IN-DEPTH: Checking your flood risk could make a world of difference

Posted at 9:29 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 10:51:38-04

SPEEGLEVILLE, Texas — Before you know it, the fall rainy season will descend upon Central Texas and that's worrisome for a lot of folks who live in flood-prone areas.

When it comes to flooding, one of Texas' biggest strengths is also one of its biggest weaknesses.

Monica Cloud said she learned a long time ago about flooding after her grandparents got caught in it.

"I would say whenever my grandparent's basement got wiped out [by a flood]. This has happened to them twice. Does that make me more wary as a homeowner? Yes definitely," Cloud said.

These days you're likely to find flooding problems just about anywhere, even places that don't usually flood.

On Steve Hilliard's street in Speegleville, a trickle slowly grew to a flood over the years.

"The water did get up to the house with this last rain that we had, and I'm just trying to be proactive," Hilliard said.

Hilliard said he has a floodlight on his hands every time it rains, and that everyone has their drainage deepened and cleaned for the season.

The best way to avoid a flooding problem? Don't have one in the first place.

Go to your county courthouse and check with your flood plan administrator who will most likely be the County Engineer or the County Judge.

"Outside of city limits you need to come to the county engineer's office and we can talk you through it and walk you through it. There are some things we may be able to help with, such as reshaped ditches to improve the drainage. However, ditches can only hold so much water and we don't have enough funding to purchase additional right away or drainage easements," said McLennan County Engineer, Zane Dunnam.

Experts said the bad news is that the flooding problem Hilliard has, he'll have plenty of company in the years ahead as one of the top contributors to flooding is high growth.

As roads, shopping centers, and neighborhoods are built they are all preventing water from soaking into the ground and they contribute to flooding.

A US Geological Service report studied the effect of urban development on floods and found that urbanization generally increases the size and frequency of floods. This may expose communities to increasing floods.

"Engineering needs to consider future development and growth. They also need to plan for that accordingly," said Dunnam.

In most cases, it looks like a placid lake right in the middle of things.


The fancy water feature you see in some of the nicest subdivisions serves a dual purpose. They look beautiful but they also collect stormwater.

So how does a lake prevent flooding in a neighborhood?.

First, the rain comes down and collects in the street that has a low spot connected to a spillway. The spillway then sends the water into the lake.

Dunnam said the whole idea behind this and other water mitigation strategies is that "it slows the water down in this space."

If it worked right in Hilliard's neighborhood, the water would take longer to get to his street and arrive about the same time as an equal amount of water drains off which may leave big puddles but not flooding.

"Builders here filled in creeks and built houses on them," said Dunnam. "This gave the water nowhere to go but here."

Dunnam said the new rules require certain standards for subdivisions that take flooding into account.

"Subdivision planners should plan for additional rainfall and a full build-out," said Dunnam.

After it's built, it's much harder to make changes as Hilliard has learned.

"To this point, the response [from McLennan County] has been 'there's nothing that we can do,'" Hilliard said.

He hopes continued talks with county engineers will bring at least modest results.

In the meantime, Cloud said to look and research before you buy.

"Make sure that it's on higher land and to check to see if they have any of those water features nearby," said Cloud. "And to get someone to check it out for them, give them a second opinion."

Cloud said that a second opinion may cost you, but not as much as dealing with waves lapping at your front door, ruined carpet, and who knows what else.