The Problem With Flood Maps

A very hard lesson was learned because of Hurricane Katrina. The flood maps that were used to determine flood zones were very inaccurate. For some strange reason, places that were within 50 feet of the sea wall were not listed in the flood plain maps. This came as a great shock and may explain why more people did not have flood insurance in Mississippi.

Some of public officials dropped the ball on this one.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale said he was as surprised as everyone else to learn flood insurance rate maps were highly inaccurate.
Dale did not realize many properties near the beach were outside flood areas designated on the 1980s maps. Only property owners within the flood plain are required to carry flood insurance.
Under the National Flood Insurance Program, the maps are supposed to be reviewed every five years. Also, the maps are supposed to be updated at the request of state or local government, Gulfport attorney Joe Sam Owen has pointed out.Sunherald

This is not just a problem for citizens along the Mississippi Coast, Alabama, and New Orleans. Most of the flood plain maps across the country are outdated and inaccurate.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the NFIP, has acknowledged that many of the nation's flood maps do not accurately reflect current risks because they don't account for erosion or changes in drainage patterns caused by development.

"Today, many of the nation's flood maps are outdated, severely limiting their usefulness," the agency says on its map modernization Web page.

In fact, that was known 30 years ago, according to Robert Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America who directed the National Flood Insurance Program in the mid-1970s.

"Back then, we knew the problem with development. By the time we published a map it was already antiquated," Hunter said. "As time goes by the flood area grows, it doesn't go down."

Flood maps for New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, one of the Mississippi towns devastated by the hurricane, were last updated in the early 1980s, according to FEMA.KRT Wire

The KRT article further states that an assumption is made that people living near levees or dams are less likely to need flood insurance because of the protection offered by them. If you live near a levee or dam, I would suggest you buy flood insurance.

The situation in Mississippi was exacerbated by how far inland the storm surge came in. I live 12 miles from the beach. The storm surge came up 10 miles in Harrison County! There was storm surge 3 miles to my east and 1 mile to my west! Businesses 2 miles to the south of me were inuadated by the storm surge waters. I'm buying flood insurance this year.

Over half of the 65,000 homes lost in Mississippi were in zones considered to be safe from floods according to flood plain maps. The NFIP flood plain maps provided by the federal government were inaccurate and people were told by their mortgage companies that they didn't need flood insurance. Heck, they were told by their insurance agents they didn't need flood insurance!

Gulfport's outgoing mayor Ken Combs, the City Council, and Mississippi's insurance commissioner dropped the ball on the flood plain maps. When you have homes and businesses within 50 feet of the beach front and they are not listed on flood plain maps, something is very wrong. I urge you to check to see how recent the flood plain maps are in your area.


Blogger SgtHook said...

I watched a little of the honorable (ahem) Mayor Ragin Nagin on C-span and "moron" kept coming out of my mouth.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...


I am so thankful that he's in Louisiana!

2:33 PM  
Blogger MissingLink said...

In OZ if you "decide" to live in a flood affected areas the you cannot insure against flood.
As it happens the Government usually organizes some flood relief plan though.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...


Here it's a little bit different. If you live in an area that may flood, you cannot get a mortgage unless you have flood insurance. The decision is based on the flood plain maps issued by the federal government. The maps on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were inaccurate.

8:01 PM  

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