Winter storms in Texas, although not as numerous or severe as in the northern states, do occur often enough and with sufficient severity to be a threat to people and property. Generally, the winter storm season in Texas runs from late November to mid-March, although severe winter weather has occurred as early as October and as late as May in some areas. On average, central Texas is affected by one to two winter storms each year.
In Pearland, where the climate is subtropical, winter storms of such severity that property damage results are extremely rare. The Texas Department of Transportation has posted a number of bridges to warn drivers that icy conditions may occur. The Mitigation Planning Committee staff determined that there has been no damage associated with winter storms in recent memory. A member of the public highlighted that a winter storm in the late 1970’s caused pipes to freeze and burst in several areas of the City.
Within the City of Pearland, Winter Storm risks to people and property cannot be distinguished by area; the hazard is reasonably predicted to have uniform probability of occurrence across the entire City. As listed in Table 4-4, all people and assets are considered to have the same degree of exposure.
To estimate potential dollar value of losses to existing building, the City of Pearland evaluated the prior loss data from the National Climatic Data Center, (http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/extremes.html). This data indicated that between 1950 and 2002, there was one winter storm event (an Ice Storm in January of 1997) that affected the County as a whole, to include the City of Pearland. This event caused no building damage anywhere in the County. Due to the fact that there is no record of any historical building damage as a result of winter storms, the estimated annual dollar value damage to existing or future buildings due to winter storms is zero.
4.6.6 Hazardous Materials
Hazardous materials are chemical substances that, if released or misused, can pose a threat to health or the environment. Hazardous materials incidents are most often caused by transportation accidents or industrial chemical accidents. A natural disaster such as flooding might also result in spills. Hazardous materials come in many forms, such as explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials. Since their chemical properties vary significantly, an incident could be obvious (e.g., airborne plume, spill on the ground, bad smell) or not readily apparent (e.g., beneath the surface of the ground, no odor or color).
Hazardous material incidents are one of the most common technological threats to public health and the environment. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the state’s lead agency in the response to most hazardous substance spills, certain island oil spills, and spills of other substances that cause pollution or damage to the environment. TCEQ maintains a database of all hazardous substance incidents reported by the state. TCEQ statewide data for the years 1993 to 1997 reveal that an average of 1,282 hazardous material incidents were reported each year.
An analysis of TCEQ data indicates that the number of incidents reported is declining, probably because manufacturers, users, and transporters of hazardous materials are becoming more aware of the financial and political costs of hazardous materials incidents. Roughly 65% of all incidents occur at fixed facilities, and some 25% involve highway, rail, water, or pipeline transportation. The remaining 10% involve other situations or undetermined causes.
In Pearland, Emergency Services coordinates planning and response for hazardous materials incidents with Brazoria County Local Emergency Planning Council, Houston Fire Department, and Harris County. The City’s HAZMAT response plan is in Annex Q of the City’s Emergency Management Plan. There are 32 fixed sites in the City where hazardous materials are used.
Transportation of hazardous materials poses a daily threat, given that the Burlington National Santa Fe Railroad and State Highway 35 run through the middle of the City and both are major transportation routes.
The following is a list of HazMat incidences that have occurred within or just outside the City in recent years:
Third Coast fire occurred May 2001, involving a large chemical plant fire near SH 288 just outside the City.
Tanker truck caught fire while unloading in Rosharon – 10 miles outside of the City.
Entegris, a large industrial company, was cleaning out drains and dumped acid into the stormwater management system – killing wildlife near the dump site.
A site on East Industrial is a State-designated superfund site where abandoned storage tanks with HazMat material have been found.
In 1990, a large fire broke out at a package and solvents plant on Mykawa Rd. (solvents and chemicals).
The Harkey Road site is located at 17111 Harkey Road in an unincorporated section of Brazoria County, approximately 2 miles south of the City. The site, approximately 2/3 acre in size, is currently abandoned and fenced with posted warning signs consists of Lots 4 and 5 in Hasting Acres. The description of the site is based on information available at the time the site was evaluated with the Hazard Ranking System (HRS). The site was formerly owned by the late George Hastings and Nola Hastings. The contaminant is lead, believed to be from lead-acid battery chips placed on the property to backfill low areas. Between August 2000 and January 2001, a site investigation was conducted by the TNRCC. One mobile home, one utility shed and one propane tank were removed from the fenced area. In early 2002 the TNRCC project manager reported that cleanup was complete, and conditions at the site met residential cleanup standards. No further remedial action was planned for the Harkey Road site. For additional information on this site please visit http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us /permitting/remed/superfund/harkey.html.
In Pearland, in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, is exposed to risks along major routes used to transport various chemicals associated with petroleum production. A major rail system (Santa Fe Railway) and a major state highway (SH 35) cross the City. It is well known that both of these transportation routes are heavily used to transport hazardous materials; SH 35 is reported to carry more HazMat traffic than any other highway in the State
As stated earlier in this section, there are 32 fixed sites in various locations throughout the City where hazardous materials are used (see Map 5-5). Further and the Burlington National Santa Fe Railroad and State Highway 35, major Hazmat transportation routes, run through the middle of the City. Given these facts and the fact that the entire City is only 44 square miles in size, it is estimated that all people and property within the City are at relatively the same degree of risk from Hazardous Materials. See Table 4-4 for an overview of people and assets at risk.
To estimate potential dollar value of losses to existing building, the City of Pearland evaluated prior loss data as reported by City officials and data from TCEQ. This data indicated that between 1950 and 2004, there has been one hazmat incident within the City that have caused building damage. This was the 1990 fire in a package and solvents plant on Mykawa Rd. This event caused an estimated $100,000 in building damage and may not have been a direct result of hazardous materials. Due to the fact that there is very limited historical building damage as a result of hazardous materials, the estimated annual dollar value damage to existing or future buildings due to hazardous materials is near zero.