The number of policies in Houston itself fell from 133,000 to 119,000, an 11 percent drop — roughly in line with the trend nationally. Over the same period, the number of flood policies across the U.S. dropped 10 percent, to 4.9 million. Jiles Daniels, a retired oil company manager, never wavered when he bought flood insurance on both his homes: one in Houston and another on an island near Cleveland, northeast of Houston. The cost is considerable: about $1,800 a year in premiums for the two houses combined. He thinks it's worth it: The lower level of his island house went about 4 feet under water, he estimates, though his city home had been spared so far. Under current rules, most homeowners with mortgages living in high risk areas for flooding, called Special Flood Hazard Zones, must buy flood insurance. Most of the Houston area falls outside those most vulnerable zones, and many homeowners who aren't forced to have coverage have decided to do without. One problem with the flood risk maps highlighted by Tropical Storm Harvey: They don't take into account the risk of flooding from overcapacity drainage sewers and ditches or from water flowing toward a sewer or bayou. More than half of the flooding in Harris County over the years has been due to such problems.

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