property owners should save money if newly proposed federal flood
insurance maps are adopted, but some officials fear that the maps’
changes might lead to complacency.
just maps, and people need to realize that lines on paper don’t
mean there won’t be floods,” said Donna Creef, director of the
planning department in Dare County, where the proposed maps would
remove thousands of properties from food zones altogether and move
many others from to lower-danger zones. “Mother Nature
doesn’t necessarily do what maps and lines say she will do.”
Dare has the
largest number of rental units and second homes on the ocean and
sounds in the state. Changes in the proposed maps, Creef said, would
positively affect the insurance rates and or required elevations and
flood-proofing of close to 16,000 buildings.
that’s a very good thing for a lot of people, homeowners and
business owners,” she said.
maps move the 100-year flood zone along the oceanfront significantly
landward, Creef said. That will result in lower flood-insurance
premiums or remove any requirement for that type of protection.
“But we are a
little concerned that some people who get moved out of a flood zone
altogether might think they no longer need flood insurance,” Creef
said. “That might be the case, but there’s always a margin for
error with maps, and again, storms don’t always do what the maps
indicate they will do.”
maps also lower the base flood elevation, in some areas by almost
half. That could allow property owners to enclose and convert to
living space areas underneath houses that are on stilts.
Creef said, is that people might do those kinds of things, or simply
not renew flood insurance policies when they expire, then be
Emergency Management Agency requires that each state produce the maps
about every 10 years. According to Creef and others, one reason for
the changes appears to be that the state was more involved in the
mapping process this time, and state officials might well have more
intimate knowledge of areas that have been flood-prone.
In other areas,
such as Emerald Isle in Carteret County, the changes might have
something to do with beach nourishment efforts and dune stabilization
projects, but also the fact that there simply haven’t been many
hurricanes in recent years.
In Emerald Isle,
the number of buildings in the VE zone – the highest danger zone
for flooding – will decrease from 1,135 to 441 if the new maps are
approved as drawn.
“For the vast
majority of properties, there would be no change,” town manager
Frank Rush said, but in some cases, properties have been completely
removed from a VE zone and are no longer in a flood zone, while in
other cases the property has been changed from a VE zone to an AE
zone, which is generally less restrictive than VE.
An analysis by
Josh Edmondson, the town’s planning director, shows that 99 would
be added to a flood zone as a result of the new maps. As a result,
the town doesn’t plan to appeal, but would help those individual
property owners who choose to do so.
areas, flood insurance is mandatory, though rating options may be
available to create savings. In moderate to low-risk areas, flood
insurance is recommended, but optional.
The story is
different, however, in scattered pockets in Carteret County, where
there are new V zones in the eastern end of the county in Smyrna,
Marshallberg, North River and Straits, and more properties in flood
zones in parts of Morehead City and Beaufort.
Farther south in
the much more urbanized New Hanover County, planning director Ken
Vafier did an analysis and concluded that the proposed maps will
include more property in less flood-prone zones.
The VE zones
along the Intracoastal Waterway are narrower than they are in the
current maps, with more lands in the less restrictive A zone, Vafier
explained. Base flood elevations are also slightly reduced, he said.
is a general trend and there are certainly some sites being proposed
to change to a more restrictive zone,” Vafier explained. “Whether
changes are detrimental or beneficial to a property owner will depend
on each specific site, as well as the property owner’s
deputy county manager for Brunswick County, said that in general, the
new maps are favorable for those concerned about flood insurance and
flood insurance rates. Stone said some property in the county appear
to have been removed from flood zones entirely, but the larger shift
is from zones that indicate serious risks to those that predict less
There are a few
properties, he said, particularly along inland streams, that are
placed in higher-level flood zones but “the overall, net result,
I’d say, is positive for Brunswick County property owners.”
While some of
the municipalities have engaged in some beach nourishment activities
since the last maps came out, he doubts that impacted the maps, Most
likely, it’s just more accurate mapping.
Up to the north,
between roughly midway between Carteret and Dare, Beaufort County
doesn’t have an oceanfront, but has a long shoreline along the
Pamlico River. County planning director Seth Laughlin sounded a lot
like Creef in Dare County.
“What we saw
was very much unexpected,” he said of the new maps.
unincorporated parts of the county, he said, saw improvements for
4,000 to 5,000 properties, and relatively few that would see negative
Like Creef, he
said he’s grateful that many property owners will likely see
insurance rate cuts and might be able to do different things with
their property, but he wonders about the complacency the maps might
People might not
renew their flood-insurance policies, he said, and could be surprised
when storms don’t conform to the lines drawn on the maps. “We’re
happy for people who would benefit, because flood insurance is
expensive, and that cost can be a real deterrent to people who want
to develop properties than contribute to the tax base, too,”
Laughlin said. “But I’d be hesitant to tell people not to buy
At least one
coastal North Carolina county official involved in flooding issues,
said some in the field were so surprised they wonder about the
motives. “Is it an attempt to get the federal government off the
hook for damage?” said the official, who didn’t want to be named.
“The thought is, if people don’t have to buy policies, and don’t,
then they have damage, the federal program doesn’t have to pay.”
Rudolph, who as shore protection manager for Carteret County is
responsible for monitoring flood insurance changes, said he believes
the changes, particularly along the oceanfront are logical and based
on good data, especially because the state got involved and has more
and better information about specific areas along North Carolina’s
He said there is
some danger, however, because some hurricanes that aren’t expected
to be massive 100-year storms when they hit can still surprise
people, either because of direction or duration, and cause flooding
one might not expect from the maps.
doesn’t expect widespread abandonment of flood insurance policies
in areas where the new maps might indicate that possibility. Mortgage
companies, he said, are not likely to let too many folks put their
loans at risk.
money that is at risk, too,” he said. “Even if you’re not in a
flood zone according to the map, they can require you to have flood
Dare County flood maps are released
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article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. Brad Rich is a reporter for the
Tideland News in Swansboro. For more news, features, and information
about the coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)