Many Calgarians and High River residents are likely flashing back to the flood of June 2013 as they watch residents of Houston deal with catastrophic flooding.

Timothy Haney says in many ways the disaster in Houston is unprecedented.

Haney is the Director of the Centre for Community Disaster Research at Mount Royal University.

The centre was formed after the June 2013 flood and he says every disaster has different dynamics.

 “What makes this one unique is the amount of rainfall. Some places around Houston have received 50 inches of rainfall; that’s like 13 hundred millimetres of rain.”

Haney says Houston is a low lying city but that much rainfall would inundate most cities but in every disaster the one common theme is how people reach out to each other.

“The human experience of disaster is one of generosity,” he says. “It’s one of people opening their doors to friends and neighbours and community members and doing it without any expectation of reciprocity. They’re just being kind.”

Haney says in Houston many people who would rent their properties out on Airbnb are now offering those accommodations for free to people who can’t be in their homes.

Hany says drawing a direct correlation between the flood of 2013 and events in Houston is difficult because our topography is different; Calgary has more hills while Houston is flat.

He says much of Houston has been impacted by the rising water which means their evacuation centres are filling up something that didn’t happen in Calgary because people had places to stay.

“Virtually everyone found lodging within the city with friends and family members; people they were very close to so virtually no one was forced to leave the city for an extended period of time,” says Haney.

Haney says often disasters are measured in dollars lost but that misses the human impact.

“If you’re affected by it, it doesn’t really matter the size of the event,” says Haney. “What matters is the effect it has on your life; emotional trauma, financial uncertainty, the economic impact is significant. The impact on the individual is catastrophic.”

Haney says it will be weeks even months before we fully understand the events in Houston and how they are impacting residents.