Shared from the 12/12/2018 The St. Augustine Record eEdition

FEMA releases updated fl ood maps

While there is no guarantee anyone is safe from flooding in a community barely above sea level, at least there’s now a better tool for assessing risk.

The new Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Insurance Rate Maps were adopted for St. Johns County on Dec. 7. The most important part of that is the way the maps are now accessible on the internet.

Those interested can visit or click the link from the county government website to quickly search any piece of land in the county and see whether it lies in a flood zone.

It’s the first major update since 2004, although there was also a minor one in 2011.

County floodplain manager Patrick Doty has been helping to implement the new maps (although it is a FEMA project, not a county one) and has conducted more than a dozen public meetings to educate the public.

“For someone who knows nothing about flood zones, this is the quickest indicator of: ‘Am I in a low-risk flood zone or a high-risk flood zone?’” he said. “It is kind of that tool where if you don’t know what your flood zone is and you pull it up and see that you’re in an A zone or V zone, maybe you should have flood insurance if it isn’t required by your mortgage company already.”

Local insurance agent D o u g W i l e s , p r e s i - dent of Herbie Wiles Insurance, said the maps are a great starting point for property owners or potential owners trying to get an idea of flood risk. However, he said it’s still difficult to make any blanket statements about the National Flood Insurance Program.

He also said the detail of the new maps, thanks in part to advances in technology, is helpful to anyone involved in insurance or real estate here.

“The good news is the maps are much more accurate, and that means whether your house is in a high-risk zone or not, you know that somebody has done more than just sort given a guesstimate of what that zone should be,” he said. “There’s less of that guessing and more of that knowing because these maps are much more accurate.”

What effect will the maps have on flood insurance rates? None, really, Wiles said. Only those who have seen their property change flood zones will see a difference in premiums.

But even those who don’t live in high-risk zones are encouraged to buy flood insurance here in Florida. Wiles said research shows that about a third of all flood damage is done in low-risk zones.

Doty said the new maps give residents the best view of flood risk ever available.

“I think people are understanding that there is some risk in St. Johns County,” he said. “It’s not something to be scared of. It’s just something to be aware of and something to keep in the back of your mind.

“This gives people a tool to help make decisions. These updated maps reflect some of the updated mapping and give us a better idea of what’s going on throughout the county flood zone wise through FEMA.”

See this article in the e-Edition Here