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City officials suggest flood insurance over barriers for homeowners

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and part of the Texas Gulf Coast, devices to prevent flood waters from getting indoors are spiking the interest of homeowners. (Courtesy: Hydrological Solutions)

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and part of the Texas Gulf Coast, devices to prevent flood waters from getting indoors are spiking the interest of homeowners.

When a swollen Mississippi River in Cedar Falls, Iowa started to creep toward a power plant, putting electricity in jeopardy for thousands of residents, crews laid down a 2,000 ft. flood barrier that sits six feet high to keep the power on.

A university in Michigan did the same thing when they sought to protect their computer science assets. And you can bet homeowners in Orlando, Florida are glad they put their barriers in place now that a Category 5 hurricane could make landfall along the peninsula by the end of the week.

All of these flood barriers come from a Waller, Texas company -- Hydrological Solutions.

If you ask Kathy Sullivan of Hydrological Solutions, don’t call them aqua dams -- they’re called water inflated property protectors, or WIPP.

Since Harvey displaced millions and damaged the property of millions of others, Sullivan said “business is booming.”

She said they’re receiving ten times more emails and calls from around the country per day requesting pricing and information than before the hurricane hit.

Now the company is challenged to meet the rising demand with Hurricane Irma looming east of the U.S. Sullivan disclosed that delivery trucks haven’t been able to “get in or out in the past 10 days” since Harvey’s merciless aftermath hit Houston(Waller sits along Hwy 290 over 40 miles from downtown Houston.)

The WIPPs are made out of scrim reinforced PVC. Prices range from $30 per linear foot to $130 per linear foot. Depending on the size and source of water a WIPP could be set up in “just a few hours.”

Sullivan said the WIPPS used for the Orlando homeowner are three feet tall. The owner used an eight horsepower trash pump that pushes water out at about 500 gallons per minute.

In Austin, Flood Plain Manager Jameson Courtney of the Watershed Protection Department said “our threat is flash flooding.”

“As we saw with Harvey, where we knew in advance there was an elevated risk, steps like that can be helpful but (flood barriers) shouldn’t be your primary method of protecting your property from flooding,” said Courtney.

Instead, Courtney suggests homeowners who live in low lying areas, in flood plains or who are just looking for peace of mind to get flood insurance. Some may need it when they think they don’t.

“If your house sits lower than some of the others you may want to consider flood insurance or other protection measures to ensure you have adequate drainage around your home.”

Sullivan said prior to Harvey she’d receive calls from scared and frustrated homeowners asking how fast they could get a WIPP to their house, some requesting delivery within hours. Sullivan stressed that if a homeowner wants peace of mind ahead of a storm, adequately plan ahead, not hours before the deadly storm hits home.

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