Despite rain, swollen river, county not expected to flood

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The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for the southern end of Austin County and along portions of the Brazos and San Bernard rivers through this weekend.

Minor flooding has already occurred south of Austin County along the Brazos River in Fort Bend County.

“Minor lowland flooding continues as the Brazos River begins filling the Frydek Bottom upstream of Valley Lodge. Gates are closed and pumping continues in Simonton and FM 1458 near FM 1093 in Austin County is inundated,” the weather service reported.

The San Bernard River is at flood stage and minor flooding is occurring near East Bernard just south of Wallis in Wharton County.

“Minor flooding is occurring, and minor flooding is forecast,” the NWS reported. “Flood stage is 17.0 feet. Forecast ... The river will continue rising to near 19.1 feet by tomorrow (Thursday) early afternoon. The river will fall below flood stage late Saturday morning.”

According to Ray Chislett, Austin County’s emergency management coordinator, most of Austin County’s residents don’t have anything to worry about from the weather or the rivers.

“The Brazos isn’t predicted to flood,” he said, noting that low-lying areas along some of the tributaries may be prone to flooding.

Chislett said all of the flooding predictions for the Brazos River are downstream in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

“We as a county … all have a pretty good idea of what floods and what doesn’t flood,” he said.

Chislett said that because the Brazos River isn’t expected to flood and the weather is limited to rain events, there are no emergency alerts or evacuation notices being issued for Austin County.

He said anyone wishing to be alerted about local weather hazards and other emergencies can download the REGROUP app on the front page of the county’s website at www.austincounty.com.

Chislett said that most people in the county are well aware of which areas flood after the floods of the past few years.

“Most of the folks should be aware of their surroundings,” he said.

He said between local news and social media that most people are aware of the rainy weather forecast and flooding predictions.

“Should something arise that we need to notify the locals of, we will do that,” he said.

He said the Brazos is currently at 118 feet above sea level with a predicted crest of 119.5 feet.

“Flooding starts at 122 feet, so we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

The forecast calls for rain through the weekend, which Chislett said he is monitoring.

“We may have some flash flooding … but the Brazos is not going to take us out,” he said.

He added if people living in flood-prone areas are not comfortable they can seek higher ground, but no evacuation orders are being given in the county at this time.

Park evacuated

There has been an evacuation order given at Stephen F. Austin State Park, which is closed due to the potential of a flood. Park Manager Martha Garcia said when the river reaches 113 feet, she must take action.

“I’m not worried about the rain here. I’m worried about the rain up north,” she said.

In particular, if there is a release from Lake Somerville, it will likely cause the park in San Felipe to flood.

Downriver, Brazos Bend State Park has closed and is experiencing minor flooding. The rain that fell on the area Tuesday caused low-lying areas to flood, including a large portion of the Stephen F. Austin Golf Course, which abuts the park.

Austin County flood maps become final

New flood maps become effective on Oct. 18, 2019, for Austin County. Residents are encouraged to examine the maps to determine if they are in a low to moderate, or high-risk flood zone.

By understanding flood risks, individuals can decide which insurance option is best for their situation. Community leaders can use these maps to make informed decisions about building standards and development that will make the community more resilient and lessen the impacts of a flooding event.

“Keep in mind,” states FEMA Region 6 Administrator Tony Robinson, “flooding is the No. 1 natural disaster in the United States and most homeowner’s insurance policies may not cover the effects of flooding. I encourage everyone to purchase flood insurance because more than 25 percent of flood damages occur outside the Special Flood Hazard Area.”

Anyone without flood insurance risks uninsured losses to their home, personal property and business. Flood insurance is available either through a private policy or through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for those in communities who participate in the NFIP.

Residents with federally backed mortgages must have flood insurance if the structures are in the Special Flood Hazard Area. Contact your local floodplain administrator to review the new flood maps and learn more about your risk of flooding.

FEMA map specialists are available to answer questions about the maps as well. Contact them by phone or online chat.

· To use the live chat service, visit http://go.usa.gov/r6C. Click on the “Live Chat” icon.

· To contact a FEMA Map Specialist, call 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) or send an email to FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com.

Purchasing a flood insurance policy now may save you money. There are cost saving options available for those newly mapped into a high-risk flood zone.

Learn more about your flood insurance options by talking with your insurance agent, visiting https://www.floodsmart.gov, or calling 1-800-427-4661.

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