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Flood Information
 
 

The City of Jamaica Beach is dedicated to minimizing the loss of life and property that is associated with flooding events, and providing residents with a safe environment to live, work, and play. Education and prevention are valuable and proven tools to help communities become resistant to natural disasters. Now is the perfect time to make sure you are knowledgeable on how to protect yourself and your property for the next major storm.

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1) Know your flood hazard.

The City of Jamaica Beach is surrounded by water with Galveston Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The city’s proximity to the water makes it vulnerable to flooding from a variety of sources.  The following is a list of the different types of storms that can affect Jamaica Beach:

 

·    Flash flood – a local flood of short duration resulting from heavy rainfall in the immediate vicinity

·    Storm surge – the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides

·    Tropical cyclone – an organized weather system with a closed circulation that forms over warm tropical waters

·    Tropical storm – a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds between 39 and 73 mph

·    Hurricane – an intense tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher

 

All of the above storms have the potential to cause major damage to a community like Jamaica Beach. Recent storm events caused significant damage to the city such as Hurricane Ike in 2008 when several homes were flooded from water invading their enclosures. A 22-foot storm surge inundated Galveston island, including Jamaica Beach.

 

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are issued by FEMA to identify different levels of flood risks. FIRMs are primarily used for flood insurance purposes, but they also provide a basis for Jamaica Beach to regulate development within those areas. The location of a property relative to certain flood zones indicates what restrictions may be placed on new and substantially improved construction. FEMA’s Flood Insurance and Flood Maps explains the different flood zones and how they relate to risk. You can view the flood maps at FEMA's Map Service Center. All of Jamaica Beach is in a flood zone. The flood zones in Jamaica Beach are in the high velocity (VE) zone nearest to the beach and the AE zone further landward.

 

It’s important to know where you live in relation to the floodplain so you know your level of risk. Contact the Jamaica Beach Building Department at 409-737-1142 or visit City Hall located at 16628 San Luis Pass to see the current FEMA FIRM to find out which flood zone you live in and what kind of risk you are facing. The maps are used by city staff for regulatory and compliance purposes, and are also used by insurance agents to rate structures for flood insurance. The most recent and current effective maps for Jamaica Beach are dated December 6, 2002. For homes that were built prior to that date, it may be helpful for citizens to have access to all the maps to know what flood zone was in effect at the time of construction. Knowing this information can be critical if there is a dispute with a mortgage lender or insurance agent. The FEMA Map Service Center is a good resource for both current and historical maps.

FEMA and its contractors are in the process of updating the FIRMs for Galveston County. If you are interested in seeing how the current 2002 maps compare to the preliminary maps, you can visit the RiskMAP Flood Information Portal for Galveston County at http://maps.riskmap6.com/TX/Galveston/. At that site, you’ll be able to enter an address into the search box and zoom in on your parcel or building to get floodplain-related information for your home or business. You can also follow FEMA’s progress on the mapping updates at  www.TXCHART.com. More information on the changing flood maps is available in the FEMA document entitled Understanding the Changes to Your Community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map.
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2) Insure your property.

Regardless of what flood zone you’re in, you need flood insurance. Basic homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damages. Some people have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank or loan company when they obtained a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these policies just cover the building’s structure and not the contents. Call your insurance agent today to make sure your policy covers both structure and contents. There is a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective, so don’t delay.

 

The city’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) allows for citizens to purchase flood insurance at a subsidized rate, regardless of location or past damage. The city is in the process of applying for participation in a voluntary FEMA program known as the Community Rating System (CRS). The CRS program provides discounts to eligible citizens on their flood insurance premiums in exchange for the city implementing higher standards in floodplain management.  To find out more about flood insurance, how flood insurance rates are calculated, and other information, visit FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program page at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
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3) Protect yourself.

It is important to know the difference between a flood WATCH and a flood WARNING. A flash flood watch is flooding that is possible in your area. A flash flood warning is flooding that is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. The best time to make sure you are ready for the next storm event is before one is headed your way. Have the following emergency supplies available in order to be prepared:

·    Non-perishable foods (at least a three-day supply) and water containers

·    More than one flashlight and extra batteries

·    Candles and matches

·    First-aid kit, along with any prescription medicine

·    Extra plywood (preferably heavy, pre-cut, and pre-drilled) to cover windows

·    Plastic sheeting (for water leaks)

·    Battery-powered radio (and/or a NOAA Weather Radio)

·    Cell phone with chargers

·    Copies of personal documents (birth certificates, insurance policies, pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home)

·    Extra cash

·    Camera for photos of damage

·    Pictures of your most valuable possessions (TV, furniture, jewelry, electronic equipment, appliances, etc.). These (and the item receipts) will come in handy to the insurance agent if the items are damaged by the flood event.

 

Most people are not aware that it only takes six inches of water for a car to become buoyant or for water to knock you off your feet and that drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths. Protect yourself from the dangers of flood water by obeying barriers and barricades. Do not drive in areas that you know have a tendency to flood such as along Jamaica Beach Road.

