Your Houston Home May Now Be in a Higher-Risk FEMA Flood Zone

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Harris County homeowners may want to take a gander at FEMA's recently released flood-risk map —because roughly 8,000 structures and homes have been elevated to the Special Flood Hazard Area, FEMA officials said.

The special flood hazard designation means there's a 1 percent chance your home will flood in any given year, officials said — but that translates to a 26 percent chance over a 30-year mortgage. 

This is FEMA's most significant revision of the region's flood-risk map in nearly a decade, and the changes may affect many homeowners' insurance packages in the near future. Four hundred lucky ducks, however, may find themselves no longer classified under Special Flood Hazard Areas, according to FEMA representative Diane Howe.

Set to go into effect in January 2017, the new map places special emphasis on areas on the far western edge of the county, near the Addicks Reservoir, and vulnerable areas west of the Grand Parkway near Katy Hockley Road that saw substantial flooding this spring. Much of those areas has been elevated to the Special Flood Hazard Area risk level.

Other new flood hazard areas are in the regions east of the Beltway extending to San Jacinto College Central and along Armand Bayou in Pasadena. Areas on the east end of the Loop along Buffalo and Brays bayous are affected by changes as well, in addition to parts of northeastern Harris County.

If homeowners find themselves classified under the Special Flood Hazard Area for the first time, FEMA insurance specialist Mark Lujan says they should strongly consider purchasing flood insurance policies with preferred-risk premiums sometime between January 2017 and the following January. 

Lujan said after the first year, the policy will go up 18 percent per year until homeowners reach their full risk rate, which Lujan described as a “moving target” given there's a chance insurance rates can increase. He also advised homeowners who live in low- to moderate-risk areas to consider flood-insurance policies, too, given, he said, that 30 percent of flood-insurance claims FEMA receives come from homeowners in non-special flood hazard areas.

The map, full of a myriad of codes and layers, can be confusing for first-time viewers, so here's a handy cheat sheet to help interpret what level of risk homeowners fall under, as well as helpful resources from FEMA.

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