Flooding in Austin: How to Protect Your Austin Home or Business from Flood Damage
A Guide to Preventing Your Austin TX Property from Flooding
Flooding is something that no one should ever have to deal with, but it does happen. Austin is no stranger to flooding; the downtown area has experienced numerous floods throughout the years, with some being very severe and costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in flood damage restoration and repairs.
Aside from its somewhat hilly terrain, Austin remains a very flood prone area, as it has the potential for run off, which can cause flash flooding as well. In fact, flash floods are probably the biggest disaster threat to the Austin TX area.
When flooding occurs in your Austin home or business, you can end up with an extensive amount of water damage, and you'll likely need water extraction done, along with water damage restoration Austin.
The quicker the flooding problem is addressed, the better off you'll be, as the longer you wait to contact a flood restoration company, the better chance there is that mold and bacteria will begin forming.
If you've experienced flooding in your Austin property, it would be a good idea to have a mold inspection done; if it turns out mold has begun to grow, you could need mold remediation done. This is one of the reasons why it's very important to address any type of flood damage quickly. This guide on the common types of mold in Austin and their various levels of danger may help you in figuring out if mold has begun growing on your property.
When your Austin property has already been the victim of flooding, a company that specializes in water restoration and mold removal/remediation in Austin, like our SERVPRO team, can guide you on the necessary steps and provide the various services needed.
But how do you prevent flooding before it even happens in your property? Well, here are some tips on doing just that, as well as helping you understand why Austin TX can often be very prone to flooding and flood damage in general.
Why Is Austin Prone to Floods?
Austin’s topography is what makes the city a prime candidate for flooding. For example, the Balcones Fault is a cliff formation that runs from Del Rio in Val Verde County up towards Dallas. Part of it is situated in the Texas Hill Country and it serves as a gateway of sorts for passing weather systems that travel through the Gulf of Mexico. When an air mass changes its altitude (called an Orographic Lift), clouds and precipitation can develop which eventually leads to heavy rain and resulting storm damage in areas, like Austin TX, that lie west of the fault.
On average, Austin gets up to 34.25 inches of rain per year. However, with less rain, the soil in the surrounding areas becomes dry and it becomes more difficult for the soil to accept so much water. And that's when the flooding begins.
Some Notorious Austin Floods
Throughout the years, Austin has experienced many serious floods that have caused extensive damage and loss of life. Here are just a few examples of severe storms that greatly affected the Austin TX area and led to extensive flooding:
- In July 1869, Austin experienced 64 hours of continuous rain, which caused the Colorado River to rise up to 51 feet.
- In 1900, the Austin Dam, which was built in 1893, burst due to excessive rain. The Dam’s powerhouse was flooded by a 40-foot wave after which downtown Austin was immersed with water with creeks reaching levels of 20 feet.
- Heavy rains caused numerous floods in 1935, 1936 and 1938; each flood caused the Colorado River to overflow, which resulted in extensive flood damage in Central Austin.
- One of the worst storms to hit Austin was during Memorial Day, 1981. Ten inches of rain fell in a four hour timeframe, causing Downtown Austin to flood severely. Thirteen people died during the storm, which also left more than $35 million in damages.
- The Memorial Day flood of 2015 greatly affected Central Texas. Heavy rain caused many flooded streets, falling trees and extensive loss of power for many in the Austin area. Flash flood warnings were issued and residents were instructed to stay indoors and off the roads. Water levels in Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake quickly rose due to the extensive water. Interstate 35 was flooded, as was downtown Austin later that day. Fourteen people died during the course of the flood.
What You Can Do to Lessen Your Chances of Flood Damage in Austin
Flooding is not restricted to any one particular area. It can happen anywhere, and when it’s least expected, which is why certain types of flooding are called ‘flash floods.’
While you may not know when a flood is coming, it’s important to be prepared. If you get weather alerts on your cell phone, then you may have ample time to protect your personal items and prevent major damage from a flood.
If you know you're in a flood zone, one way you can safeguard against water damage caused by flooding is to elevate your personal items above the floor. Even one inch of water inside your home or business can create a major headache, and cause significant damage to your property.
If you’re not sure how high the water can reach in your area, you can check flood levels and maps for your area through the Federal Emergency Management System’s (FEMA) Flood Map portal on their website, or check with your insurance agent if you're in a flood zone. Certain parts of Austin are more prone to flooding than others.
Even if your Austin home or business is located at a high elevation, it doesn't always mean you're in the clear, so here are some protective measures to minimize flood damage in your Austin home or business.
1. Protect Your Electrical Systems
Any electrical switches, circuit breakers, sockets, and wires should be raised at least one foot above the anticipated flood level. Should any water get into these systems, it can cause major problems.
