flood safety

  • 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/

  • 5 Fall Preparedness Thoughts

    The crunch of leaves underfoot. Fall means shorter days and cooler temperatures, and for many, it is their favorite season for all these reasons and more.

    But this colorful season also contains significant weather hazards - ones that you can prepare for. As Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors, we want to remind you to Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risks, taking action and being an example in your community.WRN

    Follow these five simple steps to be ready for the hazards of fall:

    1. Prepare for Hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season typically runs until November 30. As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, significant storms can strike well beyond the summer months. Make sure you’re ready with an Emergency Supplies Kit that includes three days of food and water, batteries, flashlights, vital medications and other items.
    2. Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Floods aren’t just a spring phenomenon - they can happen any time after a major rainfall. Never drive into standing water - just two feet of rushing water is enough to carry away most vehicles. Remember: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
    3. Tornadoes: Know Where to Go. Tornadoes are still a danger in the fall, particularly in the South.  Know where to go in case of a tornado. Find an underground shelter, safe room or windowless interior room or hallway to shelter in. At home and at work, take a few minutes to practice getting to shelter. Walk the route. When it comes to tornadoes, know where to go.
    4. Practice Wildfire Safety. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, prepare your home by cleaning out gutters, inspecting chimneys, clearing brush and other foliage from around your home and by taking other defensive measures. Create a Family Communications Plan so that you’ll be able to get in touch with loved ones in case a wildfire separates you.
    5. Prepare for Winter. Winter storms can knock out power for days at a time. Make sure that your family is ready with the supplies that they’ll need to survive. This means creating an Emergency Supplies Kit that should include a NOAA Weather Radio, shovels, blankets and clothing to stay warm.  If you have a generator, be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning – do not use indoors!
  • Wet?

    During this first week of National Preparedness Month, the focus for preparedness across the land is flooding and flood safety. Are you prepared for high water? How much do you know about flooding? It's not just a coastal issue...


  • 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.

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