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hallowell

1987 Flood in Hallowell, Maine. Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Transportation.

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.

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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Resources: "Mapping the Zone: Improving Flood Map Accuracy", "Flood Risk Management: Value to the Nation" and "Protecting Building Utility Systems from Flood Damage"
Flood Q & A: What use are preliminary flood maps?
In the News: "Federal Maps Underestimate Flood Risk for Tens of Millions of People, Scientists Warn" and "Rising Seas At Acadia: Implications and Strategies for a Changing Landscape"
Real Estate Corner: "18 Things Real Estate Agents Should Do Before 2018" and "Assessing Risk A Growing Part of Valuing Real Estate"

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Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Reading a recent article in Science News titled “Federal maps underestimate flood risk for tens of millions of people, scientist warns” (attached in this newsletter), I immediately tried to guess the intended message: is it providing additional support for the notion that flood map accuracy is poor, or trying to convey notice that flood risk will continue to grow but time still exists to implement improved mitigation strategies?

Researchers at the University of Bristol in England compared FEMA’s estimate of how many people in the U.S. currently live in the floodplain (13 million) to a number created by merging a wide range of data collected from the United States Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency (40 million). They also computed anticipated increases in floodplain occupation to 60 million people by 2050, and 75 million by 2100.

So what do these numbers mean? It does expose an obvious reality that regardless of your climate change beliefs, flood risk will continue to worsen, but are the above increases caused by map inaccuracies, urban flooding, poor development choices, population increases along or within the floodplain, or did the size and shape of the floodplain change using sea level rise predictions? Publications such as these give us a large-scale perspective of the future, but can also have a negative effect on the flood program, as they can make the growing flood risk problem appear to be more of a national or global concern, simply out of reach of any one person to believe they can help improve the situation. It is like believing a single vote won’t make a difference in an election.

Do you know that if we include Hurricane Harvey as the 8th flooding event since 2001 which resulted in payout claims of at least one billion dollars, simple math tells us these immense storms are occurring every other year since we entered the 21st century? Between 1968 and 2000, no flooding event resulted in a billion dollar claims payout, and the total cost of actual damages always dwarfs payout claims, further energized by many without flood insurance. The term “low probability – high consequence” should stop being used when we are talking flood as it allows for behavior which inhibits the proper addressing of flood risk.

Identifying parameters used in any prediction allows for an improved understanding, but seldom do flood impact articles delve into personal choices, behavior, and habits. Requiring the government to make this problem go away is not going to happen. Regulation and mapping will never keep pace with the growing flood risk due to budget constraints and the many poor choices society continues to make relative to flood. Addressing the issue adequately will require an effort similar to everybody going to the polls and voting. Together, the combined effort will create a society choosing to be pro-active by implementing sound mitigation strategies and making better choices. Being reactive and trying to deal with flood by boarding up windows or evacuating your home does little to improve flood readiness. Allowing our decisions to be driven by our values, which are often emotional, subjective, and selfish, is not working. Accepting the concept that “flood will continue to negatively impact our lives” is a principal worthy of acceptance.

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Resources

nap

Mapping the Zone: Improving Flood Map Accuracy

At the request of FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA), the National Research Council convened a committee to examine the factors that affect the quality and accuracy of flood maps, assess the costs and benefits of map improvement efforts, and recommend ways to improve flood mapping, communication, and management of flood-related data.

Click here to view the "report in brief".

usace

Flood Risk Management: Value to the Nation

The US Army Corps of Engineers has created a great brochure about the value of flood risk management to individuals and communities, the economy, and the environment. It discusses the importance of working together to effectively and efficiently reduce flood risk and increase the nation's awareness of coastal and inland risks.

Click here to download a PDF of the brochure!

utilities

Image from: "Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems". FEMA P-348, Edition 2, February 2017

Protecting Building Utility Systems from Flood Damage

This FEMA publication illustrates the design and construction of utility systems that comply with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements for construction of new residential and non-residential structures in
flood-prone areas.

