For years, engineers have warned that Houston was a flood disaster in the making. Why didn't somebody do something?
Houston is built on what amounts to a massive flood plain, pitted against the tempestuous Gulf of Mexico and routinely hammered by the biggest rainstorms in the nation.
It is a combination of malicious climate and unforgiving geology, along with a deficit of zoning and land-use controls, that scientists and engineers say leaves the nation's fourth most populous city vulnerable to devastating floods like the one caused this week by Hurricane Harvey.
"Houston is very flat," said Robert Gilbert, a University of Texas at Austin civil engineer who helped investigate the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. "There is no way for the water to drain out."