Flooding is one of the most common and costly disasters during storms. Pinellas County is the latest area to have adjustments made to its flood map to better reflect the risk that some homeowners may face.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency updated flood maps that will serve as visual representations for areas at risk. They will also help determine adjusted insurance rates and standards for new construction.
“This is a coastal update,” said Pinellas County Floodplain Coordinator Lisa Foster. “There were updates done between the 70s and the current map which was done in 2003, but the coastal part hasn’t really had an overhaul since back then.”
These new maps will have an impact on owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay and inland areas near waterways connected to either one.
Foster stated that a common misconception is that people think they do not live in a flood zone.
“Everybody is in a flood zone,” Foster said. “That flood zone may be low, moderate or high risk.”
“FEMA is updating the maps in cooperation with the community,” said Foster. “FEMA hired consultants to actually do the study and update the maps.”
Before the maps go public, they face multiple phases of review. The next phase for Pinellas County is a public appeal period of 90 days for any amendments to be made.
“After that 90-day period, they will issue a letter of final determination to ensure all communities adopt the maps, after which they will become effective,” said Foster.
Flood map updates are occurring throughout Florida, with residents in Hillsborough County getting a first look at adjustments last month.
“We have held public meetings in coordination with FEMA,” said Foster. “We will do some more public meetings once they initiate the 90-day appeal period.”
Foster urges people to check their current flood risk and zone.
“Weather patterns seem to be changing and sea levels appear to be rising. I would say that flooding in general will increase unless we continue with proactive flood pain management, which we are doing,” said Foster. “That is why we have such a big flood insurance discount.”
The funding for the update comes from the National Flood Insurance Program.
For more information on flood map adjustments visit pinellascounty.org.