Houston drainage grid 'so obsolete it's just unbelievable'

Highways around downtown Houston are empty as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from the bayous around the city Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston has 2,500 miles of bayous and channels, more than 300 storm-water retention basins and a pair of reservoirs. It's all designed to drain the port city during intense downpours.

But experts call the Depression-era system obsolete — and no match for booming development in one of America's fastest-growing cities.

While scientists say nothing could have contained Harvey's record-breaking soaking, Houston's geography works against its drainage system.

The coastal plain is too flat to move water away quickly. The soil doesn't hold water well. And, most of all, experts say, Houston should have built more reservoirs where it put subdivisions instead.

Rice University environmental engineering professor Phil Bedient says all that combines to make Houston America's most flood-prone city.

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