You should also raise, if you can, your water heater and furnace so that they are also situated above the flood levels to avoid being saturated by floodwater. Please note: You should never, ever try to do any of this yourself. Reach out to a contractor or an electrician to adjust the levels of these systems.
2. Elevate Any Outdoor Equipment
Any type of external fuel tanks, AC units, and generators, should not remain at ground level. These should be raised up to one foot above your base flood elevation and anchored to prevent any kind of flooding. If these aren’t properly secured, they can become loose, and cause contamination to your yard, as well as the surrounding area. If they become immersed with water, they will more or less be useless and unable to be repaired.
3. Check Your Water Valves
If your sewer becomes flooded during a storm, it can cause sewage to back up into your house, with disastrous consequences. Installing an interior or exterior backflow valve will help prevent a build up of unwanted waste from coming into your Austin home or business.
Backflow valves are designed to help protect potable water from contamination from backflow. A flap valve is designed to operate under low heads of water and basically provide the same function as a backflow valve. Check valves are formatted to allow liquid, such as water to pass in only one direction; there are many different varieties of check valves, which are also known as clack valves, non-return valves, reflux valves and gravity brakes.
If you don’t have any of these types of valves currently installed in your Austin property, then you should consult with a specialist on what type you should install to allow water to escape and prevent backflow from coming in.
4. Check Water Distribution and Your Austin Property's Structure
One way to affect the flow of water around your home or business in the event of a flood is to check and possibly alter the grading or sloping of your property. By angling the ground, you can actually shift how water comes in contact with your property. Of course this can be problematic if your house wasn’t originally built with this in mind. Still, if this does pose a problem, you can reach out to your county planning office to determine the grading of your property and find alternative methods for preventing flood water from making contact and managing water flow.
Creating a slight moat around your home or business in certain areas can also help, as can creating better irrigation for your property in general.
5. Some Effective, but Costly Measures to Protect Your Austin Home or Business from Flooding
If you have frequent flooding in your home, but you don't want to move to another home, there are a few more involved alternatives to prevent flooding, but they are quite costly.
- Elevate your entire home: Many homes in coastal areas are elevated on columns that clear the flood level. If you have consistent flooding, this might be one option, but it can be very costly.
- Believe it or not, you can actually wet proof your house. How? You can install foundation vents, which allow water to travel through your home, instead of accumulating inside and destroying your property. This would help prevent against possible flood damage. For example: if you had a house of 1,000 square feet, you’d need around 7 square feet of flood venting to protect your property.
- One preventive method is to dry proof your Austin home or business. Plastic sheeting or any kind of waterproof film can be applied to exterior walls fairly easily to prevent flooding, but should be removed once any flooding or water damage is remediated. Any openings or cracks in walls should be remedied with a waterproof sealant to prevent any seepage from floodwater. Plastic sheeting can be used to seal up windows and create a barrier for any minor cracks that can cause drafts. Check and reinforce your walls to make sure that they can take on heavy amounts of water and miscellaneous debris. These measures, while a bit time-consuming can help keep water out of your house during a flood.
6. Additional Measures that Can Be Taken to Help Prevent Flood Damage to Your Property
Here are some additional ways to help protect your property in the event of an impending flood.
- Clean out your gutters, drains and downspouts. Leaves and foreign objects cannot only prevent water flow, they can also cause run off down the side of your home and help initiate water damage.
- If you have a second floor, move all of your furniture, rugs, electronics and anything else of value and importance upstairs as a safety precaution.
- Turn off your electricity via your breaker panel.
- Major appliances such as washers, dryers, stoves, etc., should all be lifted on to cinderblocks, if possible. This will help prevent them from being saturated with water.
We can’t emphasize enough how extremely dangerous floods can be. And while these preventive measures can help, it’s best not to tackle them on your own. If heavy equipment or electrical manipulation is involved, please contact a professional instead of tackling this on your own.
While these ideas can certainly help to prevent damage to your home or business during a flood, it should also be noted that any type of water ranging from heavy rain to a minor leak, could lead to extensive damage.
If your home or business experiences a flood and you have water damage and mold as a result, there is a chance that you can make minor repairs on your own. But if severe water damage has occurred, it makes sense to contact an outside source to help in the clean up and remediation.
Our SERVPRO Team Can Help With Austin Flood Damage Restoration & Repairs
If you need assistance with the flood damage you've experienced, then a flood damage restoration company like SERVPRO of East Central Austin can help. We're a team of trained & certified professionals, who are available around the clock to help with your flood, storm and water damage Austin needs.
Our goal is to properly restore your property (and make it "like it never even happened"). Damage from Austin storms and floods can be a stressful experience. We'll help you review the scope of your flood repairs, and utilizing state of the art equipment and scientific principles, we'll make the flood restoration process as painless as possible.
If you’ve experienced a flood in your Austin property and require flood damage repairs and restoration, remember, our SERVPRO team is available 24/7 to help.