Flood and FEMA Information
The City of El Lago is committed to providing its citizens with the knowledge and resources they can use to protect themselves and their property from flood hazards. Education, preparedness, and prevention are valuable and proven tools that help communities become resistant to natural disasters.
Regardless of where you live, you are at risk for flooding, and El Lago’s location on the Gulf Coast leaves it especially vulnerable to tropical storms and other flood-related events. The information and links connected to this page have been created to serve as an “all inclusive” source for property owners in El Lago in order to increase awareness about flood hazards.
Know Your Flood Hazard
Floodplains provide a wide range of benefits to human and natural systems. They serve as flood storage and conveyance, and reduce flood velocities and flood peaks. Water quality is improved through the soil and vegetation’s ability to filter out nutrients and impurities from runoff and process organic wastes. Floodplains and wetlands provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife, create and enhance waterfowl habitat, and protect habitats for rare and endangered species. They provide open space, aesthetic pleasure, and areas for active uses such as parks, playgrounds, and ball fields. The flood zones in El Lago are located within the Armand Bayou watershed and Clear Creek watershed that flow into Clear Lake and then out to Galveston Bay.
The Harris County Flood Warning System includes rain gauges placed in different areas of the county. There are three rain gauges located within or near El Lago: one is Taylor Lake at Nasa Road 1, one is Taylor Lake at Port Road and one at the Clear Creek 2nd outlet. Rain and water levels at different intervals ranging from the past 15 minutes to one year can be viewed at https://www.harriscountyfws.org/..
Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are issued by FEMA to identify different levels of flood risks. The FIRMs are primarily used for flood insurance purposes, but they also provide a basis for El Lago to regulate development within those areas. The location of a property relative to certain flood zones indicates what restrictions may be placed on new and substantially improved construction. FEMA’s Flood Insurance and Flood Maps explains the different flood zones and how they relate to risk.
FIRMs are available for viewing at the El Lago City Hall located at 411 Tallowood Drive. The maps are used by the City for compliance purposes, and are also used by insurance agents for flood insurance rating. The current effective FIRMs for El Lago are dated January 6, 2017. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has the Harris County FIRM layers in their GIS, and the public is able to access them online at http://www.harriscountyfemt.org/. Users can type in their address on the upper left side of the screen, and the digital maps will show its location, the flood zones in and around the property, and the watersheds the property is in or near. On the right side of the screen, users can choose a road-based map or an aerial map that shows buildings. The HCFCD maps are not meant to replace the FEMA FIRMs but are available to citizens to view a more enhanced version of them.
For homes that were built prior to this date, it may be helpful for citizens to have access to all the historical maps to know what flood zone was in effect at the time of construction. Knowing this information can be critical if there is a dispute with a mortgage lender or insurance agent. FEMA's Map Service Center is a good resource for both current and historical maps. More information on FIRMs is available in the FEMA document entitled Understanding the Changes to Your Community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map.
Regardless of your location to flood zones, everyone in El Lago is encouraged to purchase flood insurance. Basic homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. El Lago participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, which means that federally subsidized flood insurance is available to everyone in the city. Remember there is a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective. Some people have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank or loan company when they obtained a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually, these policies just cover the building’s structure and not the contents; however, policies are also available to cover contents. Remember that a flood insurance policy must be renewed every year. Due to the City’s participation in the Community Rating System, which is a voluntary, federal program that provides incentives to communities for enforcing higher standards, flood insurance policyholders may be eligible to receive a discount on their annual premiums. Visit Floodsmart: The Official Site of the National Flood Insurance Program for more details on flood insurance including types of policies, coverage options, and other useful information. The following FEMA publications may also provide more information:
- Things You Should Know about Flood Insurance
- Summary of Coverage
- Cheaper Flood Insurance: 5 Ways to Lower the Cost of Your Flood Insurance Premium
- Flood Insurance Claims Handbook
- Filing Your Flood Insurance Claim
- Appealing Your Flood Insurance Claim
- Answers to Questions about the National Flood Insurance Program
It is important to know the difference between a flood WATCH and a flood WARNING.A flash flood watch is flooding that is possible in your area. A flash flood warning is flooding that is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. The best time to make sure you are ready for the next storm event is before one is headed your way. Have the following emergency supplies available in order to be prepared:
- Non-perishable foods (at least a three-day supply) and water containers
- More than one flashlight and extra batteries
- Candles and matches
- First-aid kit, along with any prescription medicine
- Extra plywood (preferably heavy, pre-cut, and pre-drilled) to cover windows
- Plastic sheeting (for water leaks)
- Battery-powered radio (and/or a NOAA Weather Radio)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Copies of personal documents (birth certificates, insurance policies, pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home)
- Extra cash
- Camera for photos of damage
- Pictures of your most valuable possessions (TV, furniture, jewelry, electronic equipment, appliances, etc.). These (and the item receipts) will come in handy to the insurance agent if the items are damaged by the flood event.
