New flood plain maps for Austin will take effect on September 26, 2008. With the new maps, there are several hundred properties, including homes, businesses and undeveloped land, that will move in or out of the floodplain. Those moved out are mainly due to city improvements.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency began updating Austin and Travis County's floodplain maps in 2003 as part of a national Map Modernization Project. At the time, some of the maps had not been updated for nearly 30 years.
A flood plain is defined as an area that has officially been determined to be at risk for flooding in the event of severe weather. Those areas are usually near lakes, rivers, creeks and streams. There are two flood plains: the 100-year flood plain and the 500-year flood plain.
A 100-year flood is said to have a 1 percent chance of happening every year. A 500-year flood event would have a 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year. This doesn't mean your home will flood only once in 5, 10 or 100 years. In the Austin-Travis County area we have experienced back-to-back 100-year flood events. And even though a flood plain property might not have flooded during one heavy rainfall, it can still be flooded in the future because the next flood could be worse
For the most part, changes to the floodplains are spread throughout the city, because floodplains run in pockets throughout Austin, cutting through neighborhood and other local boundaries. They run alongside creeks, even those that are normally dry, as well as the Colorado River. While not everyone lives in a flood plain, everyone lives in a flood zone and any property in the United States is susceptible to flooding. It's just a matter of level of risk. Flood insurance is mandated for those whose homes are built on a flood plain because these areas carry a high level risk for flooding.
It's important for homes and businesses in a flood plain to have flood insurance -- something separate from your home owner's insurance. If you purchase a home in a flood plain, your lender will require you to purchase flood insurance to the structure. Make sure the insurance covers both the structure and the contents. During the kind of flooding that happens in Austin, there is usually more damage to the furniture and contents than there is to the structure. Here's something else to keep in mind: it will take 30 days for your policy to kick in.
Because Austin participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, federal flood insurance is available to residents through FEMA. This means that Austin residents get a 15% reduction in insurance fees, making decent coverage affordable.
If you don't know if your home is in or out of a flood plain, contact your insurance agent. They can also quote your rates.
New flood plain maps including those moved in and out of the flood plain can be viewed at
Karen Staha, CRS,GRI,ABR, REALTOR - Gaston & Sheehan Realty