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FEMA Flood Maps Don't Cover Texas' Longhorn-Sized Flood Risk

It’s been said that everything is bigger in Texas. While the Lonestar State is widely known for cowboys, country music, and world championship sports teams, Texas is also one of the most coastal states in the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Texas has 3,359 miles of coastline, meaning it has the seventh highest number of coastal miles in the country. If everything is bigger in Texas, does that include flood risk? The answer to that question may surprise Texas homeowners who aren’t fully aware of the hidden flood risk associated with living in Texas.

What is Texas’ Flood Risk?

Risk Factor, a company that studies the flood risk factor of every state, city, and municipality in the United States has published a report that indicates that homeowners in Texas face major risk for flooding. According to their report, there are currently 1,397,757 homes in Texas that have a greater than 26% chance of flooding at least one time in the next 30 years. That number represents 18% of the total properties in Texas.

There are currently 1,397,757 homes in Texas that have a greater than 26% chance of flooding at least one time in the next 30 years. That number represents 18% of the total properties in Texas.

In order to come to their determination, Risk Factor takes a look at data from the past and future weather projections. For instance, they indicate that there were 750,834 homes that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, the hurricane that absolutely ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2017. While the risk for hurricanes in the area is expected to decrease going forward, there are other flood factors that are expected to become more prominent going forward.

Risk Factor isn’t the only company that has published alarming data for Texas homeowners. The First Street Foundation, which has published a nationwide report that discusses the flood risk faced by every state, paints an even more alarming picture.

According to The First Street Foundation, Texas currently has 1.15 million homes that are at substantial risk for suffering flood damage. That number, which is already staggeringly high, is expected to increase by 16% by the year 2050, pushing the number to 1.33 million. That is an increase of 182,800 homes that will be facing a substantial risk for flooding. Additionally, the foundation reports that there are 218,700 properties in Texas that are at certain risk of flooding in the next 30 years. To be classified as a certain risk for flooding, a property has to have a 99% chance of flooding.

The numbers produced by Risk Factor and The First Street Foundation paint a much grimmer picture than the numbers produced by FEMA’s study on Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). FEMA, which primarily relies on data from past floods to determine the likelihood of future weather events reports that there are only 860,000 Texas homes at substantial risk for flooding. That total represents 290,000 fewer properties than The First Street Foundation says are at substantial flood risk. The gap between the two groups’ numbers widens going forward, as FEMA projects that there will only be 857,000 homes at substantial risk for flooding in the next 30 years.

Understanding Localized Flood Risk

In addition to the data that discusses state-wide flood risk, The First Street Foundation has also broken down the numbers to include information that focuses on certain cities and municipalities.

According to First Street’s report, Groves, Texas has the greatest proportion of properties that are at risk for flood damage. They report that there are 7,074 homes in Groves that are at risk for flooding, which represents 100% of homes in the city. Additionally, 98-99% of homes in Dickinson, Bacliff, Palacios, and Bridge City are all at risk for flooding. Those figures are expected to increase by one or two percentage points within the next three decades.

Ingleside, Texas has the distinction of having the greatest relative growing risk of suffering flood damage within the next 30 years. While there are only 629 homes (17%) of homes in Ingleside that are currently at risk for flooding, that number is expected to nearly triple in the next 30 years.

Nearly a third of all Houston properties face flood danger.

Houston, Texas, which is one of the largest cities in the United States is in extreme danger for flooding, thanks primarily to its proximity to the Gulf Coast. The city of Houston presently has the greatest number of at-risk properties in the state of Texas with 186,481 properties presently at risk for flooding. That number represents 32% of all Houston properties. That number is expected to eclipse 200,000 by 2050, as there will be 202,317 properties (34%) of homes at risk for flooding by 2050.

Why Is Flood Risk Increasing?

While many people don’t think of Texas as a state that faces major flood risk, there is clearly a lot for homeowners to digest. But why is the flood risk in Texas already so high, and why is it expected to increase by so much going forward?

Risk Factor acknowledges that the likelihood of another hurricane like the one in 2017 is expected to decrease. However, climate change and an increase in atmospheric temperatures puts the state of Texas, especially the cities that are near the Gulf of Mexico at a major risk for flood damage. When the temperature of the atmosphere increases, evaporation happens at a faster rate. This leads to seemingly mundane thunderstorms producing rain at a higher velocity which produces flooding.

Additionally, the sea surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico is rising and is expected to continue to do so. In 2020, the Gulf’s sea surface temperature had increased by 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is expected to be up by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2035 and by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. This increase in temperatures is largely to blame for the increased sea levels that are experienced by the Gulf Coast. That is why Tides and Currents reports that there is expected to be somewhere between 45 and 70 days of high tide flooding in the area within the next 30 years.

What Can Homeowners Do?

The most important step that homeowners in Texas can take to protect themselves against flooding is to be informed. While many mortgage lenders and real estate agents consult FEMA’s flood maps to determine the need for flood insurance on a particular property, it is a good idea to consult other sources. If a homeowner believes that he or she lives in an area that is at risk for flooding in the next 30 years, obtaining flood insurance is a great way to protect themselves from the financial loss associated with flooding.

Additionally, homeowners should consider what type of materials their home is built from. While the foundation and frame of a home are difficult to replace, there are some materials that are much easier. For instance, EnduraFlood produces a water-resistant drywall that is designed to help people who live in areas with flood risk protect themselves. It only takes 24 hours for mold to start growing on drywall once it has been exposed to water. Installing EnduraFlood drywall can help ensure that the amount of damage a home suffers in a flood is as minimized as possible.


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