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[Texas/Harvey] I hope all is well


John Hjorth
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Thanks for the update, Joel,

 

And here I sit tinkering with calculations of the new Danish [to come] "Stock Savings Account" - under clear blue sky, here in Denmark.

 

There are more important things than money, if you are hit. I hope all fellow board members are doing good. Take care, all.

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I'm in Spring, Texas (well north of downtown Houston) and we are getting absolutely hammered. We've seen 12 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and other parts of the city have seen significantly more. Fortunately the house and the neighborhood haven't flooded (yet). We're looking at probably two more days, or even more, of heavy rain similar to what has already come down. Every river, stream, bayou, and gully is past flood stage and many will exceed their worst-case historical high.

 

The government is overwhelmed, lacks sufficient resources, and is asking for private citizens to rescue their neighbors if they have any boats or trucks capable of driving through high water. A hospital has already flooded, lost power, and is undergoing evacuation. We didn't even get a direct hit from the hurricane. I can't imagine what is happening to the people along the coast who were directly hit.

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I'm in Spring, Texas (well north of downtown Houston) and we are getting absolutely hammered. We've seen 12 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and other parts of the city have seen significantly more. Fortunately the house and the neighborhood haven't flooded (yet). We're looking at probably two more days, or even more, of heavy rain similar to what has already come down. Every river, stream, bayou, and gully is past flood stage and many will exceed their worst-case historical high.

 

The government is overwhelmed, lacks sufficient resources, and is asking for private citizens to rescue their neighbors if they have any boats or trucks capable of driving through high water. A hospital has already flooded, lost power, and is undergoing evacuation. We didn't even get a direct hit from the hurricane. I can't imagine what is happening to the people along the coast who were directly hit.

 

That reads friggin' crazy, Dave,

 

All the best to your family and you. All the best to all of you.

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I'm in central Houston, just west of Rice University.  The streets in my neighborhood are flooded, but nothing in the house yet.  I've not seen anything like this before.

 

Suspect it'sgoing to get worse before it gets better.

 

Thanks

Lance 

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Hope all is well with boardmembers and family. Looks like the worst since Katrina.

 

Since this is an investing board I also hope it's not too cynical too ask - how much impact will this have on UW result of insurers? FFH, Berkshire, Markel etc.

I'm a newbie in this area so would be interesting to hear some guesses.

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Hope all is well with boardmembers and family. Looks like the worst since Katrina.

 

Since this is an investing board I also hope it's not too cynical too ask - how much impact will this have on UW result of insurers? FFH, Berkshire, Markel etc.

I'm a newbie in this area so would be interesting to hear some guesses.

I'm wondering about that as well, but I figure that a more appropriate place for such discussion would be on another thread. Maybe the Berkshire Insurance Operations.

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Hurricane Harvey personal experience

I live in the Southwest part of Houston metro area. 

 

8/26/17 - Friday -  The rains started and kept coming and coming through Tuesday 8/29/17.  Total rainfall in the area over 5 days was ~40 inches while 50 inches is the typically ANNUAL rainfall.  The lake in the back of the house rose up ~2 feet at the max and we still had another ~ 4 ft to go before it would enter our house.  Not likely with the pumps and overflow (at ~2.5 feet below the house) which would go into the street. 

 

We never got flooded out as the creek nearby never overflowed too much.  Other creeks flooded out  hundreds or even thousands of feet.  The drains releasing water were opened into the Brazos.  We never lost power, internet or water.  I guess we hit the flood lottery.

 

Supermarkets and gas stations.  Many gas stations were out of gas before the rain even came.  Too much demand.  You have to be early.  Water was out in many places also.  Supermarkets near me are currently out of bread, milk, eggs and water.  They have not gotten deliveries in days because they can’t come in.  Best to stock up.    See supermarket bread shelf picture.  There are at least 7 supermarkets around me within a short drove (probably too much capacity).  This shelf is almost always full with bread so is pretty remarkable to see.  A lot of the other shelves are missing much food too. 

 

Flood learning lessons.  Over 10 inches of water in a short amount of time is a ton.  40 inches is much worse.  If I lived in a place with even a low possibility of flooding I would just leave.  There is almost no upside in staying.  You get the cars out of there loaded up with stuff and you can leave at a time of your choosing rather than have to be evacuated or boat out.  Evacuation may not be possible if the roads are flooded as many roads are now.  Over 350 locations of flooded roads are not passable.  I am also glad I have the canoe just in case.

 

I will never live near a floodway.  The worst flooding is near rivers, creeks, bayous etc.  They overflow and flood the nearby land.  The worse the flood the more land that gets flooded.  Rich and poor areas alike have been flooded.  Nature does not discriminate.

 

Levees.  These always made me nervous. 

2 things have to go well for your house to not flood:

1.  The water of the river has to remain lower than the levee

2.  The levee has to not break.

 

Those events are correlated.  There can be tremendous pressure on the levees. 

 

The other cost that is hard to transfer to people's brains (as was mine) unless they see it - is the stress, time, hassle and cost of the flood.  It is immense.  Human memories are short and overconfident so what ends up happening is people don’t fully value the safer land. 

 

My advice to anyone who is looking to buy a home:  1st thing to check is for catastrophe risk that can be avoided.  Flood is one that you can avoid.  Just stay away from the floodplains or you will likely learn a lesson that is not fun.   

