The preliminary flood maps for Dare County, NC were released the end of June and are being reviewed. Typically, it takes 18 to 24 months before preliminary maps are finalized. Included in this time, is a 90 day appeal period and a 6 month compliance period where the local governments adopt the maps and update their prevention ordinances.
You can use the Flood Risk Information System link to review the current effective flood designation for a property, as well as, the preliminary designation that will be in place after the map is finalized. The map system is very user friendly. After you enter the system, click on NC or select the state from the pull down bar. On the next screen, type your address.
The display will zoom into to show the property address you entered.
The color layer shows the flood risk. The legend can be displayed by clicking on the icon to the left of the light bulb. The meaning of the zones is not real intuitive. The 1-percent annual chance flood is also referred to as the base flood or 100-year flood. Basically, they are broken down as follows:
Flood Zone Areas
Zone VE – This area is within the 1% annual chance of coastal flooding and has additional hazards from storm waves. Mandatory flood insurance is required in this area. This is shown on the map in green.
Zone A, V, AE, AH, AO are also within the 1% chance of flooding. These are shown in the aqua color.
Zones within the above two categories are the highest risk zones; V zones are beach front while A zones are other water front properties.
The yellow areas have a .2% chance of flooding or equivalent to the 500 year flood.
Zone X is the area of minimal flood hazard, they are higher than the elevation of the 0.2-percent-annual-chance flood. They are unshaded on the map. While flood insurance is not required for this area, it does not mean the area will not flood!
Click here for a more detailed explanation of the zones.
The flood zone and detailed information appears on the information box on the right. A close look reveals the map displayed is the current effective map dating from 2006. You can change this using the toggle switch at the upper right hand corner of the info panel. Before going to the proposed map, review the information contained on the panel.
The flood information section shows the current zone as well as identifying data; latitude longitude and county parcel id etc. The risk information section lists the building value, square footage and the like. Next, the financial vulnerability section assesses your personal vulnerability to help you determine if you are financially prepared in the event of a major loss. You can enter different values and hit recalculate to aid in planning. The flood insurance section provides an estimate of the monthly and annual flood insurance premium. In my case, it was more than double to 4x higher than my actual premium. The last three sections allow you to produce reports, export the map or the data.
Once I toggle to the preliminary map, the map changes to this:
The preliminary map for the property selected above shows the property is under the Zone X designation on the preliminary maps. Therefore, the entire structure is in zone X with only a fringe area of the property within the 500 year flood zone.
This is quite a drastic change from before!
Alternatively, you can also view a larger area. The first map below shows the northern Outer Banks and Corolla area under the current map.
In contrast, the preliminary map for the same area shows what a difference the new maps will make for many property owners. As you can see, many areas designated within the 500 year flood area are no longer designated.
Once the preliminary maps are adopted, thousands of homes will no longer be designated as lying in a flood zone. Specifically, 15,970 buildings in Dare County are categorized as a lower risk compared to the current effective map. County wide the number of properties in the V zone was reduced by 3,720 down to 1,731. This will reduce new construction costs, as well as reducing development standards on remodels. Many homeowners will have a lower flood insurance premium or no longer be required to carry flood insurance.
Flood maps are updated about every 10 years. However, the old maps also relied on even older data; sometimes as much as 30 years old. Technology has drastically improved over this time and the new data is obtained from computer modeling, actual flood history and data collected from aircraft using more detailed surveys of the land.
The change in flood zone status will change where builders are required to elevate the first floor. In some cases this height will be cut in half. Homes outside the flood zone may be able to enclose the bottom floors and obtain insurance coverage on lower floor levels. All these types of changes need to be updated in town ordinances. Thus, the need for a transition period.
Proceed with Caution
Keep in mind, these changes, if implemented are only valid for about 10 years. What will happen in 10 years should there be a major storm that impacts the X zones or if global warning predictions get additional traction? The flood designations could revert back. If you cancel your flood insurance when the new maps are effective, then your property may not conform should the flood designations revert. The cost to bring the property back into compliance could be very costly. You may also have to get a new elevation certificate showing the non-conformities.
While every situation is different, just because you no longer are required to have flood insurance does not mean that you should cancel the policy. A preferred risk policy may reduce the cost and provide valuable protection. It could also be a lower cost option in the long run should the maps revert back. Keeping the insurance in place may also make the property more saleable and provide the additional option of the new owner assuming the insurance policy after the sale.
Remember, annually over 20% of all flood insurance claims are from properties not in a designated Special Flood Hazzard Area (SFHA). Operate accordingly.