UTHealth prepares for hurricane season

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– Tropical Storm Allison is a classic case of why cyclones don’t need to be hurricanes to cripple a city and it’s a storm that folks in southeast Texas won’t soon forget. The tropical storm struck just days after the official beginning of hurricane season in 2001.

“All of these flood protections were put in place after Tropical Storm Allison,” said University of Texas Health Safety Vice President, Dr. Robert Emery.

Allion left more than $5 billion dollars worth of damage and UTHealth’s chunk was right around $87 million.

That’s why, soon after this catastrophic cyclone, a decision was made to defend against those fateful floods often associated with tropical systems.

“Each one of these is designed so that one person can close it in 5 minutes,” said Dr. Emery, “But we don’t want someone here in the middle of the night trying to scramble and close all these things because this is not a job where 90% is an ‘A,’ you got to get it 100% right.”

23 outer and inner flood doors wre installed at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School just off Fannin.

For the 17th time those sensors, seals, and steel doors are being tested. One of the seals did leak during Harvey, but the price tag form that storm was way less with damages totalling $3 million dollars; most of those costs, according to Dr. Emery, were due to day-to-day business interruptions.

“If a seal breaks or something like that, let’s get it fixed now because as you well know, June 1st we
got to be ready,” said Dr. Emery.

Even at ground level, Allison’s waters were through the McGovern Medical School doors, rising about a foot. Now,  reengineered exterior has granite slabs rising as high as the 500 year flood plain. And where granite is not, aquarium glass is. As part of the building’s renovations, critical infastructure support systems were moved from the lower levels and several exits to the campus have been elevated.

The hope now is that this routine inspection is the only test these flood doors weather during the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.