Need flood insurance? What to know about managing your risk

Image description
Need flood insurance? What to know about managing your risk
The widespread damage caused by Tropical Storm Harvey has Katy-area residents questioning whether they need flood insurance. Knowing if a property is in a flood plain and what type of coverage is available is crucial to understand prior to contacting an insurance agent.

Greater Katy has seen flooding four of the last five years, the last three events being the Tax Day Floods of April 2016 as well as rain events on May 26 of both 2014 and 2015.

As urban sprawl moves outward from Houston, more impermeable surfaces, such as paved roads, driveways and roofs, change how water flows, said Mike Bira, an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Surface water runoff from these impermeable surfaces causes flash flooding and changes in-stream functions, thus redefining flood zones.

“Normally, the land acts to absorb a certain amount of precipitation and release excess water slowly into streams,” Bira said.

As a result, the land changes faster than data is updated, making many flood zone maps out of date, Bira said. This can make it difficult to know if a specific property is vulnerable.

Diana Herrera, a regional flood insurance specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, agreed with Bira’s assessment. She added the flood maps for Harris and Fort Bend counties were updated in 2014, while Waller County’s map is from 2009. The Harris and Fort Bend's latest maps are from 2014, while Waller's is from 2009.

FEMA updates flood maps as often as budgets allow, prioritizing those areas most prone to flooding, Herrera said. The maps show what is referred to as the 100-year flood plain, meaning that there is a 1 percent chance of flooding each year.

“During a 30-year mortgage, you’ve got a 26 percent chance of getting flooded at least one time [in a 100-year flood plain],” Herrera said.

Flood damage costs Americans $8.2 billion each year on average and just 1 inch of water inside a building can cause about $27,000 in damage, according to FEMA.

An estimated more than 95 percent of residential flood insurance is underwritten through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, said Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute. The NFIP launched in 1968 to make flood insurance more affordable.

Private companies had walked away from flood insurance due to the underwriting and risk assessment challenges, Barry said. As it stands, the program is in debt.

Homeowners who have not experienced flooding recently are reluctant to purchase what they consider an unnecessary measure of protection, leading to a smaller risk pool than is necessary to keep the program solvent, Herrera said.

“FEMA’s NFIP owes the U.S. Treasury nearly $25 billion, primarily because of monies the NFIP had to borrow to meet its financial obligations to NFIP policyholders after 2005’s [Hurricanes] Katrina and 2012’s Sandy,” Barry said.

Congress is debating whether to continue the NFIP, which is set to expire Sept. 30, Barry said. Prices must be set to match flood risks and give the program a way to repay debt.
“Everybody’s subject to flooding. It just is at different risk levels,” Herrera said. “Buy flood insurance whether it’s through the federal government or through the private markets.”
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Karen Waldrup (top) and The Soul Rebels (bottom) both had to cancel shows scheduled in Houston due to coronavirus. (Photo illustration by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston-area musicians go virtual to play for fans amid coronavirus cancellations of live shows

As non-essential businesses like bars and music venues are forced to close due to coronavirus concerns, musicians find themselves performing for audiences behind computer screens and asking for virtual tips.

Katy's dog park is closed until further notice. (Courtesy Jess Washburn/City of Katy)
Katy sets new parks restrictions to slow spread of coronavirus

Most city of Katy parks remain open but now have new access restrictions.

Waller County Judge Trey Duhon is urging residents to not panic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Waller County judge reports first case of COVID-19

“This comes as no surprise. There is no reason to be alarmed," the county judge said.

While the agency is still tallying the number of unemployment insurance claims filed thus far in March, in the week prior to March 25, at least 150,000 claims had been filed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Official: Increase in calls for statewide unemployment benefits is ‘almost vertical’

According to Serna, on an average day the Texas Workforce Commission’s four call centers statewide receive 13,000-14,000 calls; on March 22, the agency received 100,000 calls regarding unemployment insurance benefit inquiries.

University of Houston System instruction site in Katy
Katy universities, colleges face challenges transitioning classes online to slow coronavirus outbreak

"Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a bit of a rush just to make sure that we are able to successfully transition all of those classes to an online setting," one local university representative said.

Texana
Texana plans late summer opening for new Fulshear campus

The campus will be located near the intersection of Wallis Street and FM 359.

DATA: Cases, recovery rates and death rates for COVID-19 in the Greater Houston area

A total of 441 cases of coronavirus have been identified in the Greater Houston area as of March 26.

Several restaurants in Tomball and Magnolia are having to adjust their business operations as social distancing practices take shape. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Stay up to date on how businesses across the Greater Houston area are adapting to coronavirus

Find local businesses and nonprofits to support as they grapple with coronavirus-related restrictions through our area guides.

hospital emergency room
Ebola, other past virus outbreaks help Katy-area hospitals prepare for coronavirus

"The Ebola scare a few years ago was a useful trial run for us to handle these types of infectious disease events," a local hospital representative said.

Thai Spice Asian Gourmet
12-year-old restaurant Thai Spice Asian Gourmet features traditional Thai recipes

The eatery offers dishes including pad thai, curry and mango dessert.

Back to top