Can we stop and just talk about flooding for a few minutes here?
Near Wimberley: The Blanco River in winter, being pretty and not killing people
May 2015: The Blanco River after it has killed people and caused untold property damage. Those are cars you see in the foreground.
The north, east, and south side of the central Texas area is pretty flat and used to be clay-soil farmland, after it was no longer range for hunters following the game. The west was ranch land after the native people were driven off, because it had thin rocky soil and hills- not great for a farm, but perfectly fine for herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. Now, people are engaged in turning this farmland and ranch land into subdivisions of houses as fast as they can get them built. We are growing!
The area is laced with creeks and rivers, and when it rains a whole lot at one time, those creeks turn into torrents and the rivers turn into monsters. It’s pretty much the case that, in the west, if you build your house far up a hill, you aren’t likely to get flooded. But, in the north, east, and south, the water has room to spread out over the prairie, and you can’t be sure where the next flood will hit.
Nobody got too excited when the farmland flooded, or the rivers in the west turned into torrents on the ranch land. But, when buildings are involved, people sit up and take notice. That’s why FEMA flood maps exist. They show where people are required by law to carry flood insurance. They also show where you probably should buy flood insurance, even if you are not required to.
No one can predict where the next high-precipitation supercell will occur, and sometimes homes in our region will get flooded, even where no flooding has occurred since people have been keeping track. These areas are not marked as flood zones on the Federal Emergency Management Agency maps, but they may be flood zones the next time the maps are updated.
I can use our local multiple listing service to easily look up any property address and see a map of the flood zone for that property and neighborhood. The various flood zones are labeled according to the calculated percentage risk per year of a foot of water covering the ground.
When we have big storms, I call friends all over the area to see if they have had flooding, wind, hail, or tornado damage. When somebody has been flooded unexpectedly, or when flooding has occurred in a neighborhood for the first time, I file away that information for future reference (and go help out the victims). You can be sure that if you are looking at houses in that area, I will be showing you the flood maps AND I will be knocking on doors to ask what the residents saw the last time the area flooded.
There is nothing certain in this world, but if you and I can reduce the chances that your new home will be in a flood zone, that is a good thing, right?
Have you experienced a flood?