ice jam

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: "What is Storm Surge?"; "The Coastal Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping Process"; and "National Capital Planning Commission: Flood Risk Guide"
Flood Terminology: Write Your Own Program
Land Surveying Corner: "Reminisce Of An Old Surveyor: Measuring a Distance by Taping" by Knud Hermansen, PLS, PE, PhD, Esq.
In the News: The NFIP Gets Reauthorized and "NFIP Lapse During Government Shutdown Highlighted Insurance Gaps" and "Fluctuating Temperatures Are Causing Massive River Ice Jams"
Real Estate Corner: "The Real Estate Industry Needs To Adequately Outline Risk"

Banner Photo: Major flooding due to ice jams on the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine. Photo by George Manlove, Bangor Daily News, January 17, 2018.

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Last month, we eliminated the need for mandatory flood insurance for several of our clients by removing their homes from a Special Flood Hazard Area using FEMA’s Letter Of Map Amendment (LOMA) process. Each of the structures were vertically well above the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), so removal of these apparent “inadvertent inclusions” made sense. In one case, the structure was as much as thirty feet above the Base Flood Elevation. We have also eliminated several other structures from the flood insurance requirement that were much closer to the SFHA, both horizontally and vertically. Some of them were only tenths of a foot above the Base Flood Elevation. By simple observation, actual flood risk was more obvious in those removals.

What was accomplished with these removals? Sure, we have eliminated mandatory flood insurance, saving a homeowner monthly flood insurance premiums, and perhaps, even made the investors a bit more comfortable relative to investment risk, but we essentially accomplished nothing as it relates to actual risk. Actually, an argument could be made that the removal of flood insurance created a higher risk, especially if map error exists, or a large storm hits, because now the home would be unprotected.

How do we address this concern? To emphasize the difference between mapped flood risk and actual risk, and make sure homeowners are prepared for both, it is company policy to always recommend a client purchase a Preferred Risk Policy upon removal from a SFHA. Removal from a SFHA modifies risk based only on a flood map, but does not change actual risk on the ground. If actual risk was to change, either the structure or the flooding source would physically need to be moved. The latter can be achieved with a Physical Map Revision, but this effort is not part of a loan transaction. Conveying these concepts helps homeowners make more informed decisions, and protects consultants from potential liability by making sure clients understand the risk of having no insurance coverage.

For me, disconnect starts with a homeowner’s belief they have profound understanding and control of “risk”. Merriam-Webster defines risk as the possibility that something bad or unpleasant will happen. Driving a car at the speed limit while wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of being injured in a car accident, but it will never eliminate the danger completely since other factors contribute to risk outside of personal control. There is no difference with flood risk.

Siting or elevating a structure properly, constructing or purchasing a home outside of a SFHA, or having a flood insurance policy, whether mandatory or optional, are activities a homeowner can control. Poor development choices or over-development in a watershed, erosion, storm size, and accuracy of flood maps, are some of the many factors a homeowner cannot control. Believing one can control “risk” can be more dangerous than the risk itself.

So why do so many have a problem with flood risk when compared to other types of risk covered by health, life, auto, business, and dental insurances? In my opinion, homeowners can “touch and feel” what they believe is the sole contributor to flood risk, the flooding source. The above mentioned factors which cannot be controlled are quickly eliminated with visual observation, safely protected by personal biases and media articles which further support our flood risk decisions.

Winter Storm Riley hit the East Coast five days ago, and sadly, lives were lost, severe flooding occurred, and almost half a million people are still without power. A large majority of those impacted did not fall within a SFHA. Being pro-active and implementing strategies you can control will always yield a better result than being reactive to the factors you are not able to control.



CFM Exam Scheduled Next Month!

An upcoming Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) exam has been scheduled for Friday, April 6th at 9:00 AM at the ANR offices in Montpelier (1 National Life Drive, Montpelier VT). If you or someone you know may be interested in sitting for the exam, please have them contact Rebecca Pfeiffer, Floodplain Regulatory Team Lead/Northwest VT Floodplain Manager, with any questions.

