LAKE JACKSON — There is no such thing as a no-flood zone. That’s one of the main points Federal Emergency Management Agency engineers wanted residents to take away from their presentation at an open house Wednesday at the Lake Jackson Civic Center.
“I’ve never heard of that. That was very surprising to me,” Jones Creek resident and attendee Wendy Jones said.
Jones and her husband’s home received 4 feet of water during storms during Hurricane Harvey, costing them all of their clothes, furniture and $50,000 in repairs because they didn’t have flood insurance, she said. The couple received $32,000 in aid from FEMA but are still working to repair the house.
Jones said had they known there is no such thing as a no-flood zone — that all properties risk being flooded if it rains — they might have gotten flood insurance well before Harvey. Now, all coastal areas in the county are proposed to increase severely in flood risk, according to new floodplain maps.
“Probably, like the engineer said, we would be grandfathered into hopefully lower rates,” Jones said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do now.”
FEMA representative Bruce Bender said if a property increases in flood risk, people who currently have flood insurance can apply to have lower flood rates locked in even if the zoning for the property increases to a higher risk. While many residents didn’t already have flood insurance, there are still affordable options, but prices vary based on specific situations, he said.
Roughly 100 residents and county officials from across Brazoria County who attended the open house were able to speak with experts about affordable insurance options and view the proposed FEMA floodplain maps to see whether or not their properties could be affected.
“We’re excited to see such a big crowd,” FEMA engineer Larry Voice said. “We did several of these meetings recently in the state and I think there are twice as many people here now as there were at those throughout the state.”
During the presentation, Bender said he wants people to understand what flood insurance will actually cover and what needs to happen in order for it to kick in.
“The key thing is, for you guys in rural areas, flooding must occur in 2 or more acres. For urban, it must occur in two or more properties,” Bender said. “If the street floods and your house floods, that counts. And it can come from any source. If a crazy driver hits a fire hydrant, that would be covered.”
Bender added that, before Hurricane Harvey, over 40 percent of flood insurance claims across Texas came from people living in moderate to low-risk flood zones. That’s part of why he wants people to understand there is no such thing as a no-flood zone and why it’s important for everyone to have flood insurance, he said.
Steve and Corliss Clark of Lake Jackson said they have lived in a moderate flood zone for the past five years, and while they are more concerned with the 10-foot alligators invading their property, they have flood insurance anyway, they said.
“We do know some of our neighbors don’t have flood insurance,” Steve Clark said. “They don’t believe it will ever go up there.”
The couple had to get an elevation certification for their property to prove their house wasn’t at an increased risk, Steve Clark said. Getting an elevation certification is one move people can take to keep their property from increasing in flood zone risk and keep insurance rates low, Bender said during the presentation.
FEMA’s new maps for Brazoria County are no longer in the 90-day appeal period and are now in the 90-day review period. However, people can still protest the proposed changes if they don’t believe their property should be affected as the new maps indicate, Bender said.
Once maps are accepted, they will go into effect as the official maps six months later to give people and Realtors time to prepare and start shopping for flood insurance if affected, Bender said. According to the new FEMA maps, coastal areas in Brazoria County show increased risk, but Bender said experts don’t think the rest of the county will experience any changes.
The next open house is from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Brazoria County Fairgrounds auditorium, 901 S. Downing St. in Angleton.