 

The really great thing though is that people down here were really wonderful.  People have been pitching in with volunteering, donations, rescues, homes and anything else that needs be.  That is very real 

It really moved me when I was volunteering and a lot of people quickly came to help those who needed it.  The volunteers were of all races, etc.  And the victims were also of all races (including Asians and Indians).  Many wealthier areas got hit bad - River Oaks, Sienna Plantation, Friendswood.  It like the opposite of how Katrina seems to have went. 

 

Anyway if you are reading this you should think about your situation with catrostophe risk.  Flood, earthquake, hurricane, etc.  The time to prepare for these is way before they happen and get your personal infrastructure and backups set. 

 

And if you are in your nice dry house with electricity and running water and plenty of food - count your blessings.  Thousands and thousands down here don't have them.

IMG_20170829_160848764.thumb.jpg.ecc39ee7a29c4072cd2d963351f69586.jpg

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Thank you for sharing your experience, LongHaul,

 

You post is a mind bogling read. My hairline in the neck is bristling. It reads as "normal stuctures" and activities in society and dailyday life basically has totally collapsed, locally.

 

If you have the surplus to respond now I would really like to read :

 

Your take on how did this end up being so bad for the City of Houston? [i know, it's far, far from over yet.]

Has there been something wrong with the urban planning for the city? [in clear hind sight.]

What is your personal take on the political consequenses [planning of countermeasures for similar situations for the future etc.] of this situation right now?

 

- - - o 0 o - - -

 

Please, by all means, just take your time, if now is not the time to respond because of more important matters. Thank you in advance.

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https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/30/about-80-percent-of-hurricane-harvey-victims-do-not-have-flood-insurance-face-big-bills.html

"Much of the Houston area falls outside those most vulnerable zones and many homeowners who aren't forced to have coverage have decided to do without. Now they are stuck because much of the damage in the nation's fourth largest city won't be covered by their homeowners insurance."

 

Do folks from Houston agree with this report that most of the flooded homes in Houston are without the flood insurance?

 

Homes within the flood designated zones are mandated to have flood insurance. Is the extent of damage more for homes located within the flood zones (and hence with coverage) than the homes located out of the flood zones?

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Thank you for sharing your experience, LongHaul,

 

You post is a mind bogling read. My hairline in the neck is bristling. It reads as "normal structures" and activities in society and dailyday life basically has totally collapsed, locally.

 

If you have the surplus to respond now I would really like to read :

 

Your take on how did this end up being so bad for the City of Houston? [i know, it's far, far from over yet.]

Has there been something wrong with the urban planning for the city? [in clear hind sight.]

What is your personal take on the political consequenses [planning of countermeasures for similar situations for the future etc.] of this situation right now?

 

- - - o 0 o - - -

 

Please, by all means, just take your time, if now is not the time to respond because of more important matters. Thank you in advance.

 

These are great questions.  I probably have more questions than answers right now.

That Propublica article was the best article I saw.  https://projects.propublica.org/houston-cypress/

Note the publication date of Dec 2016. 

 

First a little history - Houston (like many cities was founded near a river (Buffalo Bayou).  This was probably for low cost transport, water, etc.  In modern times that is probably a bad place to have valuable real estate but that is history.  Also Houston is flat like a pancake. Clay soils (don't absorb water as well.  Plus very pro development and growing a lot.

 

I don't know what the cause of the floods is besides lots of rain :), and I am not a storm water engineer.  Whom I now really appreciate BTW.

 

1.  Was this forseeable/preventable.  There have been bad floods historically and 2 in the last few years prior to this.  What I am realizing is that Houston is largely made up of a floodplain.  I don't know if that is 3% of the land or 30% and it depends on how severe you want to make the assumptions.  I think that is just part of the geography - flat, clay soil, near gulf.

 

No question that parts of this were preventable.  Building homes very close to streams that flood massively is asking for it.  And the people buying those homes were taking a risk.  Human tend to be overconfident and downplay catastrophic risk.  Look at all the people living in NYC and DC who have nuclear risk. 

Development - I am starting to come around that development of urban and residential areas causes more runoff.  I think this was a cause.  I am not really sure if infrastructure - levees, drainage, etc could have prevented much - but I would guess they could. 

 

I read in the article that Fort Bend County has stricter flood development than Harris County and I think Fort Bend County ended up much better off (still not sure of this though).  This would point to engineering solutions.  (walking the big levees around here is interesting).

 

Climate change also may have an impact but this is still a question mark for me.  The problem nuts on the left have an ideology and an agenda and the nuts on the right also do.

 

2.  "What is your personal take on the political consequenses [planning of countermeasures for similar situations for the future etc.] of this situation right now?"

 

In my opinion Houston is probably the most capitalistic city in the US.  No zoning in the city (which I think is great BTW) and is  very Republican metro area and state.  I think this follows much of human history - after a disaster they enact measures to fix the mess to minimize its chance.  Happened in the 30's here after major flooding.  Houston is also very pragmatic - so I think solutions will be implemented and new development will require more flood control.  But we will see.

 

3. I don't know the percent that have flood insurance.  Comprehensive on your auto policy generally covers flood insurance for cars BTW and the majority of people elect this.  This was likely underpriced in Houston BTW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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