Much to the dismay of many local residents, the federal government has lowered the "flood" boom, so-to-speak. With the implementation of the new FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood zone maps on August 5th, many residents are finding that their property and homes are now classified as being in a special flood hazard area.
This can be a very big deal. First, some residents will be forced to buy flood insurance for the first time if their mortgage company requests it, and sooner than later it will. Secondly, many are reporting that the premiums for the insurance can be quite high.
Bulloch County building official and floodplain manager Dink Butler said the flood zone changes have taken affected residents by surprise.
"We have gotten a significant number of phone calls," he said. "It is a huge change for some people. Although hundreds of parcels have been moved out of flood zones with this new mapping, just as many or more have been moved in."
Butler said there was an open house held last October to provide information regarding Bulloch County's flood risk, flood insurance, floodplain development regulations, floodplain mapping, and timeline for adoption of the new maps, but there wasn't tremendous attendance.
"I don't think people realized how they would be affected," Butler said. "The last time flood maps were issued was 1991. Obviously, there has been a tremendous amount of construction in Bulloch County since then, and there are many homes that weren't built in flood zones that are now considered to be in flood zones."
Lee, Hill, and Johnston insurance agent Bobo Hook said buying flood insurance is not as simple as many think.
"Rating flood insurance accurately entails getting an elevation certificate by a surveyor, and then where your home sits on the property, and how it is constructed," Hook said. "Each property is unique. It takes some lead time to get that insurance."
Hook said he understands the frustration homeowners are facing when they find out that all of a sudden, they must buy flood insurance.
"It would be nice if you were truly grandfathered in to a preferred rate structure," he said. "However, the reality is each property is going to be rated based on accurate elevations and type of construction. For some people, this is going to be a significant expense for the time that the property is mortgaged. After the mortgage is retired, it is the homeowners decision whether or not to buy flood insurance."
Butler said there is some hope on the horizon.
"It is my understanding the federal government is going to "tighten" these maps up, and some properties that might be listed in flood zones today, won't be when the reissued maps come out in a couple of years," he said. "In the meantime, we have been issuing letters for property owners stating that the property was not in a flood zone before the map change. This has been helpful when purchasing flood insurance."
To check on the status of your parcel, you can go to Bulloch County's website and click on the Flood Map Update link on the home page. The address is www.bullochcounty.net.
So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
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