UTSA offers in-depth analysis of flood fatalities in Texas

Hatim Sharif

Hatim Sharif

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(April 7, 2014) -- Hatim Sharif, an associate professor in the UTSA Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has some interesting results to share about vehicle-related flood fatalities in Texas.

Over the last several years, Sharif and UTSA graduate students Terrance L. Jackson and Moazzem Hossain have analyzed data on flood-related fatalities in Texas between 1959 and 2008 obtained from the National Climatic Data Center.

Their initial study, released in 2010, showed that Texas led the nation in flash flood fatalities and that most flood fatalities in Texas are vehicle-related. From 1959 to 2008, Texas had 839 flood-related fatalities compared to the second highest state, Pennsylvania, which had only 265 fatalities. Most of these fatalities were caused by people trying to drive through high water.

In their recent analysis, the researchers found that while Texas still leads the nation in flood fatalities, the flood fatality rate in the state is significantly decreasing, largely due to improved hydro-meteorological forecasting, public awareness programs of flood risk and the seriousness of flood warnings, and timely action by local emergency and safety authorities.

Other significant findings:

  • Flash flooding is the most prevalent cause of flood fatalities in Texas, followed by river floods.
  • Males are more than twice as likely to become flood fatality victims as females.
  • Highest flood fatality rates in Texas are clustered on the edge of the Balcones Escarpment in Central Texas; Central and South-Central Texas are in "Flash Flood Alley" and particularly vulnerable to flooding.

The study, "Analysis of Flood Fatalities in Texas," was published recently in Natural Hazards Review.