bayous to swell far past their limits, stranding drivers on highways and prompting a flash flood emergency.
According to the Washington Post, heavy rain began to spread across the Houston area around 9 p.m. Monday night. It was the southern flank of a line of storms pushing east across the southern U.S., associated with a deep, upper-level trough combined with extremely moist surface conditions. As the system reached the Houston area, it slowed down as it encountered a very damp air mass, which led to extreme rainfall rates and totals.
For the first time since Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Houston Weather Service Office issued a flash flood emergency. The emergency level is only used in the most life-threatening rainfall situations. The National Weather Service reported that the 1-hour rainfall rate at the Buffalo Bayou was up to 4.16 inches. The bayou swelled from 3 feet at 9 p.m. Monday night to 34 feet eight hours later. This flooded major parkways and homes upstream. The average rainfall overnight was two to three inches per hour.
The Texas DOT reported almost every freeway in the Houston area was flooded, submerging cars and turning roadways into lakes. City officials urged residents to stay home and off the roads if possible.
In Houston itself, seven people have been confirmed to have died in flooding that swept through the city Monday night. The latest victim was identified Wednesday as a 73-year-old woman who was reported missing by her family when she failed to report for work Tuesday afternoon. The Houston Chronicle provides more information of the flood and details how the city is recovering after the disaster.
Officials in Texas have urged residents living near rivers swollen by torrential rainfall to consider evacuating their homes due to the threat of more flooding later in the week.
In Wharton, a town of approximately 8,800 located about 60 miles southwest of Houston, Mayor Domingo Montalvo asked residents who live in 300 homes on the west side of the city to voluntarily evacuate due to the predicted rise of the Colorado River. The National Weather Service reported the river level at Wharton was almost 36 feet as of 2 p.m. local time Wednesday. The river was expected to top its 39-foot flood stage level Wednesday night and not crest until it reaches almost 46 feet Friday evening, which would flood the homes as well as a school.
Early Wednesday morning, water was spilling over the top of the Padera Lake dam near U.S. Highway 287 and Kimble Road, three miles northwest of Midlothian. Concerns about the dam breach in Ellis County have eased after an inspection by a team of engineers from the county, the builder, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
According to the Houston Business Journal, the following businesses were still affected by the flooding as of May 27:
- The Metropolitan Transit Authority resumed its normal schedule with all routes and services restored, but said that heavy rainfall in certain areas may cause delays.
- Services that were suspended included: park and ride services and rail and HOV/HOT lanes.
- HISD has opened all its campuses. Only Liberty High School in HISD remains closed due to damage. Katy ISD, Alief ISD, Cy-Fair ISD, Fort Bend ISD and Spring Branch ISD are all open, as well. The Texas Education Agency announced that Texas schools forced to close on May 26 due to inclement weather won’t be required to schedule a make-up day.
- Road closures are still in effect. Interstate 45 North from Allen Parkway to Crockett Street is partially closed, with two inside lanes active. But U.S. Route 290 Northwest westbound frontage road from Fairfield Place to Bauer is closed, as is US-290 Northwest eastbound frontage road from Bauer to Mason.
- The University of Houston was closed May 26.
- Rice University reported flooding had decreased, so classes resumed and campus was open to the public.
The storm knocked out servers at many Houston-area businesses, forcing them to shut doors and increased demand for disaster recovery.
One business that suffered a loss was Ergos Technology. According to CRN, roughly a dozen servers supported by Ergos were down Tuesday morning due to the power and Internet service provider issues.
“Our clients are pretty well-versed in storms, so they’ve made adjustments accordingly for the lack of power or lower-level flooding,” Steve Pearce, chief technology officer, told CRN, noting that virtually all of his clients knew to power their servers down before Memorial Day weekend given the severe weather projections.
Ergos CEO, Chris Pace, noted that the storm has caused the 5-10 percent of his clients who don’t have a crisis plan to reconsider. “The conversations are starting to happen really, really fast.”
According to the CRN article:
Pace has urged all of his customers to utilize both disaster recovery and co-location centers — which provide companies with space, power, cooling and physical security for their server, storage and networking equipment — to minimize disruption in the event of severe weather and allow clients to devote their time and energy to their core areas of business.
Some 5 percent of Centre’s customers were hit by the power outage and had neither a disaster recovery plan nor a local on-site generator, Pace said. Most of the stragglers are smaller, single-site organizations with file servers and other on-site infrastructure, he said.
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Apart from a few tree limbs in the parking lot and water seepage into the building, Ergos home office came out of the storm unscathed. The Houston-based company employs 150 staff. Roughly 100 employees reside in the Houston area, about 25 of whom were unable to report for work Tuesday morning due to the flood.
The Galleria Mall Parking Garage flooded, stranding shoppers and filling the lower floors of the garage.
Are You Prepared?
At Firestorm, we put an emphasis on the need for disaster preparedness at home. Family comes first. In order to maintain composure in the workplace, you must be prepared at home. “You are your first responder.” Learn how to be prepared at home and at the workplace through our book Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America. The eBook details what you need to know to survive a crisis. Download it here.
Luck is not a strategic plan. You must PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.® prior to a crisis to ensure the longevity and survival of your organization.
PREDICT– Understand the vulnerabilities, threats and impacts and crisis can have on your organization.
PLAN– Develop policies, processes and procedures prior to a crisis occurring.
PERFORM– Implement viable solutions, training and testing.
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National Weather Service Fort Worth https://twitter.com/NWSFortWorth
(I-45 image via via Todd Farquharson)