CHANUTE, KS - Hans Harold and his wife, Donna, woke up around 4:30 a.m. on June 30, 2007 to find their house surrounded by water.
Because of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) directives from 2002, the Harold family elevated their house and used a method that allowed flood waters to flow under the house. The Kansas builders were required to elevate homes in a flood plain because of the directives. Initially, those instructions upset Harold, but he was grateful to be above water in June when the Neosho River flooded the area.
Harold had to elevate his new house one foot above the 1951 flood line of the nearby Neosho River, which was marked on a fence post in his front yard at 2-feet, 5-inches above the ground. The Harold’s home was three feet above water when the Neosho River flooded the Chanute area.
The front of the house was elevated four feet using fill dirt. The back of the yard slopes naturally and was built up by the concrete foundation. Harold also decided to take freeboard into consideration while flood-proofing his home.
Freeboard, according to the NFIP on FEMA.gov, is another safety factor “usually expressed in feet above a flood level for purposes of floodplain management. ‘Freeboard’ tends to compensate for the many unknown factors that could contribute to flood heights greater than the height calculated for a selected size flood and floodway conditions, such as wave action, bridge openings, and the hydrological effect of urbanization of the watershed.”
Freeboard is not required by NFIP standards, but it is encouraged that communities “adopt at least a one-foot freeboard to account for the one-foot rise built into the concept of designating a floodway and the encroachment requirements where floodways have not been designated,” states the NFIP on FEMA.gov. “Freeboard results in significantly lower flood insurance rates due to lower flood risk.” Harold searched the Internet for ways to incorporate freeboard into his plans and discovered that most designs were too costly.
As a result, Harold devised a system of swinging windows that were constructed by a local welder, and his contractor incorporated them into the foundation. This made him eligible for a lower flood insurance rate. He said his rate is only $350 a year.
“The sunlight coming [through the windows] during the day helps evaporate the moisture,” Hans said. “Otherwise, you would have to put an attic fan in [the crawl space].”
The mitigation practices were put to the test when the Neosho River crested at 3-feet, 5-inches along with water from the small creek that runs behind the property and the six inches of rain that fell during the night of June 30.
The Harold’s house and a nearby business that also elevated their building based on FEMA guidelines endured the flood and rain. Other homes in the neighborhood flooded.