Updated federal flood maps take effect Aug. 24

The shift could affect existing plans or require more homeowners to purchase insurance.
A culdesac off Curlew Rd. floods following Tropical Storm Elsa, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Dunedin.
A culdesac off Curlew Rd. floods following Tropical Storm Elsa, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Dunedin. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published July 23, 2021|Updated July 30, 2021

Local government officials and insurance professionals are encouraging residents to check the revised federal flood insurance rate map that goes into effect on Aug. 24 to confirm how their properties may be affected.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration’s update to the map may cause residents to see a change in their flood zone or base flood elevation, or both, which could affect existing policies and premiums or require more homeowners who don’t have flood insurance now to obtain coverage, said Pinellas County floodplain administrator Lisa Foster.

Foster said by checking plans, or purchasing new policies, ahead of the effective date, residents have a better chance at locking in lower premiums.

“It’s a personal decision, but we want to make sure people are able to recover after a flood event and flood insurance will help them financially recover,” Foster said. “We saw this with Tropical Storm Eta in November. The folks that had flood insurance to help them get back on their feet are in better shape.”

Pinellas County residents can view the old and new rate maps here:

Click this hyperlinked text to view any other address using the FEMA tool.

The update will replace the map that has been in place since 2009 and reflects a property’s current risk of flooding. The map also considers how high structures are built above water levels expected for that area in a flood.

Federally regulated or insured mortgage lenders require flood insurance on buildings in areas with high risk of flooding. So as the map changes over time, some property owners may be required to buy flood insurance when they have not needed it in the past.

The updated maps will also take effect ahead of FEMA’s release in October of its “Risk Rating 2.0” plan, which will rate homes’ flood risk more precisely than current models.

The new program will rate homes on their individual risk instead of just lumping them in with their surroundings. This would give homeowners a more precise picture of how their homes could be affected by flooding, but it may also result in significant increases in premiums.

Robert DeWeese, a flood insurance specialist with National Flood Experts in Tampa, said both changes this year could affect homeowners. While the updated map effective Aug. 24 will show where flood zones, elevations and boundaries are, the overhaul in October will change how the federal program rates homes based on that data.

He said it’s important for property owners to plan ahead, even if they feel a bit invincible.

“A lot of people say oh, it hasn’t flooded here for me in 40 years, it’s never going to happen, but flooding is the most common natural disaster in our country,” Deweese said.

Editor’s note: The name of National Flood Experts has been corrected from a previous version of the story.