"Houston is open for business"

Guest post by David Middleton

A week ago, this seemed unimaginable…

Houston is open for business

After much communication with those affected by Hurricane Harvey plus research, discussion, and intense deliberation about conditions in Houston, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ Board of Directors has decided to hold the SEG International Exposition and 87th Annual Meeting as scheduled, 24-29 September 2017.

Houston is dear to our hearts, and SEG wants to do everything it can to support the city while advancing the interests and needs of our members, attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and presenters. Many might have concerns about traveling to Houston this month, but officials with the George R. Brown Convention Center and the City of Houston have assured SEG that the city is ready to accommodate Annual Meeting participants. SEG staff members and volunteer leaders have inspected the Conference Center, supporting hotels, and venues, and agree that Houston is open for business!

The SEG Annual Meeting will be the first large conference to take place in Houston following Hurricane Harvey and its devastating floods. Now that the decision is to hold the Houston meeting, the Society is developing plans to bring geophysicists and their expertise to local, state, and federal efforts to repair compromised infrastructure, including roads, bridges, overpasses, and dams. More details will follow. What a great opportunity the Annual Meeting provides to focus many of the brightest minds in the geosciences on the restoration of Houston!

Thank you for your patience during this difficult decision-making process.

We look forward to seeing all of you in Houston!

SEG Board of Directors

Supported by the Geophysical Society of Houston


Just over a week ago, the George R. Brown Convention Center was housing as many as 10,000 evacuees.  I still find it hard to believe that hotel accommodations are available in the Houston area… Although Houston is home to a large percentage of SEG’s 27,000 members.

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September 7, 2017 5:38 am

These guys should be able to hold their conference under some tarps and out of land rovers, right.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Jeanparisot
September 7, 2017 1:43 pm

They would have been able to hold it at my home. Or job. Or most places.
None of the major convention centers or downtown flooded. In fact, if not for our beloved (and notorious) lack of zoning, things would have been much better off. The problem is that after the flood of 1935, we created several large dams to create reservoirs on the west side, in a rice farming area South of Katy. These rice farms were sold and are now known as “Cinco Ranch”, a wealthly subdivision large enough to have its own representative in the Texas House of Representatives. They were not happy when their reservoir had to fulfill its intended purpose. (If you note a post from a few weeks ago, Buffalo Bayou flooded only 30 feet, less than 1935’s record of 50 feet despite us receiving 10-20 more inches of rain this time).
It’s this area as well as the area immediately surrounding all of our waterways that got flooded. The majority of the city was quite dry, and almost all of us never lost power

Monna M
September 7, 2017 5:44 am

David, did you mean “A week ago this seemed UNimaginable”?

Geoff Sherrington
September 7, 2017 5:50 am

How nice it is that this show of confidence by SEG will strengthen ties between citizens and the geophysicists.
I used to work with exploration geophysicists- I was an exploration geochemist. If I had heard of a conference of more than 10 geophysicists heading to the one place, I would head at high speed in the opposite direction. That is the benefit of experience.
Houston, I wish you luck – and warm wishes for a quick recovery from a terrible experience. The hurricane, I mean, not the looming SEG conference. Geoff.

Reply to  David Middleton
September 7, 2017 8:31 am

I used to be an SEG member, but I just couldn’t take a journal full of triple-integral potential field theory and wave-equation math-physics. AAPG’s Interpretation is the journal for me.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
September 7, 2017 9:43 am

I found that about 10 years out of graduate school I was having difficulty understanding the geology articles I was reading. I think that the problem is that the vocabulary changes and sometimes so do definitions. I was from the generation that still had numerous skeptics about plate tectonics. Once plate tectonics became entrenched, the concept evolved rapidly and new words were invented to describe the new ideas. Everything changes — even the climate.

September 7, 2017 6:12 am

I am a SEG member, hope the conference goes well although I will not be attending this year. Know the venue and location well. For those here who don’t know, this is a VERY large convention….

September 7, 2017 6:23 am

yes… hotel rooms may be full of flood refugees:

Reply to  Griff
September 7, 2017 7:21 am

Houston has a lot of hotel rooms – and relatively few refugees given the size of the city. The bigger issue is probably transport as there will be a lot of underpasses that need to be checked as the water recedes.

Reply to  Rob
September 7, 2017 8:34 am

What is the report of conditions below street level? The tunnel system in Allison flooded spreading from building to building. One of the lessons learned was to put in water-tight doors. Did they do it? Did they work? I hadn’t heard… so maybe “No News is Good News.”

Thomas Bakewell
September 7, 2017 6:48 am

I still am a geophysicist although no longer a member of the SEG and I did my penance (25 years) in Houston. It pleases me greatly that the SEG is putting their money where it will do some good. During the dark ages of the last century I used to attempt to annoy our geohead coworkers by claiming that one could only be a good geophysicist by already being an excellent geologist. This usually provoked an interesting discussion powered by topical applications of the universal geofuel.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Thomas Bakewell
September 7, 2017 10:24 pm

We used to joke that the difference between a geophysicist and a Nigerian woman was that the Nigerian woman had a black box that worked.
I never did catch on to what they meant. Geoff

September 7, 2017 7:18 am

I have a client in Houston and they closed down the weekend before Harvey arrived – but are back up and running again already!
Reports from my contact there are that he had 18 inches of water in his street on Tuesday morning, but that the City, state and Federal agencies had cooperated and were ready so for the most part the response was coordinated and smooth. Remember there are over 4 million people in Houston, so the few thousand who had to be evacuated are only a small minority of the population.
The considered advice to shelter in place (as opposed to a full evacuation) was proven correct in this situation. It won’t always be the case, but that is why there is no “one size fits all” response to these events. In Florida, the mandatory evacuation zone covers the barrier islands and residences on the coast which can be impossible to reach with emergency vehicles if there is a storm surge and people living there are left in no doubt about the need and requirement to evacuate if ordered.

David Long
Reply to  David Middleton
September 7, 2017 8:37 am

I agree, I think the right thing is being done in each case. The key difference is that Harvey was a rain event, while Irma is a wind and storm surge event. Living on the water near Galveston I know I would have evacuated if a significantly higher storm surge had been predicted.

Tom Halla
September 7, 2017 8:06 am

Interesting news.

September 7, 2017 8:20 am

We see lots of pictures of flooding, but how much of Houston did not flood?

Reply to  Chris4692
September 7, 2017 12:29 pm

Something like 90% of the Houston area didn’t actually flood, from what I’ve read.

September 7, 2017 8:31 am

Perhaps with all the geophysics in town, Houston might learn about all the areas in that are not suitable for habitation.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  rocketscientist
September 7, 2017 10:48 pm

We used to joke that the difference between a geophysicist and a Nigerian woman was that the Nigerian woman had a black box that worked.
I never did catch on to what they meant. Geoffb

Reply to  rocketscientist
September 8, 2017 7:55 am

Real Estate people say the secret is “Location, Location, Location”. That means: x, y, and Z !!
In Houston, a couple of inches in elevation can mean the difference between no harm and a first floor remodel.

September 7, 2017 8:40 am

I travel every week to Houston. Things are fine hotel wise. I advise staying as close to the convention as possible as traffic is rough still.

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