Home News Students consider flood risk when choosing apartment

Students consider flood risk when choosing apartment

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Photo by: Cassandria Alvarado | Staff Photographer
The 2015 Halloween flood waters receded enough to finally reveal the Blanco River crossing at west Uhland Road.

Students often compare amenities of apartment complexes before choosing where to live, but the aftermath of the historical Memorial Day and Halloween weekend floods may cause them to begin considering flood risk instead.

Morgan Andres, interdisciplinary studies junior and Lodge at Southwest resident, said she never worried about her apartment flooding before the Memorial Day weekend disaster.

“But now, I’m extremely worried,” Andres said. “If my dad had known we were in a flood plain, he wouldn’t have let me move in here.”

Andres did not consider the flood risk of her location when she chose to move in. The staff did not inform her that the structure was in the flood plain, but she didn’t know to ask. Andres signed her lease just months before the Memorial Day weekend disaster and had never seen the city flood.

In the aftermath of the severe floods, the city of San Marcos released an updated flood plain advisory map—a document outlining which areas are most at risk of severe flooding.

Richard Reynosa, San Marcos senior engineer, said the map has not officially been adopted by the city or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but is a good resource for anyone looking to move into town.

“The best thing a student can do is just to ask the question to the city,” Reynosa said. “Students—everyone—should find out if they are in the flood plain.”

Reynosa said the flood plain has expanded slightly in many different areas. However, the biggest change is the suggested base elevation for buildings within the flood plain. Suggested base elevations dictate how high a building must be constructed in order to be built in the flood plain.

Reynosa said many local apartment complexes, such as the ones along Blanco River, are in the existing flood plain.

Kristi Wyatt, director of communications and intergovernmental relations for the city of San Marcos, said there is an interactive map on the city website where people can type in their addresses and figure out where they are in the advisory flood plain map.

Complexes such as the Grove, the Avenue and the Lodge at Southwest were already included in the original flood plain map.

Andrew Jones, Austin Tenants’ Council housing specialist said the legality of apartment management’s duty to inform tenants about its status in relation to the flood plain is ambiguous.

“It’s a gray area of the law,” Jones said. “If there has been a flood in the complex, and you can prove the complex knew about it, you might have a case to sue.”

However, proving a complex has knowledge of a previous flood is difficult, Jones said.

The floodwater did not directly damage Andres’ third floor apartment. She believes a large crack formed in her roof when the building resettled after the flood.

The apartment damage from the Memorial Day weekend flood is mostly repaired. Andres has noticed no one lives on the first floor of certain buildings. Andres was forced to evacuate her apartment during the Oct. 30 flood

“We saw the water and the cops told us we needed to go,” Andres said. “I hated it. That was terrifying.”

Andres said it only took seven to 10 minutes for water to cover the parking lot.

“The water had come up to the entrance and I had to drive on the sidewalk to get out,” Andres said.

Reynosa said the proposed advisory map suggests that structures being built or repaired in the future flood plain area meet the minimum base elevation. The minimum requirement is not enforceable until the map is adopted by FEMA or the city.

An existing structure will only have to raise base elevation if 50 percent or more of the structure is renovated, Reynosa said.

Andres does not plan to live along the Blanco River again. She is moving to an apartment located outside of the flood plain.

“I don’t even want to be near the river,” Andres said. “I would say that the flood played a significant impact on where I am going to move to.”

Reynosa said he is not sure when city council will talk about the advisory map. FEMA officials said the review process will take about a year.