Comment of the Day Runner-Up: What People in Katy Didn’t Know About Flooding

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WHAT PEOPLE IN KATY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FLOODING “We live in a house close to 99 in Katy. We have lived in this area for most of the last 10 years — in two different houses. I can tell you that each time we bought there was no mention, that I recall, of being inside of a potential bowl of water from the Barker reservoir. Nor were we mandated by mortgage companies to require flood insurance. We are MILES from the dam itself and never considered it. None of our neighbors did. Imagine our shock to wake up days after the storm to suddenly learn we were in a mandatory evacuation zone. Fortunately our house was far enough west, and high enough, that we didn’t take any damage. Many of our friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky. As we eventually learned, hardly anyone had flood insurance. We didn’t. It’s not that we weren’t in a 100 year flood plain, I don’t think we’re in the 500 year either. I have since purchased flood insurance (Fool me once, etc). But I do think there is a case to be made against some agencies. What we’re learning now about lack of prudence between developers, ACOE, and Fort Bend County seems to be at least a little suspect. Some of these neighborhoods perhaps should have never been built. Additionally, the flood zone maps seem woefully out of date and do not take into account the further upstream development. I get it — many people are going to point the finger at the homeowner and either their lack of planning or insurance. Fair point. But this event caught a lot of people off guard and I believe exposed a lot of problems that still need to be addressed.” [HaventFloodedYet, commenting on Suing the Army Corps for Reservoir Releases; A City App for Debris Removal; 30 Years of the GRB] Illustration: Lulu

5 Comment

  • Can the unincorporated areas in-the-county work in concert with the surrounding municipalities on even terms? Or should they incorporate?
    Flooding is a regional thing; inter-regional authorities have failed. On the other side of the equation the libertarian dream of a corporation building homes out in-the-county has been exposed; some guy 20 miles away is an unaccountable pseudo-“mayor” and the whole place is de facto run out of some law firm. That’s not a good way to run things.

  • The thing about flood maps is they can never be totally accurate. Sure, you can begin to build a flood map based on topography. Low areas connected to water should flood first, right? Not always the case but theyæll likely flood more often. The extent and location of flooding depends on where and how much water falls from the sky. If 64″ of rain ( fell on the Heights even it would flood. No neighborhood in Houston could drain that water fast enough.

    I think the lesson we need to learn from this is we are all in the flood zone since we live on the Gulf coast in an area with less than a 2% gradient to the ocean. Anywhere can flood.

  • @ anon22: The best way to think about a utility district or a management district or an HOA is as a way of obtaining services ordinarily offered by a municipal government, but getting them a la carte rather than bundled. An actual incorporated municipality is statutorily bound to bundle a minimum number of services, some of which duplicate services that are already provided by the County government. (The biggest abuse of these IMO, which goes largely ignored, is when a municipality demands the creation of an in-city MUD because it is unwilling to provide for infrastructure within its own annexed territory and because this sometimes results in a usuriously high property tax rate.)
    The utility district does provide for costs related to the construction and maintenance of stormwater facilities. Those facilities must be built and maintained in accordance with statutory requirements from the State, County, and/or Municipality. If those requirements are inadequate, reflecting too much risk tolerance, it does not necessarily reflect poorly on the developer or the utility district insomuch as it does on elected state and local governments whose rules have been implemented. But the problem there is that the issue is mostly handled by departments and individual bureaucrats so far down the food chain that public accountability is a real problem, essentially non-existent. Also, it’s damn confusing as to whom does what and the public can be forgiven to some extent for not understanding how flood risk is actually mitigated.
    That being said, a MUD board chair actually is elected, has a far more narrow set of responsibilities than would a mayor, city councilmember, county commissioner, county judge, state legislator, or state governor, and actually could be expected to be more directly accountable to the electorate, with specific and limited issues; as republican democracy goes, that sort of position is closer to direct democracy than very nearly any other elected person on a ballot. The biggest problem with that, and it is a real problem, is that the electorate is goddamn fucking ignorant.
    One other thing. Considering the body of administrative law and the bureaucracy underpinning these entities, I would never *ever* describe them as Libertarian. After all, the whole point is to get the State government to guarantee the bond and sold as a kind of tax-exempt muni-bond so that the interest rates are artificially low. That’s not free-wheeling Libertarian policy. That’s the sort of policy that is securely ensconced in the mainstream of establishment politics.

  • I find it interesting that many people expect the potentially negative aspects of the property you are about to purchase will be provided to you for your review in clear language. Just because its built it doesn’t mean the developer/builder is looking out for the future homeowner – Houston and the surrounding county is the worst. There are trade offs with having minimal regulatory oversight and pro business mentality. Other than the limited disclosures in the various types of real estate contracts and their addendum, the burden is on the buyer.
    Maybe its my profession as an architect that I understood what I should look for when my family and I undertook the process of purchasing a house in the northwest Houston/Cypress area – I overlaid the flood maps, school districts, demographics of neighborhoods, proximity to retail areas, built and un-built areas, access to freeways, etc. The reduced amount of areas to look at was surprisingly limited.
    After all that I still purchased flood insurance because I knew in Houston you just need that one storm to provide enough localized rainfall to flood anywhere. The city and county’s infrastructure of yesterday is not designed to handle today’s development and rain events.

    Hmm, I wonder if I should venture into the real estate side of things?