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. This newsletter has been proudly featured by the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the National Society of Professional Surveyors, and the Maine and New Hampshire Floodplain Management Programs. Please feel free to share with your friends and colleagues!

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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Announcement: New Continuing Education Course for RE Appraisers!
In the News: "The U.S. Won't Be Prepared For The Next Natural Disaster", and "Charleston to Consider Pausing Development in Flood-prone Areas on James, Johns Islands"
NFIP Guidance: Flood Hazard Mapping Updates - Overview
Resources: Lake-Effect Snow, Atmospheric Rivers, and the Polar Vortex
Real Estate Corner: "How America Fails at Communicating Flood Risks" and "How to Winterize a Vacant House"

Banner Image: A table and benches are surrounded by frozen flood water on a river bench near Hirschfeld, southern Germany. The Telegraph, 2019


Message from Jim

A proactive person is someone who gets things done; they make things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen. A proactive person often has ample opportunity to steer their own journey in a preferred direction, or to a desired outcome. With a clear understanding of this concept, fear of the unknown can often be eliminated. The choice to be proactive continues to exist within the flood program locally.

Recently, we were notified by Sue Baker, the Maine NFIP Coordinator, that the revised preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) for Cumberland and York Counties scheduled to become effective this July are now rescheduled to become effective in 2020. Why another delay? There are several communities in both counties that continue to appeal the preliminary DFIRMs and those appeals must be resolved before the proposed countywide maps can be finalized. FEMA has not yet published a new effective date.

As a flood consultant, I am never disappointed with the delaying of the effective date of a map change because it creates additional opportunity for property owners to become proactive prior to, rather than reactive after, the change. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are several options that could create cost savings and ease the transition into a different flood zone. Such options might include placing properly compacted fill around a structure, changing the lowest floor for insurance rating, relocating mechanicals, installing flood vents, obtaining a LOMA removal document, or simply purchasing flood insurance. Comparing current elevations to a proposed Base Flood Elevation will often generate a sound strategy to best prepare for a map change, but this requires being proactive.

Understanding flood risk, while executing the best options to enhance life safety and protect real estate value, awaits the proactive person.


Announcement - New Continuing Education Course!

We are pleased to announce we have a new continuing education course for real estate appraisers!

This two-hour course entitled, Flood Zone Mapping & Real Estate, has been approved by the Maine Board of Real Estate Appraisers for two CE credits. It provides an introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program, describes how flood maps and flood insurance impact real estate value, and offers ways to prepare for a future flood map change.

Our first course offering is this Friday, hosted by the Maine Chapter of the Appraisal Institute.


In the News

The U.S. Won't Be Prepared For The Next Natural Disaster

By: Gabrielle Canon, The Guardian, January 18, 2019

In the US, according to Patrick Roberts, an associate professor at Virginia Tech and author of the book "Disasters and the American State", there needs to be a shift in focus. Roberts believes too much pressure and reliance is put on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when resources and preparation should start at the state and local levels.

"FEMA isn’t the cavalry,” he says, explaining that the agency is often blamed for things beyond its control. “The roots of vulnerability to disaster are in communities. The neighbors, the residents, the city, the state – they are going to be the first to respond and they are going to do the bulk of the rebuilding.”

Read more!

Charleston to Consider Pausing Development in Flood-prone Areas on James, Johns Islands

By: Abigail Darlington, The Post and Courier, January 18, 2019

Charleston City Councilwoman Carol Jackson is proposing to pause new development within Special Flood Hazard Areas until the city finishes updating its Stormwater Design Standards Manual. Developers would then have to comply with those standards before getting a permit.

"New developments in floodplains are exacerbating the city's drainage woes, largely due to a lack of regulations on destructive building practices. On Johns Island, for instance, subdivision builders have replaced hundreds of acres of swampy forests with fill dirt, which alters the land’s elevation and ability to absorb water."

