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
Education Events: 3 Events in March!
In the News: "UCI, Other Researchers Find Collaborative Flood Modeling Process Effective", "Local Efforts to Address Climate Crisis Make Difference", and "Study Finds Flooding Damage to Levees is Cumulative - and Often Invisible"
Resources: "FEMA: Building Science" and "FEMA: Protecting Building Utility Systems from Flood Damage"
Real Estate Corner: "New Flood Insurance Maps Drawing Critical Reaction in NC"
Surveying Corner: "Updates from the Surveying Engineering Technology Program at University of Maine" and "Indiana’s 102-Year-Old Surveyor Retiring"

Banner Image: Photo from "Stop Driving Through Floods, You Idiots" by Dennis Mersereau, featured in The Vane, October 5, 2015.


Message from Jim

Constructing openings in foundation walls and walls of enclosures, regardless of whether a structure falls within or outside of a Special Flood Hazard Area, is an excellent example of a flood hazard mitigation strategy. Mitigation, as you may recall, is taking action to reduce risk, and is an important component of the National Flood Insurance Program’s mission to reduce the many negative impacts a flooding event can cause.

So what exactly is the purpose of openings in foundation walls and walls of enclosures? Foundation openings relieve pressure caused by standing or slow-moving floodwaters, as well as forces associated with waves and debris. Damage can also increase substantially if the impacted wall is “load-bearing” and supporting the structure.

NFIP regulations require residential buildings constructed in A zones (A, AE, A1-A30, AR, AO, and AH) to have the lowest floor (including a basement or an area of enclosure) elevated to or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) of the adjacent flooding source. A basement or area of enclosure are permitted under elevated buildings provided they meet certain construction requirements and are used only for parking, storage, or access. Installation of openings allowing for automatic entry and exit of floodwaters is another common requirement for enclosures. Enclosures under buildings in V zones (V, VE, and V1-V30), which are subject to wave velocity, must meet the same enclosure requirements as A zones, except openings are not required, but walls must be non-supporting breakaway walls, open lattice-work, or insect screening.

All decisions pertaining to foundation openings should be discussed with the community floodplain administrator to determine whether a higher design standard is enforced, such as “Freeboard”, since state and community requirements may be stricter than the NFIP’s minimum requirement. Additionally, compliant foundation or enclosure openings can reduce a flood insurance premium by thousands of dollars annually, by allowing the next higher floor to be viewed as the “lowest floor” for rating purposes since risk is reduced. Be pro-active and learn about mitigation options that can enhance safety and cost savings on your property.

Check out these FEMA Technical Bulletins for more information:

Openings in Foundation Walls and Walls of Enclosures

Design and Construction Guidance for Breakaway Walls


Education Events

March 3, 2020, 10:00 AM -12:00, Richmond, ME

Jim will be offering a presentation on flood zone mapping and insurance to the Maine Coalition of Home Inspection Professionals (MeCHIPs).

March 13, 2020, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM Manchester, NH

Floodplain Mapping, Regulation, and Insurance - Full Day Seminar!
William Nechamen, CFM and former State Floodplain Coordinator in New York, is partnering with HalfMoon Education, Inc. to offer a full day continuing education seminar covering many topics in floodplain management. Seven CE credits are offered to architects, engineers, and Certified Floodplain Managers.

Click here to view the brochure and register for the seminar.

March 18, 2020, Italian Heritage Center, Portland, ME

CUSO Home Lending is hosting an expo for their credit union partners, and Jim has been invited to speak about flood mapping changes. More information to come!


In the News

UCI, Other Researchers Find Collaborative Flood Modeling Process Effective

UCI News, January 21, 2020

Collaborative flood modeling combines the experiences and concerns of residents, landowners, government officials and business leaders with the knowledge and technological capabilities of academic researchers to foster a shared understanding of flood risk. A crucial element of any such effort is the iterative development of high-resolution flood maps, or visualizations, based on hydrologic models and the insights of people who have lived through past floods.

Read more!