Brian Longstaff, Zoning Administrator in Scarborough, Maine is now a CFM!

Congratulations to Brian Longstaff for achieving the designation of Certified Floodplain Manager! Brian is now the 12th in the State of Maine, and one of only two local community officials to be a CFM, the other being Werner Gilliam of Kennebunkport.



storm surge

What is Storm Surge?

The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit produced an informative document on storm surge. It describes the many factors that influence its impact, as well as how it is observed and measured.

Did you know that the population density in coastal counties along the Gulf of Mexico increased 32% from 1990 to 2008, and that a major hurricane hits that region every 2 years on average?

Download a PDF of "Introduction to Storm Surge"


The Coastal Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping Process

FEMA created a well-depicted infographic to explain the process of performing coastal flood hazard studies in order to update flood maps and flood insurance studies. This data drives communities toward mitigation actions to achieve greater resilience. The infographic takes a technical topic and makes it easy to understand. If you're a visual learner, this is a good one for you!

Download a PDF of FEMA's infographic.


Washington, D.C. during the great flood of 1936.

National Capital Planning Commission: Flood Risk Guide

The Washington D.C. area is no stranger to flooding events. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) assembled a guide to help facility managers, planners, and designers understand the flood risk that could affect their properties.

Click here for more information.


Flood Terminology: Write Your Own Program

The Write Your Own (WYO) Program began in 1983 and is a cooperative undertaking between the private insurance industry and FEMA. It allows participating property and casualty insurance companies to write and service the Standard Flood Insurance Policy in their own names. The companies receive an expense allowance for policies written and claims processed while the federal government retains responsibility for underwriting losses. The WYO Program operates as part of the NFIP and is subject to its rules and regulations.

The goals of the WYO Program are to:
* Increase the NFIP policy base and the geographic distribution of policies;
* Improve service to NFIP policyholders through the infusion of insurance industry knowledge;
* Provide the insurance industry with direct operating experience with flood insurance.


Land Surveying Corner

Reminisce Of An Old Surveyor: Measuring a Distance by Taping

By Knud E. Hermansen, P.L.S., P.E., Ph.D., Esq.

Maine land surveyor and educator, Knud Hermansen, shares his account of how land surveyors took field measurements before modern technology was integrated into the profession. He has been surveying for almost 50 years. Other land surveyors will likely identify with Knud's experiences, but even if you are not in the land surveying industry, you may find this article useful in understanding the intricacies of field work performed in days past.

Take some time and enjoy this wonderfully written trip down memory lane.


In the News

The National Flood Insurance Program has been given another life line!

On February 9, 2018, the President signed legislation passed by both houses of Congress, which will extend the program's authorization until March 23, 2018. There have been several reauthorizations and a brief lapse in the last few months.

Below is a link to FEMA's webpage to find updates on program status:

National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization

NFIP Lapse During Government Shutdown Highlighted Insurance Gaps

By Gloria Gonzalez, Business Insurance, January 30, 2018

So what happens, or could happen, if the program were to lapse again? This article from Business Insurance shares their evaluation of the recent lapse.

Click here to read the article.


Photo by Stan Horaczek, Popular Science, 2018

Fluctuating Temperatures Are Causing Massive River Ice Jams

By Stan Horaczek, Popular Science, February 16, 2018

Ice jams are a serious issue this time of year, especially in the northeast U.S. region, where temperatures can fluctuate quite drastically. Ice jams are caused when ice forms on top of a river, and then a thaw causes the ice to break and move downstream. Eventually, it hits a barrier such as a sharp river bend or a bridge, creates a dam, and then floods upstream.

Click here to read a story about the ice dam situation on Mohawk River in New York.

for sale

Real Estate Corner

The Real Estate Industry Needs To Adequately Outline Risk

By Brian Ambrette, The Baltimore Sun, November 7, 2017

This op-ed piece outlines three types of risk faced by homeowners and prospective buyers of property in areas of higher flood risk: 1) actual flooding, 2) rising flood insurance premiums, and 3) investment risk.

Read more!


Flood Funny


Image by Signe Wilkinson, 5/20/2011

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