The Federal Emergency Management Administration has released a new preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to reflect the flood risk of areas in Pinellas County with more accuracy.
The last such update came in 2009.
But the updated FIRM is not officially adopted yet. Lisa Foster, the county’s Floodplain Coordinator, said that the approved map will most likely be very similar to the preliminary one.
“I know that FEMA and their consultants used the best available data when they developed it and that modeling techniques have improved since the previous version was done,” said Foster.
People can access the flood map online. Selecting different layers will allow them to access other features, such as evacuation zones and potential effects of sea level rise.
Foster said it is important for property owners to check the new maps to know their property’s flood risk.
“Everybody’s in a flood zone. These new maps - the zones may have changed - and that would determine what their risk is. There are low risk, moderate risk and high risk areas that are mapped out.”
Knowing a location’s flood risk can also be beneficial for property owners’ financial decisions.
“It will affect their flood insurance rates and requirements and people should also know what their flood risk is so they can properly protect themselves from flooding,” said Foster.
Pinellas County has been working with FEMA to provide data used to update the flood map.
In addition, the county is part of a large, mult-year / multi-state coastal flood risk study to better identify, quantify and let the public know about the coastal flood hazards and associated risks in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.
(Editor's note: This story and picture have been updated to better reflect the nature of the flood map and the scope of work done by Pinellas County and FEMA.)