Flash Flood Warnings

  • Moving to Higher Ground

    It is amazing how many people ignore warnings and directions that are provided for their own safety - often to risk their lives in order to protect some replaceable materials goods.harris

    During Memorial Day weekend in 2015, flood warnings were issued in many parts of Texas as record amounts of torrential rains were unleashed on already saturated grounds. Many residents in harm’s way had to flee their homes and seek temporary shelter, while hundreds of other homeowners previously in the high-risk flood plain were no longer threatened.

    harris 2They had been able to move from homes previously subject to repetitive flooding thanks to the Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) Voluntary Buyout Program. Buyouts, also called acquisition and relocation projects, allow residents to voluntarily sell their repetitive loss properties to the county and receive fair market value before disaster strikes again. The houses are cleared from the floodplain, which is returned to its natural state.

    “Nearly 550 homes would have flooded during the May event had they not been purchased via the District’s Voluntary Home Buyout program,” said HCFCD Acquisition Program Manager James Wade. “Approximately $12.4 million in flood damages were avoided as a result of these 550 buyouts.”

    The acquired homes were located within the high-risk floodplain and subject to repetitive flooding. Structures in this situation were typically built years before detailed maps and studies were available and floodplain management regulations adopted by the county and cities.

    The initial start of the program was in 1985, although federal funds were not granted until the early nineties. The state and federal partnership began in 1995.

    Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) buyouts or acquisition projects are administered by the state. The federal portion of the cost is 75 percent and the non-federal share is 25 percent. To be eligible, the participating property must be located in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and has a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan.  Additionally, the property must be within a mapped special flood hazard area, subject to repetitive flooding and the purchase must be cost beneficial.

    Since 1995, more than 2,000 structures have been purchased. About 1,100 properties were funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s HMGP and more than 900 homes were acquired with district funds. An additional 30 structures were purchased by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

    The application process took one to two years from the date application was submitted before a determination was made concerning eligibility. Since the buyouts occurred, the area is now deed restricted and cannot be developed with permanent structures in the future.

    A major benefit was that the buyout program enabled affected families to relocate to higher ground. The safety risk for homeowners, as well as first responders, was eliminated. The buyouts saved the government money because flood insurance payments and federal assistance payments were reduced. After the homes were purchased and demolished, the floodplain was restored to its natural and beneficial function for storm water storage.  Finally, open spaces were available for use as community amenities, such as parks, gardens and playing fields.

    The Harris County voluntary buyout program was a win-win situation to everyone involved.

    For additional information visit: https://www.hcfcd.org/our-programs/property-acquisition-program/voluntary-acquisition/voluntary-home-buyout/

  • While spring and its threats are still with us, meteorological summer is already here.

    Turn Around Don't Drown®

    Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.

    People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

    Never Drive or Walk into Flood Waters - Turn Around Don’t Drown!

    Flooding is one of the leading causes of weather related fatalities in the U.S. On average, flooding claims nearly 90 lives each year. More than half of these deaths occur in motor vehicles when people attempt to drive through flooded roadways. This happens because people underestimate the force and power of water, especially when it is moving.

    Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry off an adult. Twelve inches of water can float a small car. If that water is moving, it can carry that car away. Eighteen to twenty-four inches of flowing water can carry away most vehicles, including large SUVs. It is impossible to tell the exact depth of water covering a roadway or the condition of the road below the water. This is especially true at night when your vision is more limited. It is never safe to drive or walk through flood waters. Any time you come to a flooded road, walkway, or path, follow this simple rule: Turn Around Don’t Drown.

  • Everyone lives in a flood zone

    Did you know that? It is true!

    According to FloodSmart.gov, everyone everywhere is in a flood zone. In the last 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.

    What are flood zones?

    FloodSmartFlood zones are land areas identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Each flood zone describes that land area in terms of its risk of flooding. Everyone lives in a flood zone–it's just a question of whether you live in a low, moderate, or high risk area.


    • Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
    • Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
    • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
    • Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
    • New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
    • Read more about Floods

    Disaster, Survival, Preparation

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    Disaster, Survival, & Preparation!
    Think about preparedness; at home, at work, at school, even in your car.
    What should you do? Check your Emergency Plan and Evacuation Routes everywhere you normally spend time. Make sure you have an out of State contact for you, your friends and your family (long distance phone service is usually restored before local - and mobile services and internet will likely not work in a major disaster.)
    Of course, you should Check your Emergency Supplies, too:

    • Count your stock... is it enough?
    • Check your expiration dates (food, water, batteries)
    • Keep cash on hand
    • Don't let your gas tank get below half-full
    • Think-Plan-Prepare-Survive!


  • Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Floods

    Flooding still remains the most costly natural hazard disaster in the United States. But did you know that flood losses are not typically covered under renter and homeowner insurance policies? With flooding causing nearly $24 billion in damages within the last 10 years, ensuring that your family is capable of bouncing back from a flood should be a very real concern.

