Texas A&M University Institute of Advanced Studies

Jayton Rainey

Jayton Rainey

Floods present significant economic and social challenges in the United States and around the globe. Losses continue to grow and the potential impacts of climate change and population increases are expected to accelerate this rise. Primary attention has been focused on the flooding that results from overflow of rivers and from high water along coastlines as a result of sea level rise, tidal variability, and coastal storm surges. However, contemporary analysis in the United States and abroad indicate that a growing segment of flood losses occur as a result of flooding outside the 1% annual chance flood zone (the regulatory floodplain) of the National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP, in both coastal and riverine environments. Much of this flooding occurs in more densely occupied urban areas where it is regarded as “stormwater or sewer problems” whose impacts are local and relatively minor.

There is speculation that this form of “Urban Flooding” is getting worse due to multiple factors, including increased frequency of extreme rainfall events, aging stormwater infrastructure, and increases in impervious surface adjacent to or upstream from older urban neighborhoods. These factors are important when considering the design of future urban growth and redevelopment of existing urban areas. Urban flooding can be defined narrowly or broadly, and many times this definition is framed in contrast to traditional flooding. When defined narrowly, it refers to flooding that typically does not occur in non-urban areas. Examples include sewer water backing up into homes or seeping through foundation walls. When defined broadly, urban flooding also includes types of flooding that can occur in natural or built environments. For the purposes of this preliminary study, a broad definition of urban flooding which includes the types mentioned above is used because the NFIP dataset, described further, does not have enough detailed information to identify only those floods that can occur in urban areas. Flooding in urban areas requires local, regional, state and federal action to address the problem.

A better understanding of the causes and costs of flooding in these urban areas and outside of locations not traditionally considered vulnerable is needed so specific and targeted policies can be enacted to mitigate their impacts on society. The extent of the problem can be gleaned from a recent report estimating that for the period of 2007-2014, 90% of flood losses in the state of Illinois occurred in areas outside of the regulatory floodplain, the location where most flood losses are expected to occur (Report for the Urban Flooding Awareness Act, 2015). In many of these impacted areas, the population is socially and economically vulnerable and unable to deal with the floods threats it faces on a recurring basis. Further, this damage may not be covered by insurance or public assistance programs, making it problematic to measure the extent of the impact.

Although there is no comprehensive database that collects total damage from urban flooding, one of the more robust sources comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was used in the descriptive analyses presented in our initial report. This dataset includes insured residential building damage (up to $250,000) and insured contents damage (up to $100,000) collected since the program’s inception in 1971. Overall trends in urban flooding are identified with the entire dataset and further analysis focuses on flood damage outside the 100-year floodplain as well as storm surge zones to focus on urban flooding that is considered lower probability. Although flood insurance claims are not a comprehensive measure of direct damage, they are able to provide some insight into the problem of urban flooding.

A spatial and temporal exploratory analysis was conducted on flood losses using the NFIP dataset. This dataset contains geocoded claims data with several attributes, including date of the loss, the flood zone, whether the home was built before or after a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) was published, coverage and damage amount for building and contents, catastrophe number if there was a disaster declaration, and date of original construction. Future analysis will be used with the data provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA), buyout data from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), and Individual (IA) and Public Assistance (PA) data provided by FEMA.

The opportunity to work with Hagler Institute Faculty Fellow Dr. Galloway has been beyond beneficial to my future career aspirations. The caliber of leadership by Dr. Samuel Brody, Texas A&M University at Galveston Professor, and Dr. Galloway have influenced my research abilities as well as my decision to pursue a PhD in Urban and Regional Sciences back at Texas A&M University this coming fall semester. Dr. Galloway has, and continues to provide me the opportunity of meeting and interacting with policy makers at all levels of government and world-renowned scientists in our field of research. This past year, the ability to conduct meaningful research and influence policy decisions on a national scale under the supervision of Dr. Galloway has been engaging, insightful, and an honor. I look forward to Dr. Galloway’s continued guidance, not only throughout the continuation of this fellowship or the upcoming PhD program, but for the rest of my life.

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for the funding made available to me through the HEEP Fellowship and the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University. I was entering my second semester in the Masters of Marine Resources Management program at Texas A&M University at Galveston and was paying my way through graduate school. This fellowship not only gave me the incredible opportunity to prove my worth as a researcher and collaborate with incredible scientists such as Dr. Brody and Dr. Galloway, but it allowed me to completely focus on my education without fear of being able to afford graduate school. With little to no financial support from my family, this HEEP Fellowship funding has given me the graduate school experience and research opportunities I will cherish forever, and I hope to contribute back to an individual that is deserving of the HEEP Fellowship through the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University in the near future.

Mr. Rainey will continue as a recipient of the HEEP fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year.


Marine Resource Management 

Graduation Year

August 2017

Degree Type


Fellowship Year(s)

'16- '17

Previous Education

M.S. in Marine Resources Management - Texas A&M University at Galveston - '17
B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences - Texas A&M University - '15


Samuel Brody

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