 

If city officials tell you to evacuate, follow their orders and leave immediately. Shut off the electricity and all gas appliances before you evacuate. Know the evacuation procedures for a flood, and prepare a family evacuation plan. Designate a place where your family can meet after an evacuation order is issued. Visit the City of Jamaica Beach Emergency Preparedness page at http://www.ci.jamaicabeach.tx.us/emergency.htm for more information and tips on annual preparations, when a storm is in the Gulf, and other storm-related topics.  You can also find helpful information such as evacuation routes, safety tips for buildings, and safety tips for evacuation in the Hurricane Guide which can be found on the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management website at http://gcoem.org/hurricane-guide-2017/. Also, stay connected to the City of Jamaica Beach before, during, and after a flood by participating in the City’s Blackboard Connect for emergency message notifications and other pertinent messages. Go to the city’s Emergency Preparedness website to sign up for this service so you can receive important information from city leaders.
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4) Protect your property.

 

Rather than wait for a flood to occur, you can act now to protect your property from flood damage. Even if you’ve never flooded before, in the life of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood if a property is located in the floodplain. Various retrofitting techniques are available to help minimize flooding such as elevating the building, constructing barriers out of fill or concrete, and floodproofing to make the building watertight. Because of Jamaica Beach’s susceptibility to hurricanes and tropical storms, measures that protect against high winds such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors should also be considered. City officials can help you find ways to minimize flood damage to your property before the flood occurs such as making sure your downspouts drain away from your house. Visit the Building Department at 16628 San Luis Pass or contact city staff by calling 409-737-1142 to learn other ways to safeguard your structure.

 

There are several publications on retrofitting available at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston that can help you decide which technique is best for you and your property. You can also download the Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting:  Six Ways to Protect Your Home from Flooding (FEMA P-312) from the FEMA online library at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/480 for information on permanent retrofitting measures for your home. Feel free to pick up a hard copy (in both English and Spanish) of the” Texas Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Natural Hazards” available for the public at City Hall in Jamaica Beach. The Handbook discusses several methods of dry floodproofing a structure for flood prevention including installing watertight shields over doors, windows, and other openings, as well as applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the exterior walls of the building. The Jamaica Beach Building Department provides homeowners with information on how to select a qualified contractor, and how to decide which retrofitting or flood protection technique is right for you and your structure. You can also download the following materials from the FEMA website:

 

·         Above the Flood:  Elevating Your Floodprone House

·         Avoiding Hurricane Damage:  A Checklist for Homeowners

·         Against the Wind:  Protecting Your Home from Hurricane and Wind Damage

·         Reduce Your Risk from Natural Disasters

·         Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting

·         Protecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage

·         Floodproofing for Non-Residential Structures

 

Protecting your property also means protecting the waterways around your property to decrease the chances of flooding. The City of Jamaica Beach works hard to keep its open channels cleaned and maintained so they can function properly in a storm event. It is illegal in Jamaica Beach to dump any type of debris into a canal or drainage ditch. Debris can become entangled in culverts and streambeds, and impede drainage causing the flow of water to back up. Homeowners with overgrown ditches are encouraged to contact the city for assistance in keeping their drainage easements clean and free of debris. Citizens should do their part to keep ditches free of debris, and to discourage grass clippings, oil, and other contaminants from invading storm sewer inlets. Debris dumping should be reported to the Jamaica Beach City Administrator at 409-737-1142.

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5) Build responsibly.

All development in the Jamaica Beach floodplain requires a permit per Ordinance 2013-1 of the Jamaica Beach Code of Ordinances (which can be viewed and downloaded in its entirety at http://www.ci.jamaicabeach.tx.us/Ordinances.htm).   Development includes, but is not limited to, all new construction, grading, and paving. Substantially damaged or improved structures, where the cost of repair (regardless of the cause of damage) or improvements to a structure equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value, also require building permits and elevation certificates, and are held to the same standards as new construction such as a pier and beam foundation and elevating to or above the flood level.  Materials below the base flood elevation must be water-resistant, and enclosures can only be used for parking, storage, or access. Before you do any kind of work to your structure in the floodplain, check with the Building Department (409-737-1142) to see if a permit is needed. Any development in the floodplain without a permit is illegal, such as constructing berms and other barriers that divert water onto other properties, and such activity should be reported to the city.  For more information on requirements for development, refer to the Online Services page.

Copies of the “Texas Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Natural Hazards” in both English and Spanish are available to the public at City Hall. In addition, the following links provide useful and cost-effective ways of building in coastal areas:

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6) Protect natural floodplain functions.

Floodplains provide a wide range of benefits to human and natural systems. They serve as flood storage and conveyance, and reduce flood velocities and flood peaks. Water quality is improved through the soil and vegetation’s ability to filter out nutrients and impurities from runoff and process organic wastes. Floodplains and wetlands provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife, create and enhance waterfowl habitat, and protect habitats for rare and endangered species. They provide open space, aesthetic pleasure, and areas for active uses such as parks, playgrounds, and ball fields.

 

The City of Jamaica Beach has regulations in place to protect some areas of natural floodplain functions such as the dunes and wetlands. The Jamaica Beach Erosion Response Plan, in coordination with the Texas General Land Office, identified areas that need more maintenance so they can continue to serve the floodplain areas and the recreational needs of the public. The sand dunes and wetlands are particularly at risk since they provide habitats for the island’s various wildlife. Click on the following link to the National Wetlands Inventory mapper to see the wetland area in Jamaica Beach: https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/data/Mapper.html. It is important for citizens to recognize the wildlife areas and protect them to the best of their ability.
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For More Information...

Click on any of the following links to learn more about floodplain management:

·   Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

·   Texas General Land Office (GLO)

·   Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

·   Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)

·   Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)

·   Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS) 

·   FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

·   United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) - Galveston District

·   United States Geological Survey (USGS)

·   National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

·   National Weather Service (NWS)

·   National Hurricane Center (NHC)

 

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