Flood zones being revised after Superstorm Sandy

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Before the arrival of Superstorm Sandy, FEMA was working on a revision of New Jersey’s flood zone maps, updating a plan that was developed almost 30 years ago. This will mean that many coastal home owners could now find their homes in a newly defined flood zone.

Barbara Lynch, a specialist with FEMA, confirmed that the agency has been developing the comprehensive project using laser technology combined with the recent new information on the storm surges generated by Sandy.

“There was no countywide map for Atlantic County,” Lynch said. “This would be the first countywide map.”

The map will be made using LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, a surveying system that uses laser sights from an airplane to determine land elevation.

“There has been a great deal of development since 1983,” Lynch said, referring to some of the last studies done of the area. “Some areas that were in the flood plain on the old map may not be on the new map.”

Most beach towns have (at most) three zones, classified as ‘V,’ ‘A,’ and ‘B.’

Beaches are categorized as ‘V,’ or velocity water zones, where flooding can be expected from wave activity. The ‘A’ zones, special flood hazard areas, are zones that could expect flooding from a 100-year flood. Property owners in that zone with a federally backed mortgage are required to buy flood insurance.

‘B’ zones are areas on barrier islands just high enough above sea level to be outside the 100-year flood zone. A ‘B’ zone property is not required to have flood insurance if it has a federally backed mortgage.

City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal recently received information from FEMA regarding homeowners who wish to reconstruct or repair their island homes. In order to mitigate or prevent damages from future storms, FEMA is requiring changes in foundation height, so some homeowners might be required to raise their houses.

The notification reads, in part: “By delivering revised flood risk information, FEMA can empower communities and property owners to make more informed decisions about rebuilding and recovery that will increase resiliency to future disasters and provide potential cost savings on flood insurance premiums. FEMA will be working closely with state and community officials to release this improved flood hazard data within the coming weeks for 10 counties in New Jersey to help them make informed decisions about rebuilding their homes and businesses. Use of this information will be required for certain FEMA funded recovery and mitigation activities after release and is highly encouraged for use in other rebuilding efforts.”

Property owners who are impacted by any flood map changes, or who had first-floor flooding during Sandy, are advised to research the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program ICC (Increased Cost of Compliant Coverage). ICC is part of most standard flood insurance policies. If eligible, property owners can collect up to $30,000 to help cover the cost of bringing a home or business into compliance with floodplain ordinances.

To be eligible, a property must be “substantially damaged,” meaning that the cost to repair your flooded building is 50 percent or more of its pre-disaster market value; or the property sustained “repetitive damage,” meaning damage by flooding at least twice in the past 10 years, in which the cost of repairing the flood damage was at least 25 percent of the property’s market value at the time. Also, there must have been flood insurance claim payments for each of the flood losses, and the community’s floodplain management ordinance must have a repetitive loss provision.

More information is available at www.floodsmart.gov or by calling (800) 427-4661.

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