After Hurricane Harvey, Corpus Christi Reevaluates Its Flood Maps

As the city grows and devastating storms become more frequent, the need for a new flood map is becoming more urgent.

By Alexandra HartFebruary 21, 2018 11:22 am|

After Hurricane Harvey, many Texans realized just how wrong experts were about flood control measures in the state’s most populous city. But Houston isn’t the only Texas city at risk from bad or outdated flood plans.

An investigation by the Corpus Christi Caller Times found that the city’s flood maps are outdated – they’ve gone without revision for three decades. The maps were first drafted for a vastly different Corpus Christi.

The devastation of Hurricane Harvey has proven how important accurate flood planning can be. Kirsten Crow is an enterprise reporter at the Corpus Christi Caller Times. She investigated the city’s outdated flood maps.

“Corpus Christi’s population has seen a big boost,” Crow says. “We’ve had at least 100,000 new residents to our city. We’ve also seen a lot of development on our city’s south side from about 700 people to 8,000 in three decades, at least.”

If a storm like Harvey were to hit Corpus Christi, the city would be devastated.

“The experts believe we would have similar flooding as Houston,” Crow says. “We’re talking about mass damage right now. The experts estimate that even with a 100-year flood, which is with vastly less flooding than what we saw in Harvey, would cost about $902 million.”

As the concept of the 100-year flood is changing as they occur with more and more regularity public concern over outdated flood maps is growing, but Crow says the public’s reaction is still being determined. She says “we are probably just now starting to get a grasp on how little we have estimated a flood could affect our community and many communities along the coast line.”

Corpus Christi has been aware of the need to update its flood maps since long before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. The city started the process in 2015.

“We’re expecting that we’re going to have revised maps coming out some time this year,” Crow says. “We’re not sure what to expect. The city is looking at enhanced flood protection measures. Those are still in the works. Nothing has been finalized at this point.”

The damage from Harvey prompted Crow to begin investigating Corpus Christi’s flood maps. She says many feel that compared to the original predictions for the storm, the city got off relatively easy.

“I don’t want to minimize what the damage was here but it was absolutely minimal when you compare it to Port Aransas and Rockport and certainly when you look at Houston,” she says. “It did raise the question of what could have happened if Harvey had dropped that kind of rain in the coastal bend.”

Written by Jeremy Steen.