There's no telling whether the proposal will have the support of the other 11 members of the council to approve the moratorium, but it is a good start in the right direction for flood-prone communities such as this.

Read more!


NFIP Guidance: Flood Hazard Mapping Updates

FEMA released a great overview about flood map changes, which defines common terminology and mapping products, describes the various map change procedures, and provides links to additional information. One particularly helpful feature is that for each product, it tells you what it is, what is being revised, whether there is an appeal period, what the output is, when it becomes effective, and where it can be found on FEMA's Map Service Center!

Click here to download the PDF.



Winter is a great time to learn about extreme weather and phenomenal occurrences! As the Eastern U.S. gets hit by blasts of cold temperatures and snow, the Western region is getting slammed by flooding, mudslides, and avalanches. What is the cause of all of this? Let's take a look!

lake effect

What is Lake-Effect Snow?

Lake-effect snow forms when cold air passes over the warmer waters of a lake. The warmer the lake water, the more moisture is taken up. If the wind is blowing in a direction that covers more of the lake, the air will take in more water. This moisture makes for a large amount of snow to be dumped on nearby land, which is why cities like Buffalo, NY get hit with such heavy snow, being just east of the Great Lakes.

Learn more!


What are Atmospheric Rivers?

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this large amount of water vapor in the form of rain or snow. When coming from Hawaii to the west coast of the U.S., the river is often referred to as "Pineapple Express", and it is responsible for much of the flooding, but also, the necessary snow pack that California relies on for water supply.

Learn more!


What is the Polar Vortex?

A polar vortex is an area of low pressure—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—normally parked in polar regions. When the vortex is strong and healthy, it helps keep a current of air known as the jet stream traveling around the globe in a pretty circular path, keeping cold air up north and warm air down south. But put a couple of areas of high-pressure systems in its way, and suddenly, a river of cold air is being pushed down south creating wild weather and sub-zero temperatures in the U.S.

Learn more!

The Amazing Spinning Ice Disk!

This section on interesting weather patterns wouldn't be complete without highlighting the national story about the phenomenal ice disk spinning right in our own back yard! This one, on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine, is about 300 feet in diameter – making it one of the largest, if not the largest, one on record. The phenomenon was first reported on January 14 and has attracted thousands of onlookers.

Mark Battle, an associate physics professor at nearby Bowdoin College, explains:

"It’s actually a rather well-known natural phenomenon, usually found in spots where there is a circular current in a river or stream that creates a whirlpool effect. Random eddies in water tend to follow a circular route. In winter, ice crystals in this slower-moving water can gradually coalesce to form a circular “mat” of ice. The current keeps the ice disk in place as it slowly rotates. As the disk turns, it bumps up against the shoreline or other chunks of ice and is essentially “lathed down” until it is round. The result is an ice disk that can be surprisingly circular and smooth-edged."

Read more!

Here's a link to the town's webcam for live updates!

ice disc
for sale

Real Estate Corner

How America Fails at Communicating Flood Risks

By: Carolyn Kousky, CityLab, October 11, 2018

For the majority of Americans, their home is the biggest purchase they will make and the largest contributor to their total net worth. And for renters and owners alike, our homes represent security and sanctuary.

Few people would choose to live somewhere they knew would be flooded with unsanitary water, sending mold up the walls. Few would choose a home where repairing flood damage would send them into debt, or replacing damaged contents would be a financial hardship. Few would buy a home where increasing risks would drive down its value.

Read more!

frozen pipe

How to Winterize a Vacant House

By HomeAdvisor

Though occupied homes can also benefit from a quick winterization, vacant houses are particularly prone to damage during extended periods of freezing temperatures. By winterizing a vacant house, you are protecting your investment, and keeping it in good condition so it can be sold, rented or otherwise inhabited at a moment’s notice without worry of unforeseen issues.

Read more!


February Flood Funny

feb flood2

Image by Raeside Cartoons

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