Hurricane Harvey dropped an amazing 51.88 inches of water in Cedar Bayou, Texas—just under the all-time record for US rainfall, set in tropical Hawaii. That’s about 9 trillion gallons.
But what does that number really mean? How do you visualize that amount of water? Saying something like this volume is equal to 33,000 Empire State buildings does not really help.
A better way to get across the scale of the the flooding in Texas from Hurricane Harvey would be to compare it to something familiar, as in: If there was a similar flood where I live, what would be submerged and what would be dry?
To answer that question, the Washington Post published an infographic that helps to get across the sheer size of the flooding, contained in an article titled “What the Harvey deluge would look like where you live.” The text contains a search engine about half-way down the story. Just enter your address in the box, and it pulls up a map of your immediate area with indicators of how deep the water would be.
Luckily, I am on high ground and it would be only about knee-deep. But the movie theatre downtown would be submerged under about 6 feet of water.
UPDATE: In the time since this was originally published, a new storm, Hurricane Irma, has been upgraded to what the National Weather Service calls an “extremely dangerous” Category 5, likely to make landfall over Florida sometime this coming weekend. The Washington Post reports that “With maximum winds of 180 mph, Irma is tied for the fifth-strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic. And in its Tuesday morning discussion, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is in an environment ‘ideal for some additional intensification.’ “
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