With Hurricane Harvey still on the minds of many Houston residents, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many homebuyers are looking for houses where flooding won’t be an issue. While the hurricane was devastating citywide due to the unprecedented nature of the storm, flooding and home damage was worse in areas located on or near bayous and reservoirs.

Why does Houston flood?

Houston floods for a few reasons. The most unexpected reason? The city was designed to flood.

The majority of Houston’s streets were made to fill with water every time there is heavy rainfall. While this seems counterintuitive, flooding the streets keeps water from entering homes. The majority of streets are raised in the center allowing for water to easily drain off into the sewers. Street flooding can be inconvenient (and dangerous if driving), but it is necessary to protect homes and other structures.

Houston is also known as The Bayou City due to the 22 interconnected bayous running through it like veins. Developers built the city around this intricate system of natural waterways and used them to mitigate flooding. The major bayous were widened and deepened in order to control the flow of water. During regular weather events, the bayous fill with water and drain to two main reservoirs: Addicks and Barker.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey was an anomaly. The storm dropped over 50 inches of rain steadily for 7 days. The bayous and reservoirs, unable to adequately drain the rapidly accumulating water, broke their banks and spilled into the street. The already flooded streets overwhelmed the city’s drainage system pushing water into houses and businesses. Over 150,000 homes flooded, and structures located along waterways sustained the brunt of the damage. 

Houston floods for a few reasons. The most unexpected reason? The city was designed to flood.

How often does Houston flood?

Houston’s streets flood multiple times a year but drain quickly and leave no lasting damage.  Major flooding events causing widespread flooding are relatively rare, although they have been occurring more frequently in recent years.

Tropical Storm Allison, in 2001, was Houston’s reigning 500-year flood event (meaning a 1 in 500 chance of occurring). Houston did not see another storm of that caliber for 14 years. Then, the city experienced three 500-year floods in three years: the Memorial Day Flood of 2015, Tax Day Floods of 2016, and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 (a 1000-year flood). This is likely caused by climate change since warmer temperatures lead to heavier rainfall, more frequent hurricanes, and rising tides.

Neighborhoods That Aren't Prone to Flooding

Houston is busy building new reservoirs and updating property codes to make sure the level of flooding that Harvey brought won’t ever be an issue again. However, there are some neighborhoods that are already fairly resistant to the worst effects of hurricanes like Harvey. These areas not only resist flooding, but they’re also great places to live and work.


Briargrove City Sign
Briargrove City Sign / Photo by WhisperToMe

Briargrove is a residential neighborhood located just outside the 610 loop. The location is ideal for those wanting to live close to central Houston, but prefer a more suburban community vibe. Single-family homes, from modest ranches to mansions, dominate the neighborhood. Briargrove is near the Galleria Mall and the River Oaks district, providing plenty of shopping options.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park City Sign
Hyde Park City Sign / Photo by Hyde Park Houston / CC BY-SA

Montrose fared well during Harvey overall. However, structures located in the northern part of the neighborhood along Buffalo Bayou (including the KHOU 11 news studio) experienced flooding. Lower parts of the neighborhood, especially Hyde Park in central Montrose, suffered no flood damage from the storm.

The area is home to a rich community and desirable schools like Wharton Dual Language Academy and Lanier Middle School, both of which have perfect ratings on GreatSchools.

Houston Heights

Home in Houston Heights
Home in Houston Heights / Ed Uthman / CC BY

Homes in Houston Heights, not to be confused with the Greater Heights, did not sustain damage during Harvey. The neighborhood, which has been exploding in popularity over the last decade—especially with families—is characterized by historic Victorian houses and colorful bungalows.

Afton Oaks

Afton Oaks Sign
Afton Oaks Sign / Photo by WhisperToMe

Afton Oaks is a historic Houston neighborhood positioned at the corner of Loop 610 and Highway 69. An upscale area featuring ranch style homes, it’s located next to the popular River Oaks neighborhood and the nearby Galleria Mall. It’s a prestigious area that’s well connected to some of the best shopping in the city.

Rice Military

Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park / Photo by Drew Tarvin / CC BY

Returning close to central Houston, the Rice Military neighborhood sits along Interstate 10 and Loop 610. Bordered on the west by Memorial Park, the Rice Military area also has access to Buffalo Bayou Park along the south. This gives residents plenty of outdoor areas to explore along the Buffalo Bayou. The neighborhood is also home to numerous popular bars and restaurants.

West University Place

Rice University
Rice University / Photo by Daderot

If there’s one area of the city where the academic-minded go, it’s in and around West University Place. Positioned next to Rice University, it’s also just minutes away from the Texas Medical Center. Also nearby is the Museum District, giving residents the opportunity to explore the many museums that make their homes in Houston. West University Place includes convenient access to restaurants, grocery stores, parks, and more.


Herrin Loft
Herrin Loft / Photo by Patrick Feller / CC BY

East Downtown, aka EaDo, is one of Houston’s up and coming neighborhoods. With its position next to the Central Business District and Downtown Houston, it’s next to some of the most commercially active parts of the city. It’s also just a few minutes drive from cultural corridors like the Museum District and nightlife destinations like Midtown. Keep in mind that while no known homes flooded during Harvey, the area experiences significant street flooding even during heavy rains.


Sam Houston Monument
Sam Houston Monument / Photo by Agsftw / CC BY-SA

Southgate escaped the worst of Harvey. The neighborhood borders major job centers like Rice University and the Medical District. Also nearby is the Museum District, Houston Zoo, and urban greenspace Hermann Park providing cultural enrichment and outdoor activities. The area is highly residential and includes a mix of high-rise condos and large single-family homes.

What neighborhoods did flood?

Sadly, some neighborhoods don't fare well during storms or high-risk flooding situations. FEMA even has an online tool to search by address to see if a home is in a high-risk flood area. But in Houston, there are a few neighborhoods you should be aware have an increased risk of flooding.

According to the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the following zip codes submitted the most FEMA assistance applications:

• 77084 near the Addicks Reservoir
• 77089 near Pearland and Friendswood
• 77044 in Northeast Houston
• 77090 surrounding Cypress Station

Other heavily flooded areas include Cypress North, Bellaire, and Eastex-Jensen. The Houston Chronicle noted significant home damage in Katy and South Houston while KHOU pointed out Kashmere Gardens, Braeburn, and Alief.

Local Resources

Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool
Harris County Flood Control District Model and Map Management System
Harris County Floodplain Information
Ready Harris: Emergency Management and Preparedness Information