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I'M Onyi Silmon

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After Hurricane Harvey: How Houston Is Preparing For The Next Storm

Published April 25th, 2019 by The Silmon Group

August 17, 2017, a date that lives in the memories of many Houstonians. Hurricane Harvey hit the shores of Galveston and carried devastation still felt two years later. The question that remains is what now? What steps are our city officials taking to mitigate damages and loss from future natural disasters? 

Matthew Zeve the Executive Director of the Flood Control District and Teri Calvin from the National Flood Services came to the Village School Monday to discuss new and updated city procedures to protect Houstonians. 

Flood Warning System

The flood warning system is getting an overhaul. Over $1 million will be allocated towards an updated website and a new mobile site with real-time rainfall measurements across the city.  

 App users have access to previous rainfall data and minute-to-minute information on how potential inclement weather could affect each city area. Last summer an Inundation Mapping Tool was added to the system. This color-coded mapping tool alerts residents when bayous begin to flood which allows you to make evacuation plans quickly and efficiently.  

Flood Education Mapping Tool

The flood education mapping tool is a more user-friendly version of the flood insurance rates map from FEMA.  Here you can type in your home address to discover if your home is within a regulatory floodplain. Homes within a regulatory floodplain are required to maintain flood insurance.

Following Harvey, city officials are remapping city floodplains.  There has not been a remapping of the city since Tropical Storm Allison.  According to Matthew, remapping floodplains is a time-consuming and expensive process. New instruments, not available previously, are being used to remap the city and the process is expected to be completed in 2023 or 2024. 

Local Hazard Map

There are strict stipulations placed by the federal government regarding the designation of floodplains. Unfortunately, this does not help homeowners who have flooded multiple times and are not in these areas. 

According to Matthew, in summer  2021, the Flood Control District government will unveil local hazard maps for the Harris County area. These maps will take the information collected from the federal flood zone remapping to come up with a local map that assesses the actual risk for flooding for the entire Harris County. 

The flooding which occurred in Katy and the Northwest during Harvey was attributed to the releasing of water by the reservoirs.  Local hazard maps will also aid in gauging flooding in your neighborhood when the releasing of waters from reservoirs must occur. Potentially allowing homeowners to make better-informed decisions and preparations in the event this happens. 

Public Education Campaign

A city campaign will be directed towards educating the public on the floodplain updates, new city inclement weather procedures, various tracking tools, and apps.  Also letting you know the importance of not allowing flood plains to dictate whether or not you should have flood insurance. Matthew suggests maintaining flood insurance whether your home is in a floodplain or not. 

Interactive Bond Map

The Harris County Flood District previously had an annual budget of $140 million prior to Harvey.  However, the recent passing of a $2.5 billion bond empowers city officials to provide necessary safeguards towards future inclement weather. 

Furthermore, in an effort to provide full transparency and expenditure tracking, officials created the interactive bond map, which will outline funds usage on projects around the city.  Almost 10 percent of the funds will go to the voluntary purchase of neighborhoods in high-risk areas so detention basins can be built to further mitigate the damage that storms have on our city.

National Flood Program

Write Your Own Program is a collaboration between FEMA and private insurance agencies to relieve some of the pressure on FEMA to foot the bill on citywide disaster repairs.  This partnership aids FEMA when insurance agencies charge premiums which are put aside for residents who live in areas that flood.  

When it comes time to process these claims a vendor from flood services who Teri Calvin works for processes these claims for the federal government. Vendors like these are also responsible for gathering national-level statistics for floodplain maps. 

According to Terri flood insurance is vital to Houstonians. Twenty-five percent of the homes which flooded during Harvey were in low to moderate areas, meaning you have a 1 in 4 chance of being affected by flooding. Ongoing residential and commercial development around the city is also contributing to rising water risk. 

In addition, to even receive any aid from FEMA an area must be declared a disaster area by the president and in the case of Harvey, some areas in Houston were not declared as such. Terri touts this as another very important reason why all residents in Houston should have flood insurance.

For example, areas in Katy did not receive this designation despite many residents having massive damage done to their homes hence unqualifying them to receive government aid.  Leaving many residents stuck with home repairs bills. However, with flood insurance, you do not have to wait for this designation and are covered up to $250,000 for your home and an additional $100,000 for the contents. 

Hurricane Harvey allowed you to see into the giving spirit of all your neighbors. It was a time to teach you how much stronger we all are together. While storms are out of your control how you choose to deal with them is the true testament of your humanity.

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