Flash Flood Alley Segements

Ten Questions Post Answers Flood Experts


We are very grateful to those citizens and subject matter experts who have agreed to be interviewed for this project. Like any other hazard come to life, every flood event provides a learning opportunity. And it is only through a process of critical review and adjustment that we can hope to improve our preparation for and response to floods.

If we are to really address the problems that flash floods represent to an ever-urbanizing society, we must move beyond the bureaucracy and let real events and real people inform a more informed dialogue and actions that lead to a reduced risk to life and property.


As it stands today, there is little public knowledge of flood risk: where floods are likely to occur, flood insurance issues, and what to do to prevent and prepare for floods. This study guide should help you illuminate some of  the

TO be sure, it is easy to merely criticize the actions of the past with the benefit of


Can we do better...if so how?


Are these solvable problems.

Is there a systemic problem here?


What are realistic expectations for prevention?


What can we glean from the success stories?

            Tulsa, Vegas, Fort Collins?


The New Braunfels area of Central Texas serves as an illuminating case study area, with its recent repetition of dramatic flood events and the rich flood history of the beautiful Guadalupe River.  This area is a case study -- representative of countless others. The neighboring Texas' Colorado River watershed has even more people in harm's way and greater pressures to continue the trend. Many other states face similar challenges from both monsoonal rains and the random drought buster



We seek not to point out the failings of any one area, entity, or individual but instead to address the complex issues of how risk is perceived and responded to and what steps we can take to move us into more symbiotic, rather than tragic, relationships with natural hazards.


Marshall Frech, Producer

The Flood Safety Education Project


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Additional Video Clips

There are 38 additional video clips arranged in the categories That you should be aware off

Flood Insurance

Politics, Policy and Economics

Flood Risks and Safety

The Coble Case Study

Rebuilding in Floodplains


Submitting and Reviewing Answers on the Internet

If you would like, please post your answers to the following questions on our web site. Your teacher will then provide you with a password so that you can read the responses of others. These answers will also be made available to decision-makers so that they may learn from your perspectives. Note: We will not post every answer we receive but those that we feel are well defended or offer interesting perspectives.

We will also have some answers from noted flood experts so you can compare and contrast with your own.


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#1. Relaying Risk

(How are we relaying flood risks to the public, and how can these measures be more effective?)


Victor Baker makes the assertion that people have historically been motivated to judge flood risks for themselves because there was no flood insurance.  Today, Baker asserts, the citizens in flood-prone areas simply look to the government to determine the risk.


Q. What can explain the disparity between the predominance of flooding in Texas and (as the filmmaker asserts) the relative lack of knowledge of the citizens and local officials?


Part B Texas was a republic for about ten years before becoming a state. Most of the land is private  How might this, or other historic or cultural characteristics play a part in the disparity?. 

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Victor Baker



#2. Subsidies versus Prevention:

(In what ways do we subsidize the repetitive disaster that floods represent and in what ways do we discourage floodplain development?


Subsidies of various kinds are a mainstay of American lifestyles and quality of life.


Huge program

People all over the country in pay


Assignment Option:  List some examples (of subsides) and decide if it is fair for other areas of the country to subsidize the encroachment (and subsequent damages) in the floodplains of the most flood-prone states?


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#3 Concrete Solutions:       

How do technological prowess and "concrete solutions" affect flood losses, both positively and negatively? What are some hopeful new opportunities?


Q. Are we perhaps now at a point of discovery and technological prowess where these types of floods will soon cease to be a problem? Or, is the problem of deaths and damage from flooding going to get worse as we increase the urbanization of floodplains?


Assignment Option:  Write a 1-2 page paper addressing these issues.



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#4. Who pays for flood damages? (floodplain economics)


When a flood damages the property of homeowners with National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, the damages are paid for out of the shared pool of insurance monies (premiums) managed by the NFIP. The net result: the general taxpayer does not pay for those damages.


However, when a federal disaster is declared, the money for damages comes out of the General Fund. In these cases the general taxpayer does foot the bill. Secondly, there are many of types of relief, and repair loans, and grants that involve taxpayer dollars.


The concept of subsidized insurance:  The NFIP has not made a great effort to be actuarially sound.  Which is to say, it generally treats everyone's flood risk as the same and do not differential the higher volatile regions of the country (with great risk from flash floods from more moderate areas).  This is far different than a private auto insurance company for example, which quotes insurance rates based on highly detailed information about each applicant right down to age, driving record, type of vehicle, and even zip codes.


Furthermore, there are apparent loopholes in the NFIP program whereby people living outside of the floodplain may have to pay more than people inside of it.  For example, some of the people flooded repeatedly in New Braunfels were paying less than $400 per year whereas others more than a mile from the river were quoted prices of $1,900 per year for a far less valuable property.


