As of Tuesday, August 29, Hurricane Harvey has brought record amounts of rain, high winds, flooding and uncertainty to southwestern Texas and the city of Houston. FEMA Director Brock Long has already deemed it the worst natural disaster in Texas history. Local media report between 30 and 40 inches of rainfall in Houston over the past few days. More is expected.
Highways and streets are flooded, water is rising dangerously in local reservoirs, and first responders are working around the clock to reach isolated community members. During emergency events like Hurricane Harvey, urgent care facilities and related services are in high demand. During this storm, operations have continued without pause at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston – the largest medical center in the world. As of Tuesday, August 29, all hospitals on campus have continued to function. Based on TMC’s campus, Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO) has played a fundamental role in this effort.
While media reports tend to emphasize electricity and power interruptions, cooling and heating are necessary inputs for hospitals; operations stall quickly without either as living and working conditions deteriorate and millions of dollars of long-term research projects are jeopardized. TECO operates a 48 MW combined heat and power plant and uses district energy technology to serve chilled water and steam to more than 19 million square feet in 18 institutions on the Texas Medical Center campus. It is able to provide 100 percent of its own power, so it can function off the grid as needed. The company also has an extensive emergency preparedness plan that it activated before the storm. The plan includes taking care of its “ride-it-out crew” by providing food, beds and supplies to completely meet their needs for seven days.
While flood waters (see site comparison images below) have risen in the adjacent Brays Bayou and around TECO’s facilities the past few days, planning and infrastructure hardening efforts have allowed it continued to do what it started doing in 1969: provide chilled water and steam for air conditioning, refrigeration, heating, sterilization, laundry and hot water. TECO is delivering a degree of certainty throughout the storm.
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