Thursday, January 17, 2013

FEMA hosts informational meeting on new Flood Zone maps

M.J. and Connie Armand, of Bridge City, search on a computer with Tracey Gilbert, of the Texas Chart Team. to locate their property to determine if their residence is in a flood zone.

In spite of the cold temperatures and rain, a steady stream of people arrived at the Bridge City Community Center to see if their residence was now in a flood zone after the federal government released new maps of the area.

Those who were not able to attend on Tuesday, still have a chance to attend from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

When arriving at the community center, people are asked to fill out a sheet of paper with their address and other various simple information. After waiting in line with their information completed, their name is called and they can meet with a member of the Texas Chart team. On the computer, they assisted to find where their residence is located and if they have been reclassified into a flood zone or not. The person then can go to many of the stations within the center to talk to their local city or county governments. Other stations have representatives from FEMA such as Appeals and Comments, Flood Insurance, Property Location and Identification, and Mitigation Actions and Emergency Management.

John Woods, of Bridge City, arrived to see if his residence had been rezoned. He stated he was not previously in a flood zone, but had purchased a ?preferred risk? flood insurance policy.

?Because I had a preferred risk policy, my rates won?t go up for now,? he said referring to increase in his flood insurance rates. ?But, they still could.?

Robert Simonton Sr., of Bridge City, was anxiously waiting in line to see the results of the new maps.

?If they are making a change, then they should let people know,? he said.

The Texas based coastal flood mapping effort is part of FEMA?s approach to integrating flood hazard identification and analysis with risk communications for affected coastal counties known as TXCHART.

Homeowners, renters and business owners in Orange County are encouraged to look over newly released preliminary flood maps in order to determine their flood risks and make informed decisions.

Orange County officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are presenting the preliminary maps to communities and unincorporated areas in order to help leaders and residents identify known flood risks and use the information to make decisions about buying flood insurance and how the community should move forward with any development.

Jerry Jones, Bridge City city manager, has been studying the new maps and is working to reduce the amount of property in the flood zone.

He said the city plans to appeal the way the maps has been put together. They feel the map has changed dramatically because of the information used following Hurricane Ike in 2008.

?That?s just not acceptable,? Jones said.

The storm is said to be an uncommon event which has not previously occurred in nearly 100 years. The historic storm left only 16 houses out of about 3,800 unaffected by the storm.

Residents in the recently added flood zones could see a significant rise in their flood insurance premiums. The last map was created in 1982.

Any community or individual property owner can appeal the proposed changes to the flood hazard information or comment on other information included on the preliminary flood hazard maps, also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Appeals and comments are subject to data requirements and must be submitted to the appropriate community official within the designated 90 day appeal period. An appeal must be based on data and documentation showing the proposed maps to be scientifically or technically incorrect. Appellants need to demonstrate better methodologies, assumptions, or data exists and provide alternative analysis and incorporate the information. The results must show an overall change in the flood hazard information shown on the preliminary flood hazard maps, according to information from FEMA.

More information on the maps and how to appeal the map is on the website.

?People need to definitely be here,? said Robert Simonton, Bridge City council member. ?It?s a good place to get some answers.?

Pictured: M.J.?and?Connie?Armand,?of?Bridge?City,?search?on?a?computer?with?Tracey?Gilbert,?of?the?Texas?Chart?Team.?to?locate?their?property?to?determine?if?their?residence?is?in?a?flood?zone. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber

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