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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

In the News: "Urban Flooding Is On The Rise, So What Can Be Done?", "Congressional Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program" and "Mortgage Lenders Face Increasing Risks from Sea-Level Rise"
Resources: "Where to Find Upbeat News About Climate Change", "Know Your Risk: By Audience" and "Floodplain Management Requirements for Agricultural and Accessory Structures"
Flood Terminology: High Water Mark
Real Estate Corner: "Major Real Estate Website Now Shows Flood Risk. Should They All?"
Banner Image: Hurricane Sally brought flooding to Pensacola, Florida. The above image of the submerged motorcycle and cars is from September 16, 2020. Image from "Hurricane Sally Recovery Begins Amid Flooding Warnings"


Southeastern Texas in late August 2017 after Hurricane Harvey

In the News

Urban Flooding Is On The Rise, So What Can Be Done?

By Lisa Miller, Insurance Journal, August 6, 2020

As hurricane season heats up, a growing number of properties located outside of FEMA-designated high-risk flood zones are already flooding. The problem is especially bad in the urban areas of America’s cities. A national survey shows nearly 85% report experiencing urban flooding. Insurance claims are on the rise, too.

It occurs mostly in high growth areas, where development brings rain impervious surfaces, such as roads, driveways, and parking lots, which change the natural drainage pattern of the land.

Dr. Sam Brody of Texas A&M University states, 'These features of the built environment are creating the flood hazard and the associated impact. They’re either exacerbating or entirely creating the situation of risk. FEMA’s models, which are all based on stream channels, don’t account for these growing areas of risk and impact.'

Read more!

Congressional Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program

On September 30, 2020, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to September 30, 2021.

NFIP reauthorization is an opportunity for Congress to take bold steps to reduce the complexity of the program and strengthen the NFIP’s financial framework so that the program can continue helping individuals and communities take the critical step of securing flood insurance.

FEMA, October 1, 2020

Mortgage Lenders Face Increasing Risks from Sea-Level Rise

By Jan Ellen Spiegel, Yale Climate Connections, September 2, 2020

It was an eye-popping headline in the New York Times earlier this summer – “Rising Seas Threaten an American Institution: The 30-Year Mortgage.” The somewhat less-explosive point was that in an effort to avoid risks of climate change-caused defaults on mortgages – especially involving homes facing sea-level rise and increased flooding – banks have been selling off those mortgages.

And they’ve been selling them off to you and me.

More specifically, they’ve been selling them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two big government-created private lenders that handle more than half the U.S. mortgage market. But it’s taxpayers who pick up the tab for Fannie and Freddie’s debts – like defaults if sea-level rise makes a home unlivable and the owner stops paying the mortgage.

Read more!



good news

Where to Find Upbeat News About Climate Change

Need a break from the typical doom and gloom cycle of news these days? This article from Yale Climate Connections shares several resources to learn more about the positive news and stories of progress happening around the world.

Click here for climate cheer!


Know Your Risk: By Audience

To protect against floods, it is important to know the risks your area faces, the role you play in minimizing these risks, and the actions you can take to protect your community. There are three important steps to take in effectively reducing flood risks: 1) know your risk, 2) know your role, 3) take action.

This FEMA resource provides helpful products and tools to understand flood risk management by different audiences. It focuses on: Homeowners, Renters, and Business Owners; Community Officials; Engineers, Surveyors, and Architects; and Real Estate, Lending, and Insurance Professionals.

Learn more!


As defined in the policy, an agricultural structure is a structure used exclusively in connection with the production, harvesting, storage, raising, or drying of agricultural commodities and livestock. Further, an accessory structure refers to a structure that is on the same parcel of property as a principal structure and the use of which is incidental to the use of the principal structure, such as a detached garage, carport, or storage shed.

Floodplain Management Requirements for Agricultural and Accessory Structures

FEMA developed a guidance bulletin that clarifies and refines the requirements that apply to certain agricultural structures and accessory structures located in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). The purpose of the Floodplain Management Requirements for Agricultural Structures and Accessory Structures policy which went into effect this year, is to acknowledge the unique characteristics and uses of agricultural and accessory structures within the SFHA to ensure sound development and promote public health, safety, and welfare. It should be used as a reference for floodplain managers and those involved in regulating, planning, designing, and constructing agricultural structures and accessory structures in SFHAs.

Click here to download a PDF of the policy.

high water

In general terms, a high-water mark (HWM) is the highest level that water from a river, ocean, etc., reaches especially during a flood. This photo shows a high-water mark from the October 2015 flooding in Columbia, South Carolina. USGS partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other state and federal agencies to flag and survey HWM elevations in areas that were flooded to determine the extent and severity of the flooding.

Flood Terminology:

High-Water Mark

High-water marks provide valuable data for understanding recent and historical flood events. The proper collection and recording of high-water mark data from perishable and preserved evidence informs flood assessments, research, and water resource management. Given the high cost of flooding in developed areas, experienced hydrographers, using the best available techniques, can contribute high-quality data toward efforts such as public education of flood risk, flood inundation mapping, flood frequency computations, indirect streamflow measurement, and hazard assessments.

Check out "High-Water Marks and Flooding" from the U.S. Geological Survey to learn more!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

Major Real Estate Website Now Shows Flood Risk. Should They All?

By Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer, NPR, August 26, 2020

Millions of people rely on real estate websites when they're hoping to buy or rent a home. Major sites such as Zillow, Redfin, Trulia and Realtor.com feature kitchens, bathrooms, mortgage estimates and even school ratings. But those sites don't show buyers whether the house is likely to flood while they're living there.

Now, Realtor.com has become the first site to disclose information about a home's flood risk and how climate change could increase that risk in the coming decades, potentially signaling a major shift in consumers' access to information about climate threats.

Read more!


October Flood Funny

oct flood cartoon

Image by Signe Wilkinson

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