Flood Speak - West U
It looks like West U, in an effort to protect structures from future flooding, is taking action and creating flood guidelines for residential building within its city. Looking at the frequency of our floods, Houston, and Harris County anticipate it to continue. In addition, the Gulf has very warm water, so Hurricanes are expected to be more frequent. Both Harris County and the City of Houston aren't wasting any time and have already written and adopted their own guidelines.
According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, 116 homes in West U took on water during Hurricane Harvey. He didn't specify how much water. Obviously it would be best if none of the homes flooded but that number reflects close to 2% of the homes in West U. 0% would be optimum.
It appears the majority of West U is in either the 100 year or 500 year flood zone. Statistically, the 1% (100-year) flood has about a 26% chance of occurring during a 30-year period of time and that statistically, the 0.2% (500-year) flood has a 6% chance of occurring during a 30-year period of time. The last heavy flood events worth mentioning in Houston dropped 500 year rainfall levels, so it would appear the 500 year flood gauge is quickly becoming the new 100 year.
Proposed changes will be voted on at the next board meeting during the first week in May. The mandate will require homes being built in the 100 year floodplain be built 2’ above base flood; and homes in 500 yr built 2 ‘ above natural or average grade. These guidelines are very similar to the ones already adopted by Harris County and the City of Houston.
Flood maps change. FEMA is constantly gathering data and shifting projections. I sold a house that, until recently, was in the 100 year flood zone. We closed about 4 weeks before Harvey arrived and I worried incessantly that my client would experience flooding. Thankfully, he did not. So, it's possible West U's flood risk could improve over time as well.
We do expect new maps, we just don't know when to expect them. We also do expect to see a lot of changes, we just don't what they will be. 37% of Houston currently falls within either the 100 or 500 year flood zone. It is anticipated that number could increase to up to 50%.
The parties most frustrated by these new regulations are the builders. Understandably, as these new regulations will indeed add costs to construction, specifically to the foundation. The homes built under the new code will require more concrete. More than likely, they will be built on pier and beam. There could be an increase of demand for garages to have higher ceilings in order to accommodate car lifts.
Houston has a lot of really smart and creative people. I suspect someone is going to find an economical way to address this while meeting the engineering standards for sound foundations. Personally, I never want to discover a client I sold a house to experienced a flood. Losing one's home is pretty devastating. These new guidelines will give everyone (lender, Realtor, home buyer, insurance company, etc.) peace of mind as they consider the sound measures that have been put in place to protect their investment.
I'm happy to see the City of West U taking this very important step for its community.