    Less than twenty days after Illinois homeowner Rich Smith closed on his house located by a creek, it flooded. Weeks after moving in, Rich's new home was completely under water and he lost nearly everything. Thankfully, Rich was prompted by his banker to get flood insurance and was able to quickly rebuild.

    Watch Rich's story below 

    Why should I have flood insurance?  Doesn’t my homeowners or commercial property insurance already cover flood damage?

    Most homeowners and commercial property insurance policies do not cover flood damage.  Floods are the #1 natural disaster in the United States however.  They are more common than tornadoes, earthquakes and fires.  They have caused nearly $24 billion in U.S. flood losses in the last 10 years.  There is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage in high-risk areas. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, it is more than twice as likely to experience a flood than a fire.

    What about flood related disaster assistance?  Why not just use that assistance instead of having flood insurance?

    When flooding causes extensive and widespread damage, the Governor or President may make a disaster proclamation.  These proclamations can make disaster-related money assistance available to affected property owners.  It is important to know that this disaster assistance is typically not a grant or forgivable loan however.  Instead, it is typically a loan that you must repay with interest.  For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month (i.e., $2,880 a year) for 30 years.  Compare that to the premium for a $100,000 flood insurance policy, which is around $400 a year ($33 a month).

    Why not just wait to purchase flood insurance until the flood is a few days away?

    It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it is important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise. Aside from snow melt floods, most floods occur with much less than 30 days advance notice.

    An exception to the 30 day waiting period is when flood insurance is required as part of a mortgage. Flood insurance is mandatory if your property is in a high-risk area or a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you have a Federally-backed mortgage.

    Is flood insurance available only for my home?

    No. You can purchase flood insurance for both residential and commercial coverage.

    Is flood insurance available only for locations in the flood plain?

    No. You can purchase flood insurance for nearly any location, whether or not it is in a flood plain. Everyone lives in a flood zone but some areas are at a higher risk of flooding than others. It is good to buy flood insurance for properties outside the flood plain. Nearly 25% of all flood insurance claims come from moderate-to low-risk areas (i.e., outside the flood plain).

    I am in a low-risk area for flooding. This risk will never change over time, right?

    Not necessarily. The risk of flooding at the same location may increase or decrease over time. New land development can increase flood risk.  Increases in precipitation amounts may also increase the flood risk. So just because you are in a low-risk area now does not necessarily mean that your risk of flooding will stay that way. You may be in a moderate-to high-risk area later.

    So if I can purchase flood insurance for nearly any location, are there any other limitations?

    Yes. You can purchase flood insurance only if your community participates in the NFIP. You can find a list of communities that participate in the NFIP on the FEMA Web site at:


    What if my community does not participate in the NFIP?

    Your community must be an active participant in the NFIP in order for you to purchase flood insurance. According to FEMA, a community must submit an Application for Participating in the National Flood Insurance Program - FF 81-64.

    You can find more information on NFIP application procedures, including contacts on the FEMA Web site at:


    How much does flood insurance cost?

    Flood insurance premiums take into account the risk of flooding as well as the amount of coverage you desire. If you live in a moderate - to low-risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $119 a year, including coverage for your property’s contents. The average flood insurance policy costs less than $570 per year.

    To find your flood risk and estimate your flood insurance premium, use the One-Step Flood Risk Profile on the left hand side of the FloodSmart.gov Web page.

    Where exactly do I go to purchase flood insurance?

    In most cases, you can purchase flood insurance through those insurance agents who have agreed to work with the NFIP.  They may or may not be the insurance agent you presently use for homeowners or commercial property insurance.  You can find a list of flood insurance agents near you on the NFIP Web site.

    Make sure you know the coverage and limitations of flood insurance before you buy.

    Before you purchase a flood insurance policy, it is important to review what is covered and what is not covered by flood insurance. You should also compare the coverage and exclusions of both flood insurance and your existing homeowners or commercial property insurance. Make sure you understand what would be covered and what would not be covered if a flood does impact your property. See your flood insurance agent for details.

    For more information:

    You can find more information on the NFIP at the FloodSmart Web site. You can also use the OneStep Flood Risk Profile on the left hand side of the page to find your flood risk and estimate your flood insurance premium.

    Facts and figures came from the FloodSmart.gov Web site

    Prepare! Prepare!
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts

    What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts? They are Weather warnings on the go!

    Imagine this: You’re driving down the highway, humming along to your favorite tunes, when the cell phone stowed in your bag suddenly makes a strange noise. To investigate, you take the next exit and safely pull over to check the screen. Good thing you did: Your phone just alerted you to a tornado a few miles away in same county you’re driving through.

