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Frequently Asked Questions

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

A drainage easement is a part of your property where the City has limited rights of access and/or use. Generally, you cannot make any improvements in a drainage easement. That means no fences, sheds, walls, trails or buildings. You should avoid planting trees or much landscaping as well.

A drainage easement has two possible purposes. It may be needed for the flow of storm water. For example, drainage ditches and creeks are typically within a drainage easement. In this case, anything that prevents the flow of water; that might catch debris; that might be washed away; or that might cause a dam-like effect is problematic.

Alternatively, the easement may be needed to access drainage infrastructure. In this case, anything that might make it difficult to drive a truck through or dig up an underground pipe is problematic.

We look at a number of factors, including safety and cost. Some questions we ask are: 

  • What is flooding? Is it a house, a yard or a street that is flooding?
  • Are there multiple properties in the same area that are flooding?
  • Is there a safe way in and out of the neighborhood during a flood?
  • Could improvements to the City’s infrastructure help with this problem? Would increasing the capacity of the storm drain system or raising the roadway help?
  • Is there a cost-effective solution?
  • Is the problem potentially life threatening?
  • Is there a nearby erosion or water quality issue that could also be addressed with a project?
  • Is the flooding likely to happen again?

Localized flood issues are typically identified in one of two ways. Either residents contact the City to report flooding of their property or street or City staff identify problem areas based on evaluations of the existing storm drainage system. We strongly encourage residents to report any flooding issues since this brings to light new problem areas and allows City staff to confirm problems identified through studies.

Austin has over 900 miles of storm drains, over 30,000 inlets, and about 200 miles of drainage ditches.

Consider buying flood insurance if you do not already have it. You can take simple steps to protect your possessions by storing important papers, photographs or valuables in watertight containers, placed on a high shelf. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

If flooding is imminent and you have time, the following steps can limit damages:

  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
  • Move valuables, such as papers, furs, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing.
  • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property: 

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the flooding. This helps us understand where projects are necessary.

Call your homeowners insurance company and follow their instructions to file a claim and repair your house. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages due to flooding. Here are some precautions:

  • Check for structural damage before entering your house. Don’t go in if the building might collapse.
  • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Use a flashlight.
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
  • Look out for snakes and other animals.
  • Be careful walking around. Look for nails, broken glass or other hazards. Floors may be slippery due to mud.
  • Document the damage with photographs.
  • Clean right away. Throw out food and medicines that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Boil water vigorously for five minutes until local authorities proclaim your water supply is safe.
  • Before you start repairs, contact the Development Assistance Center at 512-974- 6370 about possible permitting requirements.

Download this FEMA publication to find out more about repairing your home: Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the standing water, research the cause and determine whether the City may be able to help with a solution. 

Please email and ask about the possibility of releasing this easement. We will explore whether this is feasible. If it looks like there are no obvious problems, we will direct you to fill out an application for an easement release. The release process is handled by Real Estate Services, and there is an application fee whether the request is approved or denied.

Monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate. The flooding may get much worse very fast. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations.
Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing.
Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

For guidance in how to prepare an evacuation kit or stock emergency supplies ahead of time, visit Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
 

The 100-year storm is an event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. To put that in perspective, during the span of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that a 100-year event will occur.

The amount of rainfall necessary to produce a 100-year storm is partially dependent on the duration of the storm. If the rain falls over the course of 3 hours, it takes about 6 inches for it to be classified as a 100-year rainfall. But if those same 6 inches fall over the course of 3 days, it would be considered a much smaller rainfall event. The standard 100-year design storm for the City of Austin has a duration of 24-hours and produces a total rainfall of over 10 inches. To learn more about rainfall return periods in Austin, see section 2 of the Drainage Criteria Manual.

During a large storm, it is normal for the intensity to vary widely across the city. In September 2010, Tropical Storm Hermine produced rainfall totals equivalent to a 100-year storm over portions of the Bull Creek watershed. However, other areas of Austin did not experience as severe a storm. Keep in mind that even if a large storm has recently occurred, there is the same percent chance of an equally large storm occurring the following year.

Creek flooding occurs when the water rises in a creek and starts flowing out of the banks. Local flooding is not directly associated with a creek. It occurs before the water gets to a creek when runoff from heavy rainfall overwhelms the existing storm drainage system. The stormwater may flow through streets, yards and structures as the water seeks a path to a creek. This may happen because there are not enough ditches or storm drains or because there is something blocking the flow of water. 

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.