The Cypress Creek Flood
Frequently Asked Questions (Education):
Is my home in a floodplain?
Your homeowners’ insurance
agent can determine whether your home is in or out
of the 100-year floodplain. If you decide to
purchase flood insurance under the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP), the agent might request a
surveyor-certified elevation certificate to
determine the elevation of your home relative to the
Base Flood (100-year) elevation. This elevation is a
key determinant of the flood insurance rate you will
Are there other ways to
determine if my home is in the floodplain?
Yes, you can go to Tropical Storm
Recovery Project (TSARP) website (www.tsarp.org),
or check FEMA’s foodplain maps, copies of which can
be found on their website (www.fema.gov).
These maps will show your home’s relationship to the
floodplain. For additional information, contact your
particular municipal floodplain administrator, or
for unincorporated Harris County, the Harris County
What is an elevation
A certificate issued by a professional surveyor
which shows the elevation of the bottom floor of a
structure on a given property. If this certificate
shows that the property is above the Base Flood
Elevation (BFE) despite the property being shown in
the 1% (100-year) floodplain on the Flood Insurance
Rate Map (FIRM), it can be used to obtain a lower
What is Base Flood Elevation
This is the elevation above the
average sea level that waters from a 1% (100-year)
flood will reach at a given point along a creek or
bayou. These elevations are determined using
hydrology and hydraulic computer models, and are
then mapped on Harris County’s topographic data to
produce the 1% floodplain.
What are Flood Insurance
Rate Maps (FIRMs)?
Produced by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FIRMs show areas
subject to flooding from a primary flood source,
typically major rivers, bayous, creeks and their
subsidiaries (sheetflow flood risks are not shown).
FIRMs help property owners assess the risk of
out-of-bank flooding in their specific areas and are
used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
to establish risk zones/insurance premiums.
What is the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP)?
NFIP is a program administered
by FEMA, which produces Flood Insurance Rate Maps
(FIRMs) that are based on technical analysis and
stream gauge measurements of historical flooding
information. FIRMs include flood risk information,
special flood hazard areas, Base flood elevations
(called “100-year” elevations), areas subject to
inundation by 100-year and 500-year floods along
primary channels, and common features like streams,
highways, roads, and railroads. Call
1-800-477-4661 for information about obtaining
coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program.
How can I obtain or view a
Flood Insurance Rate Map?
For a small fee, you can order
a FIRM from the FEMA Map Center by calling
1-800-358-9616. To do this, you will need a
“Panel Number” for the specific area in question.
Normally, you can view a FIRM or get a panel number
by contacting your mortgage company, homeowners’
insurance agent, or the local city planning or
Does my standard homeowners’
policy include flood insurance?
No, you must arrange for flood
insurance separately. It is sold through private
insurance companies and is financially backed by the
federal government. Rates are the same from all
companies. If your home is not located in a
“mapped” floodplain, the cost is relatively
inexpensive (losses not covered under a flood policy
include out-of-home living expenses and damage to
automobiles and to contents below the lowest
elevated floor of your property). For guidance on
how to purchase a flood insurance policy, contact
your insurance agent or visit the National Flood
Insurance website (www.fema.gov/about/programs/nfip/index.shtm).
Who needs flood insurance?
Even homeowners that do not live in a mapped
floodplain are vulnerable to flooding. Because
everyone lives in a potential flood zone (see
“sheetflow” and “ponding”), the Cypress Creek
Flood Control Coalition and the Harris County Flood
Control District recommends that all Cypress Creek
Watershed citizens carry flood insurance.
If the FEMA Flood Insurance
Rate Maps show that my house is not in a flood zone,
why do I need flood insurance?
FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) show the
floodplains of primary sources such as major rivers,
bayous, creeks, and their tributaries. But flooding
from sources not identified on the FIRM occurs often
in Harris County (see “sheetflow” and
“ponding”). Nationally, one-third of all flood loss
claims are from properties located outside of the
mapped 1% (100-year) flood plain.
