Draft flood maps of Corpus Christi include Oso Creek neighborhoods in flood zone, could affect insurances rates

CORPUS CHRISTI ? Homeowners near La Volla Creek on the city's Westside and in neighborhoods along the Oso Creek on the city's Southside could be required to buy flood insurance and see a rate increase under a proposed federal flood map. A draft version of the long-anticipated maps that determine federal flood insurance rates and affect building codes show those areas of the city in a flood zone, according to draft maps viewed by the Caller-Times. City engineers will present the maps Tuesday during a City Council meeting and make them publicly available later the same day on the city's website and at Corpus Christi Development Services, said Natasha Fudge, the city's major project engineer. "The goal is to share information with the public so they can make appropriate decisions," she said. City officials rely on flood maps last updated in the early 1980s to guide their building permit decisions. The draft maps going public Tuesday only include property within the city limits. Nueces County has not yet release draft flood maps to the public, and it is unclear when those will be available. Data is still being developed for the countywide maps, said Earl Armstrong, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the flood insurance program. The draft maps are required to go through a lengthy public vetting process before they are final and the rates go into effect. No date has been set. Flood insurance often is required for property owners who have a mortgage with a bank that's backed by the federal government. It covers floodwaters that come from outside the home and is considered one of the least expensive home insurance options. Flood insurance does not cover damage from leaks inside the home or damage from rain that falls into a house through a roof that's been compromised by wind. Flood insurance rates vary based on where the property falls on the map. Those who live in a flood zone can expect to pay two to three times as much for coverage as those who do not own property in a flood zone, said local insurance broker Ren Rendon, of Farmer's Insurance. For example, flood insurance for a house insured for $150,000 and not listed in a flood zone cost about $300 a year. One way to avoid a higher premium is to buy flood insurance now, experts advise. Homes in Kings Crossing, The Lakes and Las Colonias subdivisions are listed in a flood zone, according to the draft maps. The news may not come as a surprise for residents who remember the September 2010 flooding of the Oso Creek that killed one person who was swept from the road while in his car and flooded homes in the Los Colonias subdivision. Weather officials said more than 7 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Floodwaters from La Volla Creek, which at the time was overwhelmed by days of rain from Hurricane Karl and Tropical Storm Hermine, swelled from its banks and into the Las Colonias subdivision off Saratoga Boulevard. Homes closer to the creek had about 3 feet of water inside, while others received a few inches. La Volla Creek is fed by Oso Creek. An estimated 171 Corpus Christi homes flooded during the September rains. Most were not in a federal flood zone and weren't required to buy flood insurance. The draft maps to be released Tuesday put many of those homes in a flood zone. City Engineer Dan Biles said the city is in the process of studying drainage improvements to La Volla Creek and sections along the Oso Creek. Those plans could minimize flooding. If those projects move to construction, the city could ask the federal government to revise the flood maps in that area to reflect the changes. That could lead to a lower flood classification and affect insurance policies. "There's a good chance to improve a lot of it," Biles said. Earlier this year the city engineering department released draft flood maps of downtown, which if approved in the current form would place downtown in a flood plain and could cause insurance rates to increase. The proposed changes also could affect development, possibly requiring new construction to be built up to a certain elevation. Downtown includes about $500 million in real estate, according to some estimates. There are about 300 private property owners in the city's waterfront business hub and several taxpayer-funded buildings, including the federal courthouse, American Bank Center and county appraisal district. City officials have signed a provisional accreditation agreement with FEMA that says it is working toward a plan to recertify the levee and seawall system. The agreement gives the city time to determine how much it will cost to pay for upgrades, which could help downtown property owners and taxpayers avert flood insurance premiums and strict building requirements. Consultant HDR Engineering is under contract with the city to take a closer look at the models, which were generated by FEMA but are based on city data. FLOOD INSURANCE Property owners who have a mortgage through a federally backed bank are required to buy flood insurance if the property is in a flood zone. It insures the property owner will be able to repay the loan if there's flood damage. Those who own property in a non-flood zone can purchase flood insurance at a less expensive rate. Flood policies are managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. COVERAGE Flood Relates to water damage from rising floodwaters. For example, if there's a water main break on your street and water rushes into your house, the damage would be covered under flood insurance. Wind and Hailstorm Relates to water damage from wind-driven rain and hail storms. For example, if hurricane-force winds pass through the area, rip the roof off your house and it rains inside your house, damaging your furniture, that is covered under the windstorm policy. Basic Homeowners Insurance Relates to a sudden and accidental water leak in your house. For example, if a water pipe bursts inside your home and causes damages, this is covered by basic homeowners insurance. Sources: Insurance Council of Texas, Farmer's Insurance Agent Ren Rendon and FEMA.