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Welcome to the Flood Zone!

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: Local, Regional, and National
Flood Q&A: What Causes Storm Surge?
In the News: "National Flood Insurance Program Extended Until December" and "Our View: Ignoring Flood Risk Won't Make it Go Away"
Real Estate Corner: "7 Pricing Myths to Stop Believing if You Ever Hope to Sell Your House"

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Guess who’s turning 50 next year? If you guessed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you would be correct! Did you know that in the program’s year of inception, 1968, a year’s tuition at Harvard University was $2,000, a new vehicle cost $2,822, and a new home cost $14,975 (Seek Publishing, n.d)? So for less than $20,000, one could have gone to an Ivy League school for a year, and bought a new house and vehicle. Of course these numbers are approximate, but compared to today’s price tags, the world is now a much more expensive place to live.

In the same passage of time, the NFIP has arguably dealt with higher price tags due to an increase in coastal populations and development. Actually, the program performed very well for much of its existence, meaning flood claims were paid solely from collected premiums, until four major hurricanes (Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne) hit Florida in 2004, followed by Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, making it the costliest year in insurance history. Hurricane Sandy brought flood risk front and center as it brought billions of dollars in insured and uninsured losses to New York City, the nation’s financial (including insurance) engine-room, and one of its two media hubs (NAIC, 2017). Now the program is deeply in debt, the future of its continued reauthorization by Congress is uncertain, and costly storms still continue to occur. Many are now talking about its direction more seriously.

Eventually our government will publish numbers for damages caused by Harvey and Irma, and claims paid, but sadly, these figures will not include values for loss of life, businesses, employment, quality of life, retirements plans, etc. For each storm, this is a never-ending increasing number. Whether or not one believes that sea level rise and climate change is occurring, I think we can all agree on the harsh reality that these large storms are life changing for many people in very tangible ways. We may not be able to control the weather, but there are things that we do have control over that should not be ignored, such as responsible development and planning.

As mentioned in previous messages, many conveniently believe that if not mapped in a high risk flood zone, or if living in an area that hasn’t seen a flood in 100 years, that one is safe from flooding. By understanding causes of flooding, and the many parameters that can increase a flood’s impact, such as continued growth in urban areas, re-thinking this belief is recommended. Urban flooding is caused by the lack of absorption or storage of water in urban areas, largely due to the amount of impervious surface present and insufficient drainage to handle the intensified flow. Urban flooding caused immense damage during Hurricane Harvey due to development in areas which should have remained untouched. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many to not have a flood insurance policy in place because mandatory purchase is not required. Remember, watershed changes adjacent to a floodplain which may not be reflected in the current flood map, do not change perceived risk, but do change actual risk.

I visited Miami’s South Beach just prior to Hurricane Irma, and was amazed how quickly catch basins along curb lines were coughing water back up into the streets. In a matter of 15 minutes of rain, the drainage infrastructure was at capacity—the water had no place to go! Adding to the increased occurrence of urban flooding is overdevelopment, poor development choices, weak or non-existent regulation, and population increases. Preparedness and mitigation through education must take front and center.

On a lighter note, Harvey and Irma Schluter of Spokane, Washington celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this past March. But unfortunately, they have watched their names flicker across the television screen with reports of death, destruction and evacuation. “Really sad,” Mrs. Schluter said of the news reports (Bromwich, 2017). Hopefully, unified recovery efforts, positive community engagement, and stronger mitigation strategies will become the more lasting memories from these tragic events.





Climate Change Institute: Maine's Climate Future

The Climate Change Institute (CCI) is the hub of climate change research at the University of Maine. It is a trusted resource for scientific information and accessible tools related to the climate sciences used throughout the State of Maine and around the world.

Check out Maine's Climate Future Report (updated in 2015) to learn about the past, present, and future impacts of climate change in Maine, as well as the many activities being performed to address it.

usgs new england


USGS New England Water Science Center

The New England Water Science Center website provides information on the region's rivers and streams, groundwater, water quality, and biology. Data collection and interpretive studies address: ecosystem status and change; climate variability and change; national hazard risk and assessment; environmental risk to human health; water use and availability; and transportation activities in relation to water resources.



NOAA's National Weather Service Flood Safety Resources

This online resource provides helpful information on what to do before, during, and after a flood, as well as state flood information, forecasts and observations, flood hazard maps, education and outreach materials, and more!

Check it out!


Flood Q&A

What Causes Storm Surge?

Strong hurricane winds blow along the ocean surface and cause water to pile up as it approaches the shoreline. Low pressure at the storm's center causes water to bulge upward. The surge effect from wind is much higher than that caused by low pressure.

Storm intensity, forward speed, size, central pressure, shape, and angle of approach to the coast all determine how strong the surge will be. The shape of bays and estuaries and slope of the ocean bottom also play a large role.

Coastal areas adjacent to a steeply sloping ocean bottom will experience less surge than areas adjacent to shallow slopes, given the same storm.

storm surge

Waves move on top of the surge and cause even more damage by acting as battering rams to flooded structures. Water weighs about 1700 pounds per cubic yard, so it can easily demolish buildings. Surge undermines roads and foundations when it erodes material out from underneath them. It can also send salt water into the fresh water drinking supply.

"About Storm Surge", NOAA


In the News

National Flood Insurance Program Extended Until December 8.

The Insurance Journal, September 11, 2017

"The NFIP extension is part of a Congressional continuing resolution (H.R. 601) raising the debt limit and funding the U.S. government until Dec. 8. It also authorizes a total of $15.25 billion in emergency funding for disaster relief and rebuilding that includes $7.8 billion for victims of Hurricane Harvey".

Read more!

portland flood

This photo is was taken in 2010 at the Portland Pier in Portland, Maine. The flooding was a result of high tide.

Our View: Ignoring Flood Risk Won't Make it Go Away

By The Editorial Board, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinal, September 13, 2017

"Mainers have had the luxury of watching as hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated the Southeast, but we can’t afford to let our distance from the destruction lull us into complacency. As sea levels and precipitation rise, making severe weather more likely, so has the risk of a major flood here."

Read more!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

7 Pricing Myths to Stop Believing if You Ever Hope to Sell Your House

By Cathie Ericson,, September 7, 2017

"Too many home sellers fall prey to myths about home pricing that seem to make sense at first, but don't jibe with the reality of real estate markets today. To make sure you haven't bought into any of this malarkey—since the buyers you're trying to woo sure haven't—here are some common pricing myths you'll want to rinse from your brain so you kick off your home-selling venture with realistic expectations. It's time to get real, folks!"

Read more!


October Surveying Funny

kids thought this land surveyor was taking a picture. 9204002618
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