Flood Map Glitches Could Have Unintended Consequences

Flood Map Glitches Could Have Unintended Consequences
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OCEAN CITY – When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released its new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) last year, it lowered the risk level for almost all the ocean front properties, and thusly, lowered property owners’ rates.

However, a new digital version of the FIRMs in Ocean City seems to include portions of several local buildings in the higher risk area known as the V-zone.

“The Velocity or V Zone is now deemed to be anything to the east of the landward tow of the primary dune,” said Ocean City Engineer Terry McGean. “In the last few weeks, we have discovered that the V-zone line is clipping portions of six to 12 buildings, so right now, we are trying to figure out why it’s showing that.”
McGean says the maps are done on a very large scale where one inch on the map equals 500 feet, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the clipping of local buildings by these new flood maps could be a simple clerical area.

“The buildings are clearly behind the landward tow of the dune, so we need to find out if it’s just an error or if there is a reason why it’s drawn that way,” he said. “If it is a mistake, the city would have to request a Letter of Map Revision and that could take up to a year to be resolved.”

Yet, according to Reese Cropper, President of Insurance Management Group in Ocean City, that small error could result in a big change in the premium rates the owners in those buildings have to pay.

“People who live on the oceanfront are paying about 90 percent less than what they did before FEMA redrew those maps,” he said. “They get the same coverage, but because the dune system was finally taken into account, they are paying 10 percent of what they used to pay.”

However, if any portion of the building is considered to be in the V-zone, according to McGean, the entirety of the building automatically be placed there too.

“That means all of the residents in those particular buildings could be subjected to higher flood insurance rates, and we don’t want that to happen if it’s due to an error,” said McGean.

FEMA put out the previous flood maps in 1986, prior to the Beach Replenishment Program, which created a natural levy of sorts on the oceanside with a fortified beach and dune system.

At that time, almost all of the oceanfront of the resort was considered to be in the V-zone, which demands the highest construction standards and insurance rates.

Once FEMA took the dune system into consideration, and determined that it created enough protection from flooding, the V-zone was moved further to the east and was redrawn on the primary dune line.

Cropper says that even though you can buy a lot more flood coverage for a lot less money than you could 30 years ago, people are purchasing only as much flood insurance as they are required to.

“They basically buy as much as their mortgage company tells them to, rather than perhaps what they should buy,” he said.

That said however, Cropper believes Ocean City is better prepared to handle powerful storms and flooding than perhaps ever before pointing to the dunes and the elevated requirements from a construction standpoint.

“Eighty-five percent of Ocean City is in the lowest risk zone for flooding now,” said Cropper. “So residents have finally gotten that rate relief that they didn’t have for years.”