Local Efforts to Address Climate Crisis Make Difference

Frank Carini, ecoRI News, January 20, 2020

A special legislative commission in Rhode Island found that "many policymakers in municipal and state government are unaware of the threat of sea-level rise — Rhode Island has 21 coastal municipalities — and increased flooding." In 2017, legislation was passed that mandated every municipal official attend training on sea level rise and building in floodplains. The training consists of a free 2-hour course required once every two years.

"The impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to more extreme rainfall events, are already being felt in Rhode Island,” according to a 2016 report by the state’s Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council. “It is widely accepted that action is needed now, not just in the future."

Read more!


Levees are earth embankments that protect against flooding. Image by Steven Warren.

Study Finds Flooding Damage to Levees is Cumulative - and Often Invisible

By Mohammed Gabr et al., NC State University News, January 21, 2020

Recent research finds that repeated flooding events have a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of earthen levees, suggesting that the increase in extreme weather events associated with climate change could pose significant challenges for the nation’s aging levee system.

Read more!



build sci1

FEMA: Building Science

The FEMA Building Science Branch provides technical services for the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA). The branch develops and produces multi-hazard mitigation guidance that focuses on creating disaster-resilient communities to reduce loss of life and property. Building Science Branch activities include deploying Mitigation Assessment Teams to conduct post-disaster engineering investigations for both man-made and natural hazard events.

Learn more!


FEMA: Protecting Building Utility Systems from Flood Damage

A significant portion of flood damage is attributed to critical building systems including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other utility elements. Residents, communities and businesses are all impacted when building utility systems are damaged and cause delays in post-flood building re-occupancy. This publication illustrates the design and construction of utility systems that comply with the NFIP requirements for construction of new residential and non-residential structures in flood-prone areas.

Click here to download a PDF of FEMA P-348, Edition 2, February 2017.

for sale

Real Estate Corner

New Flood Insurance Maps Drawing Critical Reaction in NC

By Michelle Wagner, Carolina Public Press, January 21, 2020

After years of updating flood hazard data, North Carolina and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been rolling out the latest Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs, for communities along the coast – but some state and local officials are cautioning residents against relying too heavily on the new documents when assessing risk.

N.C. Floodplain Mapping Program outreach coordinator, Randy Mundt stated, "Luckily, the National Flood Insurance Program and North Carolina state law allow communities to exercise higher regulatory standards than what the program’s minimum flood plain management standards are – and communities are doing just that."

Read more!


Surveying Corner

Updates from the Surveying Engineering Technology Program at University of Maine

The SVT faculty is pleased to share there was a large influx of students enrolled due to availability of online degrees and an incredible reduction in out-of-state tuition costs. Veterans, no matter where they live, qualify for in-state tuition, along with dependents using a veteran's G.I. Bill.

Since the commencement of the online program, the university has passed 130 undergraduates, with the first graduating this May. University of Maine finished 2nd place in the annual NCEES Surveying Education Award. This is the 4th straight year receiving the award, earning 1st place in 2017. Way to go, University of Maine!

Click here for more information on the Surveying Engineering Technology Program.

Indiana’s 102-Year-Old Surveyor Retiring

Point of Beginning, January 21, 2020

At 102 Bob Vollmer is Indiana’s oldest state employee. Vollmer is retiring after nearly six decades on the job, saying that “your body tells you when it’s time to go.”

Bob Vollmer plans to report to work as a surveyor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for the last time Feb. 6. The southern Indiana man, whose mother lived to be 108, joined the state agency in 1962. During his DNR career, the tools of the surveying trade evolved from paper and pencil to high-tech gear such as a handheld GNSS device.

Read more!


February Flood Funny

The photo below does not depict an actual place, but one created digitally in a studio, and it has swept the internet as a wonderfully romantic hoax, said to depict the Heart River in North Dakota.
While the Heart River does in fact exist in North Dakota, no aerial imagery has captured anything remotely close to looking like this. Happy Valentine's Day!

heart river

Image featured on HoaxEye, originally created by Vienna Paint.

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