Click here to download a PDF of the publication.

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prelim

Flood Q & A

Q: We received notice from our town that the community has received "Preliminary Flood Hazard Maps". What exactly does this mean?

A: When FEMA releases Preliminary Flood Hazard Data, that means a detailed study has been performed in the area. While the results are being reviewed by the community, the data is considered "preliminary" and the maps are "drafts". The maps are not considered "effective" for insurance rating purposes until they are officially adopted by the community, but the data can still be used in the following ways:

1. Draft (preliminary) maps provide the community with additional information to understand how coastal and flooding risks have changed over time in your community.
2. Draft (preliminary) information allows a home owner/business owner to compare current flood risk with the historic flood risk depicted on the current flood hazard map adopted by your community.
3. In areas where flood risk has increased, communities may use the draft (preliminary) mapping to manage future development of the floodplain and in other planning contexts.
1. Draft (preliminary) maps provide the community with additional information to understand how coastal and flooding risks have changed over time in your community.
2. Draft (preliminary) information allows a home owner/business owner to compare current flood risk with the historic flood risk depicted on the current flood hazard map adopted by your community.
3. In areas where flood risk has increased, communities may use the draft (preliminary) mapping to manage future development of the floodplain and in other planning contexts.

Note: If you have a federally-insured mortgage and the community in which you live receives updated FIRMs, your lender may make new flood zone determinations once the FIRM becomes effective. This could change the requirement for mandatory flood insurance. Use the Preliminary maps as a guide to discuss options with an insurance agent prior to them going into effect.

Click here for more information on Preliminary Flood Hazard Data.

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In the News

Federal Maps Underestimate Flood Risk for Tens of Millions of People, Scientists Warn

By Carolyn Gramling, Science News, December 13, 2017

Oliver Wing, a geographer at the University of Bristol in England, and his colleagues "amassed a wealth of data, including the U.S. Geological Survey’s river gauge data, lidar measurements of land-surface elevation, rainfall data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and population density maps from the Environmental Protection Agency. By combining these data, the researchers found that about 40 million people in the United States live in 1-in-100-year risk zones, three times as many people as FEMA’s estimate."

Read more!

acadia

Rising Seas At Acadia: Implications and Strategies for a Changing Landscape

By: Catherine Schmitt, Maine Sea Grant, November 8, 2017

"Marshes exist in the narrow space between low and high tides; they have developed over hundreds of years of slowly rising sea levels. With the rate of sea level rise accelerating, salt marshes could disappear within decades.

Why care? Marshes are as productive as agricultural cropland, supporting the coastal food web of fish, shellfish, birds, and other animals. Marshes act like a filter, helping to clean coastal waters. They absorb the energy of storm surges and floods, protecting property."

Click here to download a PDF of the full story.

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for sale

Real Estate Corner

18 Things Real Estate Agents Should Do Before 2018

By Rachael Hite, Inman, December 7, 2017

These tips actually could apply to just about anyone! Take a peek to get some ideas about things that could make 2018 a more successful year, with less stress, and more motivation to reach your personal and professional goals.

Check out the list!

Galveston

The flooded roadway of the FM 529 underpass at U.S. 290 in April 2016 is an example of threats the website might reveal. Photo by Melissa Phillip, Staff (The Houston Chronicle)

Assessing Risk a Growing Part of Valuing Real Estate

By Dylan Baddour, The Houston Chronicle, August 1, 2017

"Houston-area homeowners and buyers can now find a comprehensive assessment of hazard risk, from hurricanes and floods to industrial disasters, for each individual property in the city. The new web portal from a Texas A&M University-Galveston researcher comes online as risk data grow increasingly relevant in real estate markets.

'We've discovered that residents just are not aware of the risk, particularly in the homebuying process,' Brody said."

Read more!

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