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Welcome to the Flood Zone is a nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, simply click the unsubscribe link in the footer of this message.


In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Resources: FloodSmart.gov, Fannie Mae's Flood Insurance Requirements, and Safety Tips During Power Restoration - Hurricane Season Preparedness
NFIP Terminology: High-Rise Buildings
In the News: "The Rising Tide", "How a New Flood Strategy Helped a Colorado City Skirt Disaster", and "Coastal Connection: Just Below the Surface"
Real Estate Corner: "Why Housing Values in New York's Flood Zones Have Stayed Down After Hurricane Sandy"
Land Surveying Corner: History of the Mason-Dixon Line

Banner Photo: A flooded home in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey, August 2017. Photo credit: David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Since its inception in 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program has consisted of three different components: mapping, insurance, and regulation. Each has significant stand-alone value, but their effectiveness is greatly reduced if not appropriately intertwined with the others, since all flood insurance and regulation decisions are primarily driven by the flood maps. Without the maps setting a baseline for flood risk, proper insurance rating and regulation compliance would be very difficult to achieve.

Personally, I like the analogy of the NFIP being a three-legged stool, but the addition of a fourth leg offers better distribution of weight for continued stability should one leg become temporarily weakened. This is exactly the role mitigation provides, since it bridges the three components and strengthens the program as a whole. Perhaps, instead of mitigation being the fourth leg, it is best described as the glue holding the entire stool together as one cohesive program.

To give an example, one of the most commonly used mitigation strategies is Freeboard, a regulation that requires the lowest floor of a structure to be built a foot or higher (in increments of a foot) than the published Base Flood Elevation. States often require Freeboard as a minimum requirement, but communities can require additional Freeboard to further reduce risk of flood damage. Freeboard is particularly helpful in reducing the impact of outdated or inaccurate flood maps. Building higher also protects against increased actual risk from climate change and sea level rise. And of course, taking mitigative action to decrease flood risk can also decrease flood insurance premiums. This is a prime example of all the components working together!

In a report recently released by the National Institute of Building Sciences, every $1 the federal government spends on mitigation projects, such as elevating homes at risk of flooding, improving storm water management systems, or strengthening buildings, reduces future costs by an average of $6. This is an increase from a $4 savings stated in the 2005 estimate (Flavelle, 2018).

Major congratulations should be sent in the direction of Fort Collins, Colorado, who has created a model of preparedness (see article below). The Federal Emergency Management Agency has recognized Fort Collins as a “best of the best” community for its floodplain management and has earned additional accolades from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This momentum has resulted in the creation of a bipartisan group of more than 250 mayors, state legislators, and governors from all 50 states in signing a Flood-Ready Infrastructure Statement of Principles (Lightbody and Tompkins, 2018). This is exactly the momentum needed to improve the flood program.

Updated flood maps are essential for applying appropriate flood insurance and regulation measures, which protect life and property, but having the budget to continually update the nation’s maps will always be a challenge. Since the maps can never be totally accurate, being proactive with sound mitigation strategies is the best path to create a more sustainable and flourishing program. Stricter building codes, preserving floodplains from development, educating program stakeholders, and enhancing public perception are all effective strategies to change society’s attitude and behaviors about flood risk.




FloodSmart.gov is back online!

FEMA has recently re-introduced its FloodSmart.gov website, with enhanced customer-centric features! It includes many of the same helpful resources for learning about flood insurance, costs, and flood hazard preparedness, while being more streamlined and mobile friendly.

Click here to visit FloodSmart.gov.


Fannie Mae's Flood Insurance Coverage Requirements

The Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Fannie Mae, is a United States government-sponsored enterprise that provides housing finance for homebuyers and renters. This resource outlines the requirements concerning properties that are in high risk flood zones, acceptable forms of insurance, requirements for project developments, and more!

Check it out!

Ready image - Power Restoration

Safety Tips During Power Restoration

June 1st marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season! We will be sharing monthly graphics with safety tips to keep in mind when dealing with hurricanes, large storms, and flooding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts this season will be "near to above normal", though not to the same degree as 2017. This month's graphic provides tips on how to stay safe during power restoration (e.g., how to correctly use a generator, what to do when you see sparking power lines, and what you should do if you see utility trucks in your neighborhood).

Click here to view FEMA's infographic!


NFIP Terminology: High-Rise Building

High-rise condominium buildings have 5 or more units and at least 3 floors excluding an enclosure. An enclosure below an elevated building, even if it is the lowest floor for rating purposes, cannot be counted as a floor to avoid classifying the building as low rise. Under the NFIP, townhouses/rowhouses are not considered high-rise buildings, regardless of the number of floors.


Photo posted by the New England Aquarium during a high tide which followed a nor'easter in March 2018.

In the News

The Rising Tide

By Andrew W. Aoyama and Elida Kocharian, The Harvard Crimson, May 18, 2018

In the Boston, Massachusetts area, citizens are coming together to address concerns of climate change and resiliency against future flooding. The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance is drafting a citizens' petition, titled “Zoning Amendments for a Flood and Heat Resilient Cambridge," which proposes "specific amendments to improve city open space, infrastructure, and stormwater management. It expands existing zoning requirements to improve overall climate resiliency and community health and safety".

Read more!


These rocks indicate the reach of the 100- and 500-year storms in Fort Collins, Colorado to educate the public about floodplain restoration efforts.

How a New Flood Strategy Helped a Colorado City Skirt Disaster

By Laura Lightbody and Forbes Tompkins, The Pew Charitable Trusts, May 14, 2018

After a 1997 flash flood devastated Fort Collins and killed 5 people, the city upgraded its building codes and preserved more than 66% of the land within the nearby floodplains. Of the 14,000 structures built in Fort Collins since the 1997 flood, only 8 were damaged during the historic 2013 flood, which was the largest seen in that area since 1930.

Read more!


Coastal Connection: Just Below the Surface

By Joe Rossi, Wicked Local - Marshfield, May 18, 2018

Joe Rossi, ANFI, CFM, and Principal of Flood Insurance Services of America, wrote an opinion piece which digs beneath some of the "sensational headlines" about the current state of the National Flood Insurance Program, insurance underwriting practices, claims, and planning objectives.

"As a nation we should not be apologists for a Federal program, that despite its pitfalls, is the largest and most successful floodplain management and mapping program in the world. It saves taxpayers $2 billion annually simply due to good land use managment."

Read more!

for sale

Why Housing Values in New York's Flood Zones Have Stayed Down After Hurricane Sandy

By: Francesc Ortega and Suleyman Taspinar, Making Sen$e | PBS News Hour, May 11, 2018

"The chance of large-scale coastal flooding episodes is increasing. In the last few decades, sea levels have been rising steadily at about 3 centimeters per decade and many estimates expect that this rate will accelerate going forward. At the same time, the population living in coastal counties in the United States grew by 40 percent between 1970 and 2010 and is projected to continue rising. Are people considering the increased risk of flooding associated with sea level rise in their housing decisions? Looking at what happened to property values in New York City after Hurricane Sandy gives us a first look at how those on the front lines may be responding."

Click here to read the article.

masondixonline sign

Land Surveying Corner

Did you know?

The Mason-Dixon line is a boundary line that was created to settle a dispute between colony settlements in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were the British surveyors who were hired, and it took four years, from 1763-1767, to complete the survey of the 233 mile line.

Learn more!


June Flood Funny


Image posted by Christi Peoples on Mrs. Peoples' Language Arts Blog, April 3, 2017.

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