The City of La Porte is dedicated to minimizing the loss of life and property that is associated with flooding events, and providing residents with a safe environment to live, work, and play. Education and prevention are valuable and proven tools that help communities become resistant to natural disasters. Now is the perfect time to make sure you are knowledgeable on how to protect yourself and your property for the next major storm.
Know your flood hazard.
Although the water front areas of La Porte are a nice feature of the city, they can also pose a danger of flooding. The city of La Porte is susceptible to riverine flooding and coastal flooding, as well as urban flooding such as low lying areas, street flooding, and flash flooding. The main water sources are the Little Cedar Bayou watershed, Clear Creek watershed, Armand Bayou watershed, and Galveston Bay. The city also has numerous secondary watersheds and other drainage features that carry water across the city’s 20 square miles. Past flooding events such as the Memorial Day flood in 2015, the Tax Day flood in 2015, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 have shown that everyone in Harris County is at risk because ALL properties in the city are susceptible to flooding.
It’s important to know where you live in relation to the floodplain so you know your level of risk. Contact the Planning and Development Department at 281-470-5072 or visit City Hall to see the current FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map to find out which flood zone you live in and what kind of risk you are facing. You can also go to the City’s Geographic Information System (GIS) where you can find out floodplain information specific to your property. You’ll be able to zoom in on your parcel or building to get exact information for your home or business. Real time river gauge information can be obtained by visiting the Harris County Flood Warning System website.
FEMA is in the process of revising the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Harris County, and it would be good to know where the preliminary flood hazard areas will be relative to where you live. Visit the FEMA Flood Information Portal for Harris County where you can type in your address in the search bar to see how the effective flood hazard areas compare to the preliminary flood hazard areas and how each one affects your property. You can also visit the Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool to become familiar with the location of the watersheds serving La Porte, as well as to find out more information on FIRMs and flooding risks.
❷ Insure your property.
Regardless of where you live in La Porte, you need flood insurance. Basic homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damages. 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. Call your insurance agent today to make sure your policy covers both structure and contents. There is a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective, so don’t delay.
La Porte’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) allows for citizens to purchase flood insurance at a subsidized rate, regardless of location or past damage. The City also participates in a voluntary FEMA program known as the Community Rating System (CRS) that provides discounts on flood insurance to eligible citizens located inside the floodplain and up to a 5% discount to those who live outside of the floodplain (not including citizens with a Preferred Risk Policy). For more information about flood insurance, finding an agent, how flood insurance rates are calculated, and to find a policy that fits your needs, visit FloodSmart.
❸ Protect yourself.
Most people are not aware that it only takes six inches of water for a car to become buoyant or for water to knock you off your feet. Drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths. Protect yourself from the dangers of flood water by obeying barriers and barricades. Do not drive in areas that you know have a tendency to flood. Pay attention to the storm surge markers the City’s Office of Emergency Management installed on various stop signs in the southeast side of town. These markers indicate the potential storm surge levels in that area. Take the necessary precautions when it comes to protecting yourself from harm’s way.
If City officials tell you to evacuate, follow their orders and leave immediately. Shut off the electricity and all gas appliances before you evacuate. Designate a place where your family can meet after an evacuation order is issued. Know the evacuation procedures for a flood, and prepare a family evacuation plan. Visit the Houston-Galveston Area Council Hurricane Evacuation Planning website to view evacuation maps based on zip codes. Check out the La Porte Office of Emergency Management to find out more information on how to plan and prepare for the next disaster, including evacuation assistance and other flood preparedness tips. Stay connected to the City before, during, and after a flood by visiting www.laportetx.gov/stayconnected for more information.
❹ Protect your property.
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. City officials can help you find ways to minimize flood damage to your property before the flood occurs such as making sure your downspouts drain away from your house. Visit the Planning and Development Department located at 604 W. Fairmont Parkway or contact City staff by calling 281-471-5072 to learn other ways to safeguard your structure. There are several publications on retrofitting available at the La Porte Public Library that can help you decide which technique is best for you and your property. You can also download the following resource from the FEMA website: Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from Flooding (FEMA P-312) for information on permanent retrofitting measures for your home.
It is illegal in La Porte to dump any type of debris into a stream or drainage ditch. Debris can become entangled in culverts and streambeds, and impede drainage causing the flow of water to back up. Citizens should do their part to keep ditches free of debris, and to discourage grass clippings, oil, and other contaminants from invading storm sewer inlets. Debris dumping should be reported to the La Porte Public Works Department at 281-471-9650.
❺ Build responsibly.
Before you do any kind of work to your structure in the floodplain, check with the Planning and Development Department (281-470-5072) to see if a permit is needed. Any development in the floodplain without a permit is illegal, such as constructing berms and other barriers that divert water onto other properties, and such activity should be reported to the City. 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 buildings; market value, also require building permits and elevation certificates, and are held to the same standards as new construction. One basic standard La Porte has adopted in its Floodplain Ordinance (Chapter 94) is the requirement of all new construction and substantially improved structures to be built at a minimum of 12 inches above the base flood elevation. This higher standard provides added flood protection to structures, but does not eliminate the flooding threat.
Visit the Planning and Development Department for more information on building in La Porte including development permits and applications, commercial development, code enforcement, the comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance, development code, maps, and inspection services.