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New Flood Risk Maps Bring Uncertainty to Flood-Affected Central Texas

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
FEMA released projections of future flooding in flood-affected areas of Central Texas.

This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency held an open house in San Marcos to answer questions about its newly released flood maps, which show where flood risks in the area will be highest.

The new maps show significant increase in flood risk in the Wimberley area, and varying levels in San Marcos. These areas are still rebuilding after floods over Memorial Day weekend brought down houses, trees and took more than a dozen lives.

FEMA officials say the new flood maps are only for people rebuilding, to see how high they should rebuild their homes to escape future floods. Diane Howe is the FEMA program specialist in the region.

“This map does not affect insurance rates, this is a map that's just for recovery efforts,” says Diane Howe, a regional program specialist for FEMA. “In other words if you are rebuilding right now we suggest that you look to this map for elevations, if you are able to elevate your home.”

So insurance rates won't go up, yet.

Credit FEMA
FEMA's map showing areas of higher flood risk (grey).

“The next map, which is the preliminary flood insurance rate, will be issued in about a year,” Howe says. “And that's the one that, once it becomes effective – and it takes about two years for that to happen – that’s the map that your insurance will be rated on, at that point.”

Shannon Cronan of the Saint Bernard Project in Texas – a non-profit group specializing in disaster assistance – says she’s more concerned about the potential chilling effect the elevation estimates could have on agencies looking to build homes in the area.

Following the Memorial Day flooding, she’s been helping with rebuilding efforts in San Marcos. She says the maps are not user-friendly, which could discourage builders and homeowners looking to rebuild.

“What happens is people will be discouraged from building their homes, because they need to elevate, rather than build their home, get back in, and elevate at another point.”

The maps are available to view online

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