New Web-based Atlas Details Hazards of Living on Texas Coast

October 29, 2010

One of every four Texans lives along the coast; Texas has 16 major ports and more than 3,300 miles of bays and estuaries. Those are just a few facts available in a new a Web-based atlas of the 18-county Texas coast produced by a Texas A&M University at Galveston professor.

Sam Brody, who heads the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at the Galveston campus, has spent the last five years creating the atlas. Thanks to grants from the Texas General Land Office, Sea Grant and NOAA, volumes of information that were never before available are now a mouse click away.

“We believe this is the most complete work of its kind ever created about the Texas coast,” Brody says.

The spatial database includes comprehensive information about every area of the Texas coast down not only to the city block, but also to any individual house or lot on that block.

One feature of the atlas shows the hazards of living along the Texas coast – and there are plenty. Flood zones are prevalent in most coastal areas and beach erosion – in some areas, the shoreline is disappearing at the rate of 10 feet per year – transportation issues, population issues and other hazards are detailed in the atlas.

Also detailed are development and land-use patterns and where future growth is likely to occur along the Texas coast.

The atlas includes a “what if” scenario dealing with storm-water runoff in Galveston County. Brody says this atlas component can help users understand the consequences of developing a specific parcel before the shovel hits the ground. It shows areas that are very susceptible to hurricane damage and how much damage might occur if a hurricane makes landfall.

“The Galveston-Harris County area is one of the most flood-prone areas in the United States,” Brody says. “Also, erosion is a huge problem that is not going away any time soon, plus there are huge risks associated with storms, flooding and other weather-related issues.

Brody says the Texas coast is one of the fastest-growing coastal regions in the country.

The atlas is constantly updated, and Brody hopes to expand it further with future research funding.

The coastal atlas is a collaborative project between the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores and the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center (HRRC) at Texas A&M. Walter Peacock, director of the HRRC, also helped to create the atlas.

Source: Texas A&M University

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