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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Education: Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Control Workshop - April 17, 2019
Announcement: The Technical Map Advisory Council Has Been Re-mobilized!
In the News: "Not Trusting FEMA’s Flood Maps, More Storm-Ravaged Cities Set Tougher Rules", "77% of Americans Say Federally Funded Infrastructure Must Be Flood Ready", "Threat of Major Spring Flooding Increasing as Near-Record March Snowpack Piles Up in Parts of Midwest, New England" and "Spring Flood Risk Above Normal Across Maine"
NFIP Guidance: Permit for Floodplain Development
Resources: Why We Need to Restore Floodplains and Flood Economics
Real Estate Corner: "Water Damage Vs. Flood Damage: What You Need to Know"

Banner Image: Spring melt on the Saco River in Limington, Maine, 2015. Image by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer for the Portland Press Herald.


Message from Jim

In December 1861, the Great Central Valley Flood, also known as “the storm that caused California to go bankrupt”, commenced in Central California, lasting over 40 days. Also termed a “megaflood”, this disaster turned enormous regions of the state into inland seas for months, and took thousands of human lives. One quarter of California’s economy was destroyed, forcing the state into bankruptcy (Ingram, 2013). If this event occurred today, the magnitude of damage due to the increase in infrastructure and development would have resulted in damage estimates far exceeding $700 billion.

In comparison, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 tops the list of the most costly disasters the United States has ever seen, with damage estimates exceeding $150 billion. It is also the most costly storm for the National Flood Insurance Program with over $16 billion paid out to policy holders (FEMA, 2019). Interestingly, if Katrina occurred back in 1860, damage estimates would have been far less, perhaps being calculated in the millions, not billions.

As the program continues its journey down the road of reform to achieve solvency, the primary objective should become more focused on getting people and properties out of harm’s way and not continuing to build in areas with known flood hazards or by better preparing for future storms through sound mitigation strategies.

A few days ago, I read an interesting article by Samantha Montano, a visiting assistant professor for the North Dakota State University Department of Emergency Management, in which she described 5 flood myths. The myths were: homeowners insurance covers flood damage; the 100 year flood is a once a century disaster; looting is common after floods; floods discourage people from building in risky areas, and the fifth, which I found particularly interesting - floods are natural disasters.

Though storms, high winds, and catastrophic waves for the most part are created naturally, she objected that a flood event should be deemed a natural disaster, but instead, a result of human interaction and behavior. Human activities such as building dams, cutting down trees, paving roads, development, placing fill, and eliminating vegetation are only some of many ways which should arguably shift our understanding that there is nothing natural about damages caused by large storms.

I have agreed with this concept for a long time. Mitigation and preparedness, the first two steps in emergency planning, rather than response and recovery, the third and fourth steps, are the best choice to deal with large storm events, and can better influence our respect of disaster. The concept of a disaster being "natural" reduces responsibility and accountability which will always cause damage to the program.

coastal erosion

Click on the photo to download the event flyer.


Massachusetts Coastal Erosion Control Workshop

Jim will be presenting "Understanding Flood Maps and Insurance" at the upcoming workshop hosted by E.J. Prescott, Inc. on April 17, 2019, in Peabody, MA. Other topics being presented include guidance and tools for reducing coastal erosion, adapting to sea level rise, and stormwater management in coastal communities. Participants will receive certificates for 5.5 Professional Development Hours for attending the entire workshop.

Click here to learn more and register!



TMAC Has Been Re-mobilized!

The Technical Mapping Advisory Council (TMAC), which provides advice and recommendations to FEMA to improve the preparation of Flood Insurance Rate Maps, has been at a standstill due to a delay in appointing new members to replace those whose terms had expired last year. We are pleased to say the new appointments have been approved and the Council will be soon reconvene to finish last year's Annual Report and get started on the charges of 2019. We are also very pleased to announce Jim Nadeau has been appointed as the Surveying Member on the TMAC, to serve in a three year term. We look forward to the forward progress of the Council and their important work in improving the National Flood Insurance Program.


