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Hurricane Harvey Flooding: What Happened? What You Should Know About FEMA Floodplain Maps

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Hurricane Harvey Flooding: What Happened? What You Should Know About FEMA Floodplain Maps

As Houston and surrounding areas continue efforts to regroup and rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, a study from Rice University has found that the FEMA floodmaps in effect somehow missed 75% of the flood damages.

FEMA is responsible for flood hazard mapping program, through Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (MAP), FEMA identifies flood hazards, assesses flood risks and partners with states and communities to provide accurate flood hazard and risk data to guide them to mitigation actions. Flood hazard mapping is an important part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as it is the basis of the NFIP regulations and flood insurance requirements. FEMA maintains and updates data through Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and risk assessments. FIRMs include statistical information such as data for river flow, storm tides, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses and rainfall and topographic surveys.

The Houston Chronicle also reported on the study, stating that researchers examining flood damage claims from several southeast Houston suburbs between 1999 to 2009 found that FEMA's flood predictive maps failed to show 75 percent of flood damage.

“The takeaway from this study, which was borne out in Harvey, is that many losses occur in areas outside FEMA’s 100-year flood plain,” said study co-author Antonia Sebastian, a research associate at Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center and a postdoctoral researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

The problem can cut both ways. Pro Publica has also found FEMA flood plain maps to have wrongly mapped homes that did not belong in floodplains as high-risk flood areas. Pro Publica's report found that FEMA has used outdated data in a number of its new flood maps and mistakenly mapped homeowners into high-risk flood areas. Homeowners in such areas with federally backed mortgages (and most mortgages are) are required to buy insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Murr Yanochik, P.L.L.C. continues to investigate and gather information regarding the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and are working to assist our friends, families, and neighbors and to protect their rights. If you or a family member were impacted by the flooding caused by the release of water from the Barker and Cypress reservoir levees, as well as the Lake Conroe dam and the San Jacinto River, then we would ask that you contact us immediately through this website or by calling our offices.