Skip to main content

Nation’s flood prediction system questioned

After the unprecedented flooding that took place in Houston as a result of Hurricane Harvey, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of the system used to predict flooding in the United States.

The storm’s relentless rainfall flooded areas around Houston that had rarely or never been underwater, an NPR article published Monday reported.

“When the numbers started coming in, it was a little scary,” Matt Zeve, director of operations for the Harris County Flood Control District, which includes Houston, told NPR. He referred to a hash mark on the White Oak Bayou bridge that indicated the water had reached 20 feet above the stream bed.

Floods such as those that resulted from Harvey are often referred to as 100- or even 500-year storms. Maps designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and states are intended to help predict where floods can occur. People who own property inside a “flood zone” usually have to purchase flood insurance from FEMA.

In Texas, however, areas that were well outside flood plains have flooded many times, including incidents in the Houston region in 2015 and 2016 that were considered major floods, NPR said.

County Judge Ed Emmett, who is Harris County’s chief executive and helps lead recovery efforts, said “we’ve had three 500-year events in two years … we’ve got to go back and look at what our flood plains are.”

That is already happening at Texas A&M University, where flood expert Samuel Brody studied more than 30 years of floods in the Lone Star State. He found that about half of the insurance claims made after the flooding in Houston were for properties considered outside the mapped flood plain. In some parts of Texas the rate was reportedly as high as 80 percent.

“We’re finding neighborhoods that are miles away from any FEMA-defined flood plain, and every house is flooding,” Brody told NPR. “It’s not just flooding once in these epic events,” he added. “These are chronic, repetitive events.”

Part of the problem is that Houston’s flood maps are considered out of date because they’re based on rainfall data compiled up to 1994. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Houston has seen many large storms since the 1990s.

Sanja Perica at NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction has been overseeing an effort to update the nation’s rainfall data. The updated rainfall estimates and new flood maps reportedly aren’t ready to be published, but Perica said “we looked at preliminary estimates in the Houston area [and] they will change significantly” when the new numbers are published.

Perica’s team estimated that big storms in Houston drop 30 to 40 percent more rainfall than they used to. This will more than likely result in big changes to the rainfall maps and increase the number of people who will have to purchase flood insurance.

Related

1_WHALESACTION

NMMA: Proposed Speed Rule an ‘Existential Threat’ to Industry

The association is calling on every marine brand, employee and boat owner to file public comment by Oct. 31 over a sweeping regulation to protect North Atlantic right whales.

1_AXOPAR

Axopar and Nimbus Renew Agreement

The boatbuilders have entered an agreement whereby Nimbus Group will retain exclusive rights to sell Axopar boats on the Swedish market.

1_IAN

Hurricane Ian Leaves Devastation in Florida

The storm left a wide swath of destruction, heavily impacting marine interests from Tampa Bay to Marco Island.

Norm

Email Is Your Ticket to Holiday Sales

Developing an effective email campaign can bolster sales and help fill winter coffers at your dealership.

1_NMRA

NMRA Presents Annual Awards

Edson CEO Will Keene and ComMar Sales president Tim Conroy were recognized for their contributions to the marine industry.

1_ PULSE.PING.2

DEALERS: Are Interest Rates Impacting Demand?

This month’s Pulse Report survey asks dealers whether interest rate increases are causing a downturn in boat sales. Take the survey here.

1_EPROPULSION

EPropulsion, Mack Boring Partner with Crest

Pontoon builder Crest will use an ePropulsion Navy 3.0 Evo electric outboard motor and an E175 battery for its 2023 Current model.

1_BENETEAU

Beneteau Reports Significant H122 Growth

The company reported that its revenue grew 8.6 percent and income increased by 30 percent during the first half of 2022.