Causing billions of dollars in damage annually, flooding is the biggest threat to property and lives during a hurricane or tropical storm. Storm surges can be deadly, and a hurricane’s drenching rains can have profound impacts on communities located further inland, even 100 miles from the coast. While you can never be sure whether your home will flood or not, preparing for the next storm includes understanding your home’s flood risk and purchasing flood insurance, if needed. The following tips can help you to prepare:
Investigate whether the property is prone to flooding and purchase flood insurance, if needed.
- Talk to neighbors: Does the street flood? Did this house flood?
- Ask the landlord/owner about flooding history. Get the answer in writing before you buy or lease – it’s your right to know.
- Review past floods and buyouts in the area: https://arcg.is/0revD4
- Enter a Harris County or Galveston address to assess its specific flood risk: http://www.texascoastalatlas.com/buyersbwhere/oneforall.php
Review FEMA flood maps at: https://msc.fema.gov/portal
- Note: The FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) (above) is the official public source for flood hazard information. Flood insurance requirements and recommendations are based on FEMA maps. These maps can change at any time, so it’s best to check them on a regular basis – at least every 6 months.
- Compare the elevation of flood plain with the slab elevation of your home. Do not buy or lease a home in the 100-year floodplain, if at all possible.
- Within 500-year floodplain, home height should be above 500-year flood plain elevation. Do not buy or lease a home with elevation below 500-year flood plain, if at all possible.
A higher risk of storm surge exists in east and southeast Harris County below 25 feet.
- Avoid purchasing a home under 25 feet of elevation (see FEMA flood maps above).
- Elevate the home above 25 feet.
Many streets are backup drainage systems: Compare the height of slab of house to crown of the street.
- Avoid homes where slab is even with or just slightly above the crown of the street.
- The slab should be 2 feet or more above the crown of the street.
Know whether your zip code is an evacuation area:
- Harris County Evacuation Zones and Routes: http://www.gis.hctx.net/evacuationmap/
- Evacuation route maps for Texas coastal areas: https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/traffic/safety/weather/hurricane.html
Homeowners Must Disclose Flood Risk to Buyers or Renters
As of September 1, 2019, sellers in the State of Texas are required to disclose to buyers or renters whether a home is in a:
- 100-year Flood Plain;
- 500-year Flood Plain;
- Flood Pool;
- In or near a reservoir; or
- Whether the home has flooded before.
Purchase Flood Insurance before the next storm hits
Flood insurance typically takes 30 days to kick in. “That’s why homeowners should purchase flood insurance well in advance of the next storm,” shared Amanda Bosley, Managing Attorney of Lone Star Legal Aid’s Disaster Recovery Unit.
- Flood Insurance policies are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, and can cost less than $400 per year.
- Flood Insurance Renewal Grace Period Extended: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA is temporarily extending its 30-day grace period up to 120 days for policy renewals. The extension applies to National Flood Insurance Program policies with an expiration date between February 13 – June 15, 2020. Find out more here.
Recovering from the Storm: Flood Insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Understanding flood insurance is key to recovery, shared Chase Porter, Equal Justice Works Fellow with LSLA’s Disaster Recovery Unit. If flood insurance is not maintained, homeowners can lose their eligibility to receive other types of assistance. “Flood insurance may be your only way of getting help making repairs after a flood – and whether or not you maintain your flood insurance can also affect your ability to receive federal assistance in the future,” said Porter.
- Whether you live in a high risk zone or not, flood insurance is very important because most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage – and federal assistance through FEMA is only available if and when a national disaster is declared.
- Flood insurance claims for Tropical Storm Imelda can be filed through FEMA here.
- Contact Lone Star Legal Aid’s toll-free disaster legal hotline at 1-866-659-0666 for more information about recovering from Imelda or other disasters.
Additional Hurricane and Disaster Recovery Resources:
- Figuring Out FEMA is a free pocket-sized visual guide produced by The Center for Urban Pedagogy to help disaster survivors understand the FEMA process and how to apply for Individual Disaster Assistance through FEMA.
- Additional disaster recovery resources are available at texasbar.com/disaster, texaslawhelp.org, and lonestarlegal.blog/services/disaster-relief.
- Visit your local county or city Office of Emergency Management website for more hurricane preparedness tips.
- Find out more from the National Weather Service at: https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, firstname.lastname@example.org