Where do you live relative to official flood plains?

During Harvey tens of thousands of people in the Houston area outside of 100-year and 500-year flood plains flooded. Do you really know your home’s location relative to official flood plains? It could be important during lesser floods and affect the cost of flood insurance.

This FEMA web site shows interactive flood plain maps that can give you a wealth of information about the risk to your property.

Feature-rich, Interactive Flood-Plain Map by FEMA

Access FEMA’s Flood Zone map for this area by going to this web page: http://maps.riskmap6.com/TX/Harris/

Then follow these steps:

  1. When you get to the entry page, agree to terms and conditions
  2. Type in  your address to get a detailed view of risk for yourself and your neighborhood. Or you can also type in something more general, such as Kingwood TX, to see the contour of flood plains in the entire community.
  3. On the left-hand panel, check both boxes under “Effective Flood Insurance Rate Map.”
  4. The legend is on the right. Some explanations:
    1. Anything in solid purple is in the FLOODWAY. Expect frequent flooding and major damage.
    2. Anything under the fuchsia diagonal stripes is in the 100-year plain. People there have a 1% probability of flooding every year – and a 26% chance of flooding during the life of a 30-year mortgage.
    3. Anything under grey diagonal stripes is in the 500-year flood plain. People there have a 0.2% probability of flooding every year – and a 5.8% chance of flooding during the life of a 30-year mortgage.
    4. Properties outside those zones are in an area of overall lower risk. Lower-cost, preferred-rate, flood insurance policies (known as Preferred Risk Policies) are often an option in these areas. See your local insurance agent or visit floodsmart.gov for more information.
  5. If you entered your specific address, click the info button above the map, then click the star on your property to learn more about your risk. After the box pops up, you can click “View Detailed Flood Report” for even more information.
  6. You can hide both the legend and check box panels by clicking on the >> double arrows at the top of each panel.
  7. Zoom and move about, as you would Google Maps.
  8. Use the measuring tool above the map to check your distance from flood zones and hazards such as streams, ditches and rivers.

Guide to Terminology

If you need help interpreting all the acronyms and technical language in the check boxes and legend, consult this PDF: How to read a FEMA Map

The PDF above is definitely worth a read. It explains the “language” of flooding and flood insurance. It also explains how to protest a designation if you think the map has misclassified your property, for instance, if your slab has been elevated relative to the average level around you.

Experiment with the different tools and views in the map. Zoom out to see the risk in surrounding areas. The interactive exploration is fascinating.

Regardless of how far you are from flood plains or how high you are above them, if you live in Harris County, seriously consider flood insurance. During Harvey, more homes flooded outside the 500-year flood plain than inside.

A Less Powerful, but Easier-to-Understand Alternative

Harris County Flood Control offers a web site similar to FEMA’s; it has fewer options and less information, but is easier to understand and navigate. It’s actually called a “flood education mapping tool.” See: http://www.harriscountyfemt.org/Index.aspx.

The flood education mapping tool from Harris County Flood Control District has fewer options but is easier to understand.

How to Find the Elevation of Your Home

If you don’t already know the elevation of your home from surveys, deeds or insurance docs, try this web site: https://elevationmap.net/.

My thanks to Paul Margaritis, a long-time Kingwood resident. Paul forwarded this information to RefuceFlooding.com.

Posted 5/29/2018 by Bob Rehak

273 days since Hurricane Harvey

Debris Removal from Lake Houston Begins

Debris removal from Lake Houston has begun. On Sunday, May 27, I received a brief note from Keith Jordan, a Kingwood resident who has been active in flood recovery. His note said, “Toured the river today. Saw two barges with cranes picking up large piles of tree debris along the banks, but no dredging occurring.”

A few hours later, I received another note from Dianne Lansden, co-chair of the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative. She forwarded a newsletter to me from State Representative Dan Huberty. The newsletter quoted statements from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council Member Dave Martin about debris removal.