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#5. Who Profits from Flood Damages? (roles and motivations)

After a flood, communities and individuals have several types of expenses incurred in recovering and/or rebuilding. 


Assignment Option:

Describe the roles and motivations of some of the following people/positions relative to the trend to build and rebuild in beautiful, yet flood-prone, areas (be sure to include the Homeowner or Floodplain Occupant): 

a. Original property owners

b. Developer/builders

C. Private Engineering Firms

D. Building Material Retailers

E. Realtors

F. Bankers

G. City Planners and Engineers

H. School Districts

I. Rescue Personnel (Fire fighters, EMS, Police, Etc.)

J. City Managers

K. Chamber of Commerce

L. County Officials

M. State Officials

N. Federal Government Officials

O. Taxpayers (not in floodplains)

P. Floodplain Homeowners or Occupants


Consider breaking up into groups and role playing with the various titles as you discuss whether to rebuild after a flood.



5. A From the list above:  Who stands to profit? Who regulates whom? Who takes the risks?


5. B  In a pure sense, the vigilance related to flood risk should never change since the risk is always the same. Then again, policies are often spawned from specific events.  How might the roles and motivations of the entities mentioned above change over many years with no floods versus soon after a dramatic flood event?


5. C What effect does a loss of life in a developed floodplain area bring to the process?


Assignment Option:  Write a 1-2 page paper on the topic of who pays for flood damages and who profits or is helped in some way by flood events and their details? (Reference but do not be limited to the list in #4 above.)



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Susan Curtis





#6. Media Trends and Community Messaging After Floods:

Are media trends and community messaging effective after floods? What specific changes would show improved communication?


Media coverage of floods (and many disasters) often follow common patterns and use some of the following formulas: 


Part One: Voice of authority pronounces the event as rare - "I've been here all my life and never seen it get this bad before."

Part Two: Community leader minimizes personal tragedies and promotes the positives (with notes on economic viability) - "This town will open for business in short order, what you see all over this community is people pulling together, that's what make our town great."

Part Three: Isolated events  --News reporter or anchor makes little mention about overall flood risk trends in the area or educational programs or resources for citizens (unless the station has its own program).


Assignment Option:  Support or refute the idea of such formulas by doing a Google search on flood stories. If you like, compare with flood stories run about other countries.


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#7 Social Amnesia

Is rebuilding in harm's way is a simple case of "forgetting" the power of nature?  


Assignment Option:  Describe some factors that can contribute to cultural  forgetfulness. Consider individual behavior versus group behavior and the psychological needs of victims of a natural disaster.




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#8. Who and How?

Whose roll is it to inform people living in floodplains about the risks they face and what to do if they receive a flood warning?  How should this be done?


Where should flood risk education start?  What are the appropriate roles of local, state and federal government?  What media and mechanisms should be used?


Assignment Option:  Draw a parallel to an existing public education campaign (smoking, seatbelts, drunk driving, AIDS, etc.). Explain the basic message of a TV advertisement, any challenges you can see for this message and how the ad is effective. Then describe a few details of your idea for a successful flood risk campaign for the general public that explains flood risks and appropriate responses.

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#9 Floodplain Alternatives:

What are alternatives to increased floodplain development? What methods have communities in the U.S. used to leave floodplains as open space? How can these methods be more broadly adopted?


Floodplains have beneficial uses to certain plants and animals. Of what use can these areas be to humans?  Take the floodplains of New Braunfels, for example. What other uses could that land serve?  How would this effect future flood losses?  Who would benefit from your new plan for the area? Who would oppose such a plan? Why?

How might speak to them / work with flood risk communities to try your plan.


Assignment Option: Describe a rudimentary plan for the floodplain areas of New Braunfels (or a similar area with high flood risk) addressing some of the questions raised above.




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#10. Building and Using Contextual Resources

The FloodSafety.com web site has links to pages on:


Personal Safety Information

Property Safety Information

Regional Information (for major Texas cities)

Flood Histories (for all of Texas) with recorded flood peaks at USGS stream gages Active Agencies and related programs and materials

Solutions:  (such as successful floodproofing examples)


Assignment Option: Write a 1-3 paper paper describing/inventing some aspect of an innovative flood education program that covers some of the following topics.

1.     Comprehensive watershed approaches to flood management that exceed political boundaries.

2.     Public outreach efforts for floodplain rules and recommendations  (find details on who determines and enforces such issues from a Floodplain managers Association).

3.     Improved media coverage of events that provide more contextual information about area risks with resources for follow-up.

4.     More solutions-oriented stories.


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