Do Texas Floods Herald the Devastating Hurricane Season Experts Warn Of?

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Days of heavy rainfall and flooding in Houston, and other parts of the Southeast Texas area, claimed lives, left hundreds in need of rescue, and prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration in early May. While damage estimates for the most recent flooding aren’t yet available, the effects of climate-related disasters are already hitting Texans right in the pocketbooks.

Texas led the nation in climate-related damages in 2023, reporting more than $400 billion in losses from heat waves, drought, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Risks of the upcoming hurricane season

Texas’ location on the Gulf of Mexico raises flood risks as hurricane season approaches.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rates eight of Texas’ coastal counties — including Harris, Galveston, Jefferson, and Brazoria — as at least “high risk” for hurricane damage.

Weather Bell, a forecasting analytics company, predicts six to eight major hurricanes will affect the U.S. this season.

The company also predicts that the Gulf of Mexico will see two to three times its typical tropical cyclone activity this season.

This uptick in activity is due to the forecasted transition from El Niño to La Niña. While the El Niño weather pattern causes warmer temperatures and weaker surface winds over the ocean, a La Niña weather pattern causes cooler temperatures and stronger winds, supporting storm growth.

Rising water temperatures are also a concern for hurricane creation, according to Jeff Masters, a former NOAA hurricane scientist.

“If we do happen to get something loose in the Gulf, we’ve got a whole lot more energy there available for it to cause destruction,” Masters told WGCU. “When waters are hot enough to feel like a hot tub, it’s a concern for hurricane season — because hurricanes feed off of that heat.”

Homeowners feeling the pinch of natural disasters through higher home insurance rates

Texas is the fourth-most expensive state for homeowners insurance, with an average rate of $4,400 per year, according to a recent Insurify home report. And those rates are only climbing.

S&P Global reported a 22% increase in rates in 2023 and homeowners seeking to protect their homes against flooding must pay even more for National Flood Insurance Program coverage or for coverage from a private flood insurer.

FEMA uses a risk rating system to determine NFIP rates. Homes in areas with a higher risk of flooding have a higher risk rating and, subsequently, pay higher premiums.

In 2022, FEMA finished rolling out its Risk Rating 2.0 system (designed to price premiums more accurately), and 86% of Texans experienced a rate increase. Texas’ average cost of flood insurance is $776 per year, according to FEMA data.

For some, the expense is too much, as FEMA reported a 6% drop in new flood insurance policies among Texas residents in 2023.

What’s next: Putting safety protocols in place

As homeowners brace for the influx of tropical storm activity, the state of Texas and local municipalities are taking measures to prevent flooding.

The Coastal Texas Resiliency Improvement Plan includes a barrier along a two-mile gate system between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. In the event of a major tropical storm, the gate system will block ocean-storm surges from engulfing the bay.

Other defenses include sea walls and sand dunes, though the effectiveness of sand dunes is debatable. Salisbury, Massachusetts, invested $500,000 in sand dunes, only to see back-to-back storms wash them away in 72 hours.

As hurricane season begins, Texas residents may have little choice but to endure the storm now and pay for it later.

This article originally appeared on Insurify and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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