1. News

FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2016) Mail carrier Tracy Halesworth navigates flooding on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs caused by Tropical Storm Colin.
Published Sep. 26, 2018

Thousands of Tampa Bay-area property owners could soon find themselves with new flood zone designations on their homes and businesses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a years-long study to update flood zone maps in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. The maps represent the government's estimate of flood risk on a parcel-by-parcel basis and ultimately determine what people pay for flood insurance.

Emergency managers say it's still too early to say how many property owners may be required to obtain flood insurance who don't have it now. Nor can they say how many could see their insurance rates fluctuate due to a new designation, either higher or lower.

"There is no formal number on how many parcels are impacted," said Rahim Harji, assistant Pinellas County administrator.

So far, federal officials have released the what they call preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Pasco and Pinellas.

Pasco County estimates that 28,000 parcels could see changes to their flood zone designations. Pinellas has not come up with an estimate for the number for properties affected. But preliminary maps show all but narrow strip of the northern and southern parts of the county face changes in flood zone designations.

Hillsborough County expects to receive its new proposed flood zone maps in October. Hernando County officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Pasco County is collecting feedback from residents, said spokeswoman Tambrey Lane. Pinellas County is holding a series of public meetings this week for residents to view maps and ask questions.

The proposed changes can be reviewed on the counties' websites in Pinellas and Pasco.

In 2012, FEMA launched a coastal risk study for Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties. It took six years to complete the study.

The updates are based on revised coastal flood modeling, which can be affected by things such as changes in topography. They have nothing to do with evacuation zones during hurricanes.

Counties must adopt or amend their floodplain management regulations to incorporate the new data. Once adopted, they will replace maps that are up to 15 years old.

Hillsborough expects federal officials to hold its public meetings in early 2019, said Eugene Henry, hazard mitigation manager. He noted the review could possibly take longer than in other areas because of the numerous rivers in the county.

If residents or government leaders disagree with the preliminary data, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide a 90-day appeal period. After that period, the agency will rule on the appeals before making the updated flood hazard information final.

FEMA will give communities six months to adopt the revisions and update their floodplain management ordinances. The changes could require some homeowners who don't have it now to obtain flood insurance for properties carrying a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender.

On the new maps, properties could either shift between low, moderate or high-risk zones. Some could even see their risk downgraded. Still, moving to a lower risk doesn't negate properties from flooding or storm surges.

"That does not mean you are free from a risk," warned Lisa Foster, Pinellas County's floodplain coordinator. She urged homeowners to call their insurance agents before the changes become final.

When property owners in lower zones need to buy flood insurance, they are "usually eligible for highly reduced preferred risk rates," Foster said.

Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute, said 20 percent of flood claims are paid to people in low to moderate risk zones. "If you were in a flood zone before and you're not in a flood zone now, I don't think you should kid yourself into thinking you're scot-free," she said.

If a home moves from a low-risk area to a high-risk area, the premiums will increase to reflect the new risk designation. But there is a National Flood Insurance Program for "newly mapped" homes that allow homeowners to receive reduced rates for the first 12 months after they are rezoned.

According to Dolores Glass, senior communications manager for Wright National Flood Insurance, the reduced rate will increase by 18 percent each year until it is at the full risk rate to give people a chance to adjust. Wright has the highest number of federal program policyholders in the country.

The rate will increase 25 percent each year for businesses and second homes.

Contact Mark Puente at or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.


  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.