Are people scared enough of flood waters? Harvey a brutal reminder of dangers

The National Hurricane Center has in recent years worked to distract the public from the familiar forecast cone with colorful graphics and detailed maps that better communicate threats beyond wind speed.

Under the leadership of former director Rick Knabb, storm surge flood maps, rainbow-hued storm arrival time graphics, and surge watches and warnings are now available to help people make better decisions when facing a tropical cyclone.

But Knabb, who resigned his position this spring to take a lead forecasting job at The Weather Channel, left with one task unfinished — how to punch through a message that freshwater inland flooding is a deadly menace that can linger long after winds abate.

Related: Houston police officer dies in Harvey floodwaters

“We have aimed ourselves in the right direction but we still have challenges communicating inland flooding from heavy rain,” Knabb said during April’s National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans. “In this country, we haven’t yet gotten afraid enough of water.”

As Harvey sat stubbornly over Texas on Monday and the muddy drama of catastrophic flooding continued, Knabb’s oft-repeated concern of a rain-driven takeover was highlighted in what the National Weather Center described as an “unprecedented” event and “beyond anything experienced.”

In fact, so much rain fell in Texas…

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HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 29: People make their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water following Hurricane Harvey on August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi August 25, has dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in and around areas Houston. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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