Charles Jones Blog


Like me, you may have found it difficult to watch some of the scenes broadcast from Texas as a result of Hurricane - and subsequently - Tropical Storm Harvey. While watching the storm and its aftermath, an important lesson is once again clear. Having flood insurance in place can be life changing in such situations.  However, you may be surprised to learn that flood coverage is not mandatory in some areas that were flooded by Harvey, and have been flooded there previously.

100-Year and 500-Year Flood Zones

Have you heard the terms “500 year flood” and “100 year flood” mentioned during the recent news coverage? I heard one broadcaster state that Houston suffered its “worst flood in 500 years” with Harvey. Unfortunately this description may promote a misunderstanding about flood zones and flood risk. Comments such as these can instill a false sense of security among the public who may think “after this one, my property won’t flood for another 500 years.”

What exactly are 100-year and 500-year flood zones?  The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), otherwise known as the 100-year flood zone has a 1% chance of occurring annually.  If, when completing a flood hazard search, our results show a structure is located within the SFHA, we will certify that flood insurance is required by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973.

However, since the 500-year flood zone has a 0.2% chance of occurring annually, flood insurance is NOT required for structures located within this zone per the SFHDF.

Not Mandatory Does Not Mean No Risk

The problem with a lack of mandatory requirement in the 500-year zone is that flood events in this zone happen with more frequency than the probability suggests. For example, in Harris County, Texas which is Houston’s home, the Cypress Creek experienced flooding in certain locations of a 500-year flood zone three times between 1994 and 1998! Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in some 500-year zones and many residents most likely did not have flood insurance since it was not required. The same problem also exists in the Special Flood Hazard Area (or 100-year flood zone) where floods happen much more frequently in certain areas. This crucial difference between these two flood zones has no doubt led to property owners unfortunately assuming that since flood insurance was not mandatory, their homes were not at risk.

The bottom line is that it is important for property owners to know their own area’s unique flood risk and history and to decide what is best for their own protection.

Have you discussed flood risk with your clients? If you have any questions about flood zones, please feel free to call us at 800-792-8888 and we will be happy to assist you.

The information provided is for informative purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a legal opinion. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Carl Weinberger

Manager, Geographic Services 

 

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