The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recently issued a draft of the newly revised Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The revision will change flood zones - and whether some local properties are now in them.
"If the new map puts you in a flood zone, you need to get flood insurance now," Pembroke Planning Director Wynn Carney said. "The new map isn’t official until March, and you can get grandfathered in with lower rates if you act now. If you wait, it will cost you. Homes in certain flood zones are required to have flood insurance. It is incumbent upon the homeowner to know where their home is located compared to the flood zones."
According to Richmond Hill insurance agent Larry Barker, the average price of flood insurance for areas outside the flood zone is $350 per year. He said those in the flood zone pay around $750 per year, which includes elevation certification.
Carney said Pembroke is no stranger to flood damage, citing the flooding the city endured several years ago. He said the Dollar General, which is in a flood zone, had water levels that reached up to their cash registers.
The map will be finalized on March 2, and the draft is available for viewing online at www.msc.fema.gov (click Map Search and enter your address) or in person in the foyer of Pembroke City Hall and the Richmond Hill branch of the County Planning and Zoning office, located inside the Jack Kingston building.
Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones said the county’s flood maps have not been revised since 1983.
"No significant changes have been made," Jones said. "However, some areas that were not in a flood zone, will be. On the other hand, some areas that are currently in a flood zone, will no longer be in one."
Carney said development has a lot to do with some of the changes, citing the creation of drainage ditches and canals in some areas.
Randy Dykes, an inspector with the city of Richmond Hill, said the most significant Richmond Hill change will be parts of KOA campgrounds, which will be added to the flood zone come March.
"There are several other pockets in the city that will change," Dykes said. "The best thing to do is to check the map. If anyone has any questions, they can call us."
Barker said everyone should have flood insurance because "if a category three hits, we’ll all be flooded – regardless of elevation."
But why is FEMA remapping right now?
FEMA representative Gabriel Javier said it is part of the Map Modernization Program, which was mandated by Congress five years ago.
The program is in its fifth and final year, and Javier said 92 percent of the United States has been remapped so far.
Javier said there were other reasons to remap besides the mandate, saying there are several factors that have effected the change in the flood zone borders.
"Topography changes over the years, so this needed to be done anyway," Javier said. "Man made changes to the land play a part as well. We also now have more accurate tools and methods to map and monitor weather. There have been changes in historic weather patterns, and we now have more accurate data on flooding and what areas they impact."
Javier said FEMA is taking this opportunity to have the new maps in digital format, which eliminates the necessity for the storage of paper maps.
The new format allows the maps to posted online, which are now readily available for officials and residents alike.