Removing Dead Trees

Turner stated, “I’m pleased to inform you that debris removal operations on the Lake Houston Reservoir began last week with the goal of preventing flooding and improving the use of the lake for recreational purposes and as key water supply source.”

The flood associated with Hurricane Harvey destroyed thousands of trees, which are now being removed from Lake Houston.

“Houston debris contractor DRC Emergency Services, LLC is performing the work with four barges and is expected to add two more by June 1, 2018. There are an estimated 75,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of debris in the lake because of Hurricane Harvey, according to the City’s debris monitoring operator, Tetra Tech. Removal of debris will reach 2,000 cubic yards per day at the height of operations,” said Turner.

At that rate and depending on the actual amount of debris recovered, the project could last anywhere from approximately five to 10 weeks.

During floods, dead trees like those shown above can wash downstream. The debris can then collect at at bridges and dams, impeding the flow water. as Kingwood resident Dave Seitzinger showed. Such piles of trees can work much like beaver dams.

Separate from Army Corps Dredging Project

Apparently, this project is separate from and in addition to the dredging project that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying.

Mayor Turner continued, “This project, when combined with the dredging of the San Jacinto River, provides that residents’ tax dollars are being used in a most beneficial manner to protect their properties from high water.”

Temporary Lowering of Lake Houston For Debris Removal

Dave Martin, District E Houston City Council Member said, “This week, residents can expect to see the level of Lake Houston reduced due to needed maintenance for the health of the Lake Houston Spillway Dam. In order to conduct this work the Coastal Water Authority will need to reduce the level of the Lake from 42.36 ft to 42.0 ft. This reduction in lake level will only be temporary while maintenance is occurring, and residents should not be alarmed. The purpose of the maintenance is to allow crews to remove debris that is currently sitting on top of the dam.”


Posted on May 28, 2018 by Bob Rehak

272 Days Since Hurricane Harvey

The Nine-Month Anniversary of Harvey

Today marks 270 days since Harvey devastated one of the most beautiful communities in America. This weekend is the nine-month anniversary, the official start of yet another hurricane season, and Memorial Day. So it seems only fitting to look back.

The street in front of Jennifer Trimble’s home as she and her son were being rescued by boat.

Paul Margaritis, a friend and neighbor sent me the video below as a reminder.


It shows a one-block drive down Woods Estates in Kings Forest (one block west of Kingwood High School and north of Kingwood Drive). However, it could be any street in the Lake Houston Area shortly after Harvey. I remember not even being able to get into many neighborhoods because of all the debris cascading into streets. Foster’s Mill, Kingwood Lakes, and parts of Kings Point come to mind. Debris and vehicles completely filled the streets and blocked traffic.

Nine months later, the heartbreak has gone indoors, but it’s still there. You can see it in campers parked in driveways – where people are living as they complete repairs. You can see it in “Now Open” signs that have just appeared on retail establishments. You can see it in building permits, dumpsters, contractor pickups, and port-o-lets still occupying people’s yards.

Home, Home on the Driveway! The Slaughter family has been living in a trailer for 9 months as they try to restore their home.

And all too frequently, you can see scenes, such as this – a grim reminder of the recovery that just never seems to end.

Repair work continues at the home of a Kingwood business owner who has been living out of a hotel for nine months now.

Most people that I talk to who were flooded still only live in parts of their homes – if they’re in their homes at all. If you ask when they expect their homes to be fully restored, they may smile and say, “By the end of summer.” But every time a contractor fails to show up for a week, they pray it won’t be the summer of 2020.

This is why we can never forget the destruction caused by Harvey and why we must press the fight for flood mitigation measures.

The cost of mitigation will be a tiny fraction of the cost of damages from flooding.

Had we followed the recommendations of engineers after 1994 and Allison, perhaps fewer people would have had their lives turned upside down by Harvey.

It’s both ironic and fitting that the 9-month anniversary of Harvey should happen on Memorial Day weekend.

Posted on May 26 by Bob Rehak

270 Days since Hurricane Harvey