Over six months after Hurricane Harvey rammed into the Texas coast and dumped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of Houston, the country's fourth-largest city is still recovering.
Earlier this month, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Houston City Council authorized a request to spend $2 million on dozens of new high-water rescue vehicles and boats for the city's fire department. A week later, the newspaper, in collaboration with the Associated Press, ran a two-part investigative feature on the impact of the petrochemical spills that resulted from the storm. Both the need for water-rescue equipment and the issue of petrochemical spills were covered by NFPA Journal in a comprehensive package of hurricane-related stories called "Storm Season" that ran in our November/December 2017 issue. In an interview for a Q&A in the package called "Chief Concerns," Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña stressed the need for more equipment to respond to storms like Harvey. "The biggest gap was the amount of equipment that we were able to muster. We needed boats, high-water vehicles, those types of things," he told Journal Executive Editor Scott Sutherland and Associate Editor Jesse Roman. In one of the articles I wrote, "In Harm's Way," about the Arkema chemical plant fires and other issues with the petrochemical industry during Harvey, experts called for more information to be incorporated into codes like NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, to address the threat of extreme weather to petrochemical facilities. Many of these facilities dot the Gulf Coast, which is frequently struck by powerful storms. At the time I was working on my article, the Associated Press had identified about two dozen spills. The new Chronicle/AP report, however, found more than 100, many of which were never reported or had been downplayed in their severity. Read the first part of the Houston Chronicle/AP investigative feature here, and the second part, which focuses on the Arkema plant, here.