Into the Danger Zone
Five and a half years after Hurricane Harvey, I see people investing and building in areas near floodplains that will soon expand. I call this the “danger zone” because it’s not quite clear yet what their flood risk is or how to mitigate it.
I came across one such property last week on Townsen Blvd. in Humble, east of US59. The owners bought it 3.5 months after Harvey.
The USGS National Map shows the elevation of the site to be a little more than 63 feet. But the nearby gage at the West Fork and US59 exceeded that in 1994 (66.7 feet) and 2017 (69.6 feet).
Post-Flood Fear Can Drive Down Prices
After a flood, fear can drive down land prices near rivers and streams. Bargain hunters may then step in and snap up property. That may be what happened in this case.
As I drove past this area on 3/5/23, I saw a new commercial structure going up next to some mostly empty condos and took several pictures.
Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) estimates that the new commercial structure will be a 28,000 SF building, though a company blog post claims 35,722 SF. It will be owned by a limited liability company, managed by a Kingwood-based couple. They also own the Humble Sign Company on a second, adjoining parcel to the west.
That currently has a smaller 20,000 SF building with a “for sale” sign in front. So it appears that the company has outgrown its current space. That’s not surprising. Their website shows that they do excellent work.
The company hopes to be in its new space by mid 2023.
Property Bought Within Months After Harvey
The same couple bought both parcels of land in mid-December 2017, according to appraisal district records. And within a year after that, Google Earth shows that they had built the Humble Sign building.
God bless small-business people. They provide almost half of all the jobs in America.
It takes guts to bet your life savings when you start a small business. So who can blame entrepreneurs trying to save some money on land?
Humble Sign is elevating the new building slightly. (Note the fill in the construction photo above.) That’s good news. It should give them a small margin of extra safety.
Building Next to the Danger Zone
Still, building next to a floodplain that will soon expand is risky business. FEMA developed that map above in response to Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and made it official in 2006. But Harvey triggered another update that will expand floodplains significantly.
FEMA has said that the new 100-year floodplain will expand into the old 500-year floodplain in most places throughout the Houston region. Not only were our rainfall assumptions off after Allison, rampant new development continues unabated and often unmitigated upstream.
So let’s pray the owners added enough fill.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/12/23
2021 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.