Stricter building rules, rejected by Trump, helped Harvey-hit communities

September 1, 2017, Reuters

downloadAs Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Gulf coast in Texas, the city of Seabrook had an edge over flood-swamped nearby towns and the devastation in Houston, just a half-hour drive away.

Years ago, the city imposed higher elevation standards for buildings that were stricter than existing federal guidelines on construction in flood-prone areas. Before leaving office, President Barack Obama sought to toughen those national rules, to bring them more in line with those in communities like Seabrook. President Donald Trump, however, revoked Obama’s executive order last month.

Harvey, which has displaced around a million people and flooded swaths of Houston, has proven an early test of that decision. Floodplain experts wrote to Trump this week, urging him to rethink his reversal of Obama’s order.

”As we come to the conclusion of Harvey, we have suffered some damage to our community, but not to the extent that some of our neighboring communities have. That is partly because of our (elevation) requirement,” said Seabrook deputy city manager, Sean Landis.

Although Obama’s order had not yet come into effect when Trump rescinded it, some communities had been concerned about the cost of elevating existing buildings to comply with the new rules. But Landis said more stringent rules have paid off in Seabrook. “We feel more resilient,” he said.

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