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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Announcement: University of Maine to Offer First Online Survey Engineering Technology Program!
Speaking Engagements: Maine Coastal Erosion Control Workshop, April 25, 2018
Resources: Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Erosion and Flooding
NFIP Changes: Program Changes Effective as of April 1, 2018
In the News: "America's Flood Insurance Chief Has a Message For All Floridians: You're At Risk"; "A Word From ASFPM's Executive Director On Positive Aspects of the Omnibus Budget"; and "FDIC Penalizes Two Banks for Flood Insurance Violations"
Real Estate Corner: "Assessing Flood Risk in Commercial Real Estate"

Banner Photo: A mother and her daughter row a boat to check out their flooded home in Plainfield Township, Michigan on February 26, 2018. Photo Credit: Neil Blake, Associated Press.

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season starts a few weeks earlier on May 15, also ends November 30, and extends to 140 Degrees West Longitude.

Included in the tropical cyclone family are a Tropical Depression with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph, a Tropical Storm with sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph, a Hurricane with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher, and Major Hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons, and similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones (NOAA, 2018). All these storm types have caused flood damage.

Fortunately, with the winter season behind us, we can now simply enjoy spring and not worry about a tropical storm for the next few months, right? Well, not really, not ever! Off-season hurricanes can occur, but even if they don’t this year, the proactive person will recognize how past reform and recent April 1, 2018 program changes can be applied to a specific site to allow a homeowner to make informed decisions on risk assessment, insurance, and real estate value.

Mitigation strategies, continuous coverage, grandfathering, fill, flood vent openings, determining a structure’s lowest grade, or simply staying out of the Special Flood Hazard Area are several concepts of many which should be evaluated to reduce the impact of increasing premiums or actual flood risk. Like it or not, climate change and the removal of Pre-FIRM subsidies are going to continue in our lives moving forward. This is a true “elephant in the room”. This is a different type of storm causing a different kind of damage, and the best shelter is making improved personal choices. Hard choices no doubt, but without personal accountability as a major influencing factor, the program will always have its naysayers.

Enhanced maps will improve the identification of perceived flood hazard areas, having a 1% (1 in 100) annual chance of occurring, for insurance rating purposes, but actual risk can be so different. For example, Houston has encountered more than three 0.2% (1 in 500) annual chance floods in the last three years (Ingraham, 2017). Maps will continue to depict representations of the 1% annual chance flood, but they will never depict Special Flood Hazard Areas for these larger storms.

Last month, Roy Wright, who oversees FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, said Floridians should look at their driver’s licenses, rather than bother with flood zone maps. “If it says Florida, you need flood insurance" (Schlanger, 2018). At first read, this statement is humorous, but it is quite on the mark. Flood map lines, regardless of how accurate they are, do not define the extent of a storm's reach; they mainly exist for insurance premium rating for federally-backed or insured loans, or for community regulation. They are called “Flood Insurance Rate Maps” for a reason. Using them for planning purposes is appropriate to an extent, but everyone must understand that map lines do not define actual risk. In the perfect world, each storm would stop at the depicted flood zone line, but we do not live in a perfect world. Understanding this difference is a personal choice.



Congratulations to the University of Maine!

The University of Maine has been approved to offer its existing Bachelor of Science in Survey Engineering Technology (SVT) program in an online format, making this the first ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) accredited online surveying engineering technology program in the country! The program is hoping to launch its first online classes as soon as Fall 2018.

Click here for more information on this degree program.

erosion control

Speaking Engagements

Maine Coastal Erosion Control Workshop - April 25, 2018

Jim will be speaking about flood maps and flood insurance at the Maine Coastal Erosion Control Workshop, hosted by E.J. Prescott on April 25, 2018 at the Brunswick Inn & Tavern in Brunswick, Maine.

The event is co-sponsored by Maine Sea Grant and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and will explore coastal erosion control problems and solutions, but will also look ahead at the implications of sea level rise and its potential impacts on coastal communities. Continental breakfast, lunch and all conference materials are included in the $35 fee, and all participants will receive certificates for 5.5 Professional Development Hours.

Click here to learn more and register!



gulf of maine

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute hosts an event series called Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise. "Ensuring the region's resiliency to climate impacts, such as sea level rise, requires a scientifically informed and engaged public. Here's your chance to join that group of engaged individuals in your community!"

To learn more about the Institute's scheduled events, click here!


Erosion due to a heavy rain in Colorado left many utility lines exposed. Image from Colorado Dept. of Transportation

Erosion and Flooding

Soil erosion is a natural process which has been exacerbated by human activities such as agriculture and deforestation. Natural causes include heavy rainfall and flooding, high winds, and flow of rivers and streams. Human activities include over-tilling, over stocking, and urbanization. The outcomes of soil erosion are reduced agricultural productivity, ecological collapse, soil degradation, and the possibility of desertification.

Click here to learn more!


April 1st, 2018 - NFIP Changes

FEMA has provided a summary of NFIP changes which went into effect as of April 1st, as well as some which will go into effect on January 1, 2019. Overall, flood insurance premiums will increase an average of 8%, in compliance with the requirements of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.

Click here to download a PDF of FEMA's Summary of Changes.

miami flood

Flooding in Miami, Florida in October 2016. This was not even due to a coastal storm, but a high tide called the King Tide. Click on the image to learn more about King Tides in Florida.

In the News

America's Flood Insurance Chief Has a Message For All Floridians: You're At Risk

By: Jenny Staletovich, Miami Herald, March 5, 2018

"If you’re a homeowner in Florida relying on flood zone maps to decide whether to buy insurance, you may want to check your driver license instead.

“If it says Florida, you need flood insurance,” said Roy Wright, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which covers more policies in Florida than any other state. “It may be more helpful than trying to find the right map."

Click here to read more!


A word from ASFPM's Executive Director on positive aspects of the Omnibus budget

By: Chad Berginnis, Association of State Floodplain Managers, March 22, 2018

"Congress released the text of the FY18 Omnibus late March 21 and I am thrilled to be able to report that the budget for pre-disaster mitigation and floodplain mapping are at their highest appropriated levels ever!"

Read more!


FDIC Penalizes Two Banks for Flood Insurance Violations

By: Weiner Brodsky Kider PC, JD Supra, March 13, 2018

Ever wonder what could happen if a lender fails to require flood insurance when the collateral of the loan is scaled in a Special Flood Hazard Area?

The FDIC recently assessed civil money penalties against a Michigan-based and a Wisconsin-based bank for allegedly violating the Flood Disaster Protection Act and the National Flood Insurance Act.

Read more!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

Assessing Flood Risk in Commercial Real Estate

By: Dianne Crocker, EDR, January 23, 2018

Professional members of the Environmental Bankers Association responded to last year’s epic hurricanes to provide valuable response work, assess contamination and assist in getting businesses back up and running. This article documents those important efforts with a look toward what last year’s historic hurricane activity means for the future of assessing flood risk at commercial properties, as well as the results of EDR’s analysis into the types of environmental risks in the storms’ areas of impact.

Read more!


April Flood Funny

snow melt
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