New Flood Insurance Rate
Maps for Harris County will become official June 18,
2007. Are the old maps wrong?
Old or new, FEMA Flood
Insurance Rate Maps are estimates. Older maps
used technology current at the time those maps were
developed. The new maps were drawn using today’s
state-of-the-art technology. In short, older maps
are good estimates of where the floodplain exists,
but newer maps improve upon those estimates.
However, even the new maps do not take into account
future development. Development that was
taken into account was collected well before the new
maps become official (a major reason why CCFCC and
HCFCD are preparing the “Future Conditions Flood
Hazard Boundary” technical study).
What is the Harris County
Flood Control District (HCFCD)?
Created by the State Legislature in 1937, HCFCD is a
special purpose district primarily established to
build projects. Its mission: to reduce flood
damage with appropriate regard for community and
natural values. HCFCD devises and implements flood
damage reduction plans, and then maintains the
infrastructure. It does not have regulatory
authority over development. Municipalities
within Harris County and the County Engineer have
some regulatory authority through their respective
construction and building permit programs (See
Glossary for more details).
Flooding is a recurring
problem in some neighborhoods, but not in others.
Older subdivisions were built
prior to current regulations that restrict certain
uses of flood-prone land. Typically, streets and
storm sewers are designed for normal rainfall
events, and a heavy rainfall can overload these
systems. When this happens, water “ponds” in the
streets and then tries to flow overland to a creek
or bayou, flooding homes along the way.
Is street flooding normal?
Yes, because streets are often considered part of
the drainage system. During a typical rainstorm,
water flows through storm sewers or down roadside
ditches to a creek or bayou. If this storm sewer or
ditch capacity is exceeded, streets will hold the
accumulated water until the normal systems can drain
What is sheetflow (overland
flooding occurs when an intense rainfall exceeds
storm sewer or roadside ditch capacity. This water
can accumulate (see “ponding” below) in subdivision
streets deep enough to flood homes that are not
in a floodplain. The water seeks the path of least
resistance to a nearby channel by flowing overland.
Homes and other structures in this path may be
flooded even though they are not shown to be in the
floodplain on a Flood Insurance Rate Map.
What is ponding?
Ponding is the accumulation of water after a
rainfall that gathers in low-lying areas throughout
a watershed. It usually drains into a bayou or
What is run off?
Run off is water from rainfall that is not absorbed
by the ground. It first flows into the local
drainage system, and then into a local river, creek,
What does “buy out” mean?
The purchase or "buy out" of
flood-prone houses is one of the most cost-effective
tools in the HCFCD’s flood damage reduction toolbox.
During heavy rains, it’s quite natural for Cypress
Creek to occupy its floodplain. It’s not natural for
homes to be built there. Buying and removing these
flood-prone structures is the best way to ensure
that they are not again damaged by floods.
Why does the government buy
For two reasons: because homeowners’ lives
are at risk, and because recurrent flood losses
drain government and community resources. A buy out
can be the most cost-effective method of addressing
recurrent flooding problems when compared to the
alternative costs of building larger channels,
stormwater detention basins, and other flood
mitigation projects (or repetitively paying flood
If I think my home
qualifies, how does a “buy out” work?
The process varies depending on
the requirements of the specific funding source.
Generally speaking, homes are appraised at fair
market value by certified independent appraisers,
homeowners are screened for relocation assistance
eligibility, negotiations are carried out with the
Harris County Right-of-Way Division, and homeowners
meet with HCFCD staff counselors before the
transaction is complete. Potentially eligible homes
are generally ranked according to the risk, severity
and history of flooding. When HCFCD funds are
leveraged with other funds, the financial partner’s
ranking priority may supercede that of the HCFCD,
but the ultimate objective is the same…reducing
damage and losses caused by floods.
Has the local “buy out”
program been effective?
Between 1989 and the Tropical
Storm Allison experience of June, 2001, HCAD and
various partners have purchased 440 of the most
repetitive flood-loss homes in Harris County,
costing $44 million. Since Tropical Storm Allison,
HCFCD, in partnerships with FEMA and the State of
Texas, has purchased an additional 2,000 homes,
costing $170 million. HCFCD also maintains a list of
candidates for buy out when funds become available.
It is currently seeking additional funds for the buy
out of homes that were flooded in October 2002 and
for other homes that repeatedly flood.