    Sound plausible? It is. America’s wireless industry is helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation through a nationwide text emergency alert system, called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which will warn you when weather threatens. Read the rest of the article on NOAA.gov.

    Other Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What are WEA messages?

    Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.

    2. Why is this important to me?

    Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency. With WEA, alerts can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm's way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.

    3. What types of alerts will I receive?

    •    Extreme weather warnings
    •    Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action
    •    AMBER Alerts
    •    Presidential Alerts during a national emergency

    4. What does a WEA message look like?

    WEA will look like a text message. The WEA message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters.

    5. How will I know the difference between WEA and a regular text message?

    WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.

    6. What types of WEA messages will the National Weather Service send?

    •    Tsunami Warnings (coming late 2013)
    •    Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
    •    Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
    •    Blizzard and Ice Storm Warnings

    7. What should I do when I receive a WEA message?

    Follow any action advised by the emergency message. Seek more details from your favorite TV or radio station, NOAA Weather Radio, news website, desktop application, mobile application, or other trusted source of information.

    8. Will I receive a WEA message if I'm visiting an area where I don't live, or outside the area where my phone is registered?

    Yes, if you have a WEA-capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, please visit http://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.

    9. What if I travel into a threat area after a WEA message is already sent?

    If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.

    10. When will I start receiving WEA messages from the NWS?

    The NWS began participation in the WEA service in late June 2012.  Some mobile devices, especially older ones, are not WEA-capable. When you buy a new mobile device, it probably will be able to receive WEA messages. For more details on WEA, including links to your wireless service providers’ unique WEA service information, please visit: www.ctia.org/wea.

    11. Is this the same service public safety agencies have asked the public to register for?

    No, but they are complementary. Local agencies may have asked you to sign up to receive telephone calls, text messages, or emails. Those messages often include specific details about a critical event. WEA are very short messages designed to get your attention in an emergency situation. They may not give all the details you receive from other notification services.

    12. Will I be charged for receiving WEA messages?

    No. This service is offered for free by wireless carriers. WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.

    13. Does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?

    No. WEA use radio technology to broadcast the alert from cell towers to mobile devices in the area of the threat. Therefore, WEA doesn’t don't know exactly who is tuned in.

    14. Will a WEA message interrupt my phone conversations?

    No, the alert will be delayed until you finish your call.

    15. How often will I receive WEA messages?

    You may receive frequent WEA messages during an emergency. Message frequency depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.

    16. If, during an emergency, I can't make or receive calls or text messages due to network congestion, will I still be able to receive a WEA message?

    Yes, WEA messages are not affected by network congestion.

    17. What if I don't want to receive WEA messages?

    You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, please refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visithttp://www.ctia.org/wea for more information.

    Some cell phones allow the users to opt-in and opt-out directly on their devices. These devices differentiate the imminent threat alerts into two categories - "Extreme alerts" and "Severe alerts" as shown in the image below.

    The Extreme alerts from the National Weather Service include warnings for tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes and typhoons. Tsunami warnings will also become available as Extreme alerts later in 2013. The Severe alerts from National Weather Service include warnings for flash floods, dust storms, blizzards and ice storms. For example, by keeping Extreme alert selected and de-selecting Severe alert, the user would still be capable of receiving Extreme alerts, but would not receive Severe alerts on their cell phone.
    18. Why did I receive an alert when there was no warning in effect for my location? 

    WEA messages are broadcast using radio-like technology from cell towers in, and sometimes around, the actual warning area. Therefore, an alert can reach cell phones outside of the actual warning area depending on the broadcast range of the cell towers which broadcast the alert. This overreach is typically more prevalent in rural areas than in more densely populated cities.

    19. How will I receive alerts if I don't have a WEA-capable device?

    WEA is one of many ways you can receive emergency notifications. Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news media coverage, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV broadcasts, desktop applications, mobile applications, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies. Your best use of WEA is to immediately seek additional information about the imminent threat impacting your area.

    Weather Ready Nation - get Equipped!

    Prepare and Endure! Disaster, Survival, & Preparation!
    Think about preparedness; at home, at work, at school, even in your car.
    What should you do? Check your Emergency Plan and Evacuation Routes everywhere you normally spend time. Make sure you have an out of State contact for you, your friends and your family (long distance phone service is usually restored before local - and mobile services and internet will likely not work in a major disaster.)
    Of course, too, you should Check your Emergency Supplies:
    Count your stock... is it enough?
    Check your expiration dates (food, water, batteries)
    Keep cash on hand
    Don't let your gas tank get below half-full
    Survival Gear: Disaster, Emergency Preparedness, Camping & Survival Supply
    72 Hour Emergency Preparedness Supplies for Earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Nuclear Disasters, Wilderness Survival & More… C.E.R.T. & F.E.M.A.

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