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March 4, 1997

New FEMA Flood Maps for Mobile and Mobile County

by Betty Gartman

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) located in Atlanta, GA, came to Mobile on February 25, 1997. This February visit starts the final stage of the adoption of new Flood Maps for Mobile. The current flood maps being used are Map Revised: December 19, 1984. These new FEMA Flood maps are much needed. Before reporting on the information given at this February meeting, some background of FEMA -- its purpose and program -- are in order.

Until the late 1960s, flood insurance was practically unavailable to home and business owners. Then Congress voted in 1968 to create the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This Federal program provides flood insurance at reasonable cost in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities. Most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood loss.

The NFIP is administered by FEMA, and FEMA produces Flood Insurance Rate Maps that show areas subject to flooding. The flood risk information presented on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps is based on historic, meteorologic, hydrologic, and hydraulic data, as well as open-space conditions, flood-control works, and development. Special Flood Hazard Areas are delineated on the Flood Map. These Special Flood Hazard Areas are subject to inundation by a flood that has a 1- percent or greater chance of being equaled or exceeded during any given year. This type of flood is commonly referred to as the 100-year, or base flood. A 100-year flood is NOT a flood that occurs every 100 years. In fact, the 100-year flood has a 26-percent chance of occurring during a 30-year period...the length of many mortgages. The Flood Map shows where this 100-year flood zones is located (A, AE, AH. AO A99 zones). It also shows the area subject to a 500-year flood (shaded zone X). These maps are helpful to anyone buying land or an already built home or business. The design of your dream home can be affected if it is located in this Special Flood Hazard Area. You may be required to build your home on a raised foundation instead of the typical slab construction. So these very important maps are used by private citizens, insurance agents and brokers, community officials, the lending/banking institutions, and Federal agencies.

Mobile is entering the final stages of adopting new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The process began in 1992 with assistance from the local Army Corps of Engineers doing intensive field work on the many rivers, streams and creeks of our area. Twenty-four new and re-start streams and creeks are being added to the new map. It is also note worthy that the range of change from the 1984 map to this new 1997 map is from +6 feet to -6 feet. This means that some place within Mobile County the 100-year flood zone moved as much as 6 feet. Some are now more prone to flooding, and some areas are no longer in the flood zone. If your property has had increased water over the years, you might want to ch

eck to see if it is going to be included into any of newly designated flood zones. You may be eligible for Federal Flood Insurance. At this time FEMA office will make the new maps, and the Flood Insurance Study report (a three volume index) is available to the public for review. Two sets of these documents are available at the Government Plaza Building. One set is with the City Engineering Office (3rd floor), and a second set is at the County Engineering Office (6th floor). Soon a 90-day "appeal" period begins. Any errors on these maps can be "appealed" with technical data support. The errors suspected by a reviewer can be missing streets, flood areas not consistent with topo maps, surveyed maps not consistent with the study report data, etc. All corrections should be reported at this time. Every city and municipality should devote adequate time to these revisions. Those who live and work in the area have the best insight into flood prone areas. The City of Mobile would be wise to look -- again -- at the area effected by new Hank Aaron Stadium. In 1992 the idea of a stadium was not yet conceived.

The mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to provide leadership and support to reduce loss of life and property and to protect our institutions from all types of hazards. This is accomplished through a comprehensive, risk-based, all-hazards emergency management program consisting of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Betty Gartman is a long-time community activist and head of the Milkhouse Creek Concern Citizens Group.

The Harbinger is a biweekly newspaper published through the effort of The Harbinger, which consists of area faculty, staff and students, and members of the Mobile community. The Harbinger is a non-profit education foundation. The views expressed here are the responsibility of The Harbinger. Contributions to The Harbinger are tax exempt to the full extent of the law and create no liability for the contributor.