June 2018  



Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously on June 12 to place a $2.5 billion bond proposal on the Aug. 25 ballot, asking voters to finance a 10- to 15-year program of flood mitigation projects that include drainage improvements, upgraded warning systems, infrastructure repairs, home buyouts, and construction of more detention basins. County Judge Ed Emmett said that the goal of the bond issue is to speed up a host of projects that ultimately will provide greater protection for county residents and their property.
"After a series of catastrophic floods in recent years, Harris County residents rightly expect major improvements in the way we protect our homes and residents from disaster," Emmett said. "We must take steps now to make our county more resilient. We all saw the way that Texans helped Texans during the Memorial Day floods of 2015, the Tax Day floods of 2016 and Hurricane Harvey last year. Now is our chance to work together to protect each other proactively."
The county's Budget Management Department has estimated that, if passed, the bond issue would result in an overall tax rate increase of 2-3 cents per $100 assessed valuation - meaning that most homeowners would see an increase of no more than 1.4 percent in their property tax after all bonds were sold. (Homeowners with an over-65 or disabled exemption and a home assessed at $200,000 or less would pay no additional taxes.)
The Harris County Flood Control District has begun a series of 23 "community engagement" meetings – one in each county watershed – to present proposed projects and to solicit public input on other potential flooding solutions in each area. The proposed project list, information about community engagement meetings and an online comment form are all available on the "Bond Program" website at www.hcfcd.org/bondprogram.


The Harris County Flood Control District has added inundation mapping to the Harris County Flood Warning System, providing a new tool to help emergency management officials and residents make safety decisions during flooding events. Information is posted on the Harris County Flood Warning System website (www.harriscountyfws.org).
Inundation mapping provides information about areas of current bayou and channel flooding, based on information collected by Flood Warning System gauge stations strategically placed along Harris County bayous and their tributaries. This information is used by the Flood Control District and by Harris County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to inform the public of estimated flooding impacts across the county.
The new inundation mapping tool is not intended as a notification system for the issuing of flood watches, warnings or evacuations. Instead, the estimated inundation data is provided to help residents and emergency management officials make critical decisions that may ultimately reduce the risk of property damage, injuries and loss of life.
Residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Flood Warning System and its new inundation mapping tool, and to monitor inundation levels during times of heavy rain near their homes, schools, work places and daily commuting routes. Users may type in their address to find the gauge nearest their home or other area of interest.
The new inundation mapping tool generates a map of flooded areas adjacent to Harris County bayous and creeks where the Flood Warning System has water level gauges. The tool runs continuously to provide live inundation mapping during a flood, though the results may be as much as 15 minutes behind real time due to the time required to generate mapping from the gauge data. The tool also offers an estimate of inundation levels for rain events dating back to 2015.
Inundation mapping is shown to a zoom level of 500 feet and above. The map depicts the current extent of flooding, but does not include water depth. The mapping tool will only generate a new map if the gauge data for water levels changes by one-half foot. Also, damage to gauges during a flood may affect the accuracy of the flooding estimate and inundation mapping in the vicinity of the damaged gauges.
The new mapping tool does not show all flooding that may occur. This map will not depict flooding from:
  Channels and tributaries without gauges
  Ponding, which may occur during or after intense rainfall when water gathers in low-lying areas, such as in streets when the capacity of the storm sewer is exceeded.
  Sheet flow, which occurs when intense local rainfall flows overland to reach a channel. Frequently, this condition exists when water "ponds" in the streets deep enough to flood residences that are not even near a creek or bayou. The water will seek a path to the channel by flowing overland, flooding residences and other structures that are in that path.
Harris County does not assume liability for the misuse or misinterpretation of any data included within this map. Use of these materials constitutes acceptance of this disclaimer of liability.
  Go to www.harriscountyfws.org on your desktop or mobile device.
  The "MAP VIEW OPTIONS" section at the top left allows you to add inundation mapping and other features to the county map. (When there has been no rainfall, the inundation mapping feature will not be available.)
  Go to the "ADDRESS SEARCH" box in the lower left column and type your address.
  The map will zoom to the gauge station nearest to your location of interest. The icon shows the amount of rainfall (in inches) received at that location in the past 24 hours.
  Click on the gauge station icon for more detailed information.
  Other "MAP VIEW OPTIONS" allow you to add watershed boundaries, drainage channels and channel status icons to the county map. You can also change the setting in the "RAINFALL DATA" section to see rainfall during various time periods.
  An instructional video that shows how to use the entire Flood Warning System, including the new inundation mapping tool, is available on Flood Control's YouTube page at: https://youtu.be/eb4AFIspQSQ.


The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) received two awards at the annual Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers (TAMIO) conference in Georgetown on June 7. The TAMIO Awards of Honor were for communication products in two categories, marketing and technological services.
"It is always an honor to be recognized by government peers and communication professionals," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "We do our best to keep our residents informed when disaster strikes, and work year-round to promote emergency preparedness."
HCOHSEM's winter preparedness social media marketing campaign featuring Eddy the Ready Elf won for its creativity and the least amount of dollars spent on it. HCOHSEM used existing props to create graphics and gave away promotional preparedness items to attract new followers. HCOHSEM obtained more than 80,000 social media connections with this campaign.
Under the technological services category, HCOHSEM won for best use of social media. During Hurricane Harvey, staff at the Harris County Regional Joint Information Center (JIC) kept the public informed round-the-clock. Information was distributed via emergency alerts and social media. Through active monitoring, rumors and misinformation were quickly addressed.
"False information can spread rapidly and create problems for both the public and emergency responders," added Emmett. "This is why we always urge residents to get heir information from official and trusted sources."
More than 200 public information officers from across the state attended the 2018 TAMIO conference. TAMIO promotes new initiatives in communications, and the exchange of information and ideas among its members.
This year, TAMIO received more than 300 award entries. The awards recognize outstanding communication products in various categories including, website, social media, video production and publications. Judging is conducted by non-TAMIO members with expertise in communications and local government.