In the News

Not Trusting FEMA’s Flood Maps, More Storm-Ravaged Cities Set Tougher Rules

By James Bruggers, InsideClimate News, March 19, 2019

Yay! We say it all the time and we will say it again: FEMA's flood maps are only intended to be guides for flood insurance purposes and to provide minimum standards for regulation. While necessary work is being done to improve the accuracy of flood maps, they will never be accurate enough to tell a homeowner whether their house will be damaged by a flood. Communities can and should develop stronger regulations that provide better protection for their citizens, especially in areas that are prone to extreme weather events. Imposing regulations at the local level, which exceed the risk depicted on the maps, is ultimately the best way to mitigate against flood damage. And remember, flood insurance is still an option for those who happen to be mapped outside of the high-risk flood zone. Just because a map says you are out, does not mean you can't still protect yourself.

Read the article!

77% of Americans Say Federally Funded Infrastructure Must Be Flood Ready

By Laura Lightbody, The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 13, 2019

"In March 13 testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Pew urged Congress to ensure the long-term resiliency of federal investments in infrastructure. Research shows that smart spending on disaster mitigation—such as limiting the extent of impervious surfaces, moving water treatment plants outside of flood plains, or buying out flood-prone homes—saves taxpayers money over the long term.

Poll respondents from all regions of the country, including inland and coastal areas, favor the federal requirement. Further, 49 percent said they support slightly increased federal spending to build or repair infrastructure so that it can better withstand harsh weather such as floods and sea-level rise."

Read more!


Estimated water content of the snowpack over the U.S. on Mar. 8, 2019. Parts of the northern Plains, upper Midwest, northern Great Lakes, and northern New England were estimated to have at least 4 inches of water contained in the snowpack. (NOAA/NOHRSC)

Threat of Major Spring Flooding Increasing as Near-Record March Snowpack Piles Up in Parts of Midwest, New England

By Jonathan Erdman,, March 8, 2019

"The combination of melting snow, additional rain and snow, and rising temperatures all play crucial roles in determining how widespread and severe spring river flooding is from March through May in the Midwest and Northeast.

More important for flood risk, however, is how much water is contained in the snowpack, which is released once it melts. A heavy rain event during a period of snowmelt, when rainwater plus meltwater magnifies flooding of rivers and streams, is certainly possible through spring.

There are still a lot of unknowns, but the factors spelled out here have already loaded the dice toward a higher spring flood risk for some in the Midwest and Northeast."

Read more!

LOCAL NEWS: Spring Flood Risk Above Normal Across Maine

Sun Journal, March 14, 2019

The potential for flooding is well above normal and will likely last a few weeks, according to an official from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Read more!

under construction

NFIP Guidance

Permit for Floodplain Development

Per Section 60.3 of the NFIP Regulations: Floodplain Management Criteria:

A permit is required before construction or development begins within any Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). If FEMA has not defined the SFHA within a community, but the community has indicated the presence of such hazards by submitting an application to participate in the program, the community shall require permits for all proposed construction or other development in the community including the placement of manufactured homes, so that it may determine whether such construction or other development is proposed within flood-prone areas. Permits are required to ensure that proposed development projects meet the requirements of the NFIP and the community's floodplain management ordinance.

A community must also review all proposed developments to assure that all necessary permits have been received from those governmental agencies from which approval is required by Federal or State law.

Click here to learn more!



floodplain forest

A floodplain forest in Michigan. Photo by Joshua G. Cohen. Click on the photo to learn more about this unique habitat.

Why We Need to Restore Floodplains

When we think of floods, we generally think of disaster, damage, inconvenience, and cost. We view the impact of flood from the perspective of development: our homes, business, and personal property. But believe it or not, healthy floodplains actually reduce the harmful impacts of floods on property. Floods are a natural occurrence, and floodplains are an important component in having healthy rivers that support wildlife and offer many benefits for people, including storing and slowing floodwaters, improving water quality, recharging groundwater, creating fertile soil for agriculture, and more!

Click here to learn more about how floodplains provide a diversity of benefits to wildlife and people alike.


Flood Economics

The benefits of flood mitigation go beyond dollars and cents. The Economist Intelligence Unit found that investment to make homes and infrastructure more flood-proof returns positive economic, environmental, and social benefits for communities. This resource offers case studies, state mitigation analyses, blogs, and podcasts to share stories about how homeowners have reduced their flood risk.

Check it out!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

Water Damage Vs. Flood Damage: What You Need to Know

"Flood damage is just another kind of water damage, right?
When it comes to water damage vs flood damage, flood damage poses higher health risks, can require additional insurance coverage, and can cost more to repair. But what exactly constitutes flood damage, what constitutes water damage, and why does it matter?"

Read more!


April Flood Funny

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