Flood Safety Tips
It is a good idea to have an emergency plan in place, and to follow these guidelines regarding safety.
- Learn the safest route from your home or business to higher safer ground.
- If emergency management officials tell you to evacuate or leave your home, go immediately to a safe shelter, hotel, or relative’s house. Evacuation maps for El Lago residents can be found here.
- Make sure your family and employer know where you can be reached if you must leave your home in an evacuation.
- Before you leave, turn off all utilities, gas, and electricity at the main switch. Stay away from power and electrical lines. Be alert for gas leaks.
- Do not walk-through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths. Flood waters can also contain contaminants and pests (i.e., snakes).
- Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet.
- Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than in any other location, and it only takes two feet of water to move a car. Remember Turn Around Don't Drown!
Harris County Water Control & Improvement District #50 (https://www.wcid50.org) is responsible for maintaining the stormwater drainage system in El Lago. In the years since Hurricane Harvey, WCID #50 has investigated, cleaned and repaired several sections of the stormwater drainage pipes and has proposed a multi-million-dollar project to increase the capacity of the drainage system.
Rather than wait for a flood to occur, you can act now to protect your property from flood damage. Even if you’ve never flooded before, in the life of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood if a property is located in the floodplain. Various retrofitting techniques are available to help minimize flooding such as elevating the building, constructing barriers out of fill or concrete, and floodproofing to make the building watertight. Because of El Lago’s susceptibility to hurricanes and other tropical storms, measures that protect against high winds such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors, should also be considered.
There are several publications on retrofitting available at the public library in Seabrook that can help you decide which technique is best for you and your property. You can also download the Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from Flooding (FEMA P-312) from the FEMA online library at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/480 for information on permanent retrofitting measures for your home. These additional resources are available from the FEMA website:
- Above the Flood: Elevating Your Floodprone House
- Avoiding Hurricane Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners
- Reduce Your Risk from Natural Disasters
- Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting
- Protecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage
The Recovery Process
Returning to your home after a major flood event can sometimes be overwhelming. Contact City Hall by phone (281) 326-1951 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if your home experienced any damage. Our building department will schedule a time to review your property damage and assist in any way that we can help.
FEMA has numerous publications on how homeowners can recover from a flood. A few of the links below are provided for more information:
For more information on flood safety, please visit www.redcross.org or www.disasterassistance.gov. Also, follow the City of El Lago on Facebook and in Next Door, and access the City’s website for local information and updates before and after a major storm flooding event.
All development in the floodplain requires a permit per Chapter 7 of the El Lago Code of Ordinances. Development includes, but is not limited to, all new construction, filling, grading, and paving. Substantially damaged or improved structures, where the cost of repair (regardless of the cause of damage) or improvements to a structure equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value, also require building permits and elevation certificates, and are held to the same standards as new construction.
Communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program must regulate to minimum standards in order to provide subsidized flood insurance to their citizens. In some cases, the City of El Lago has chosen to implement higher standards to provide further protection to its citizens. One higher standard El Lago adheres to in its floodplain ordinance is the requirement of all new construction and substantially improved structures to be built to at least two feet above the base flood elevation in the floodplain. The elevation requirement extends to all equipment servicing the building such as an air conditioning unit. (Click on the “City Ordinances” under Your Government on the home page to access the City’s adopted ordinance on freeboard.) This higher standard provides added protection to structures, but does not eliminate the flooding threat. It also benefits homeowners by giving them discounts on their flood insurance, depending on how high their structure is above the base flood elevation.
Contact the Floodplain Administrator at 411 Tallowood Drive. (281-326-1951) for advice before you construct or place anything in the floodplain to ensure that the proper regulations are followed. Any development in the floodplain without a permit is illegal, and such activity should be reported to the Building Department. Permit information and elevation certificates on some properties in the floodplain are on file and may be requested from City Hall. For more information on requirements for development, refer to the Building Permits page.
Additional Information and Resources