Do You Know the 2019 Changes to the Pinellas County Flood Zone Map?

October 28, 2019

You may be wondering why changes to the flood zone map are necessary. Having an accurate representation of the areas that can be affected by flooding is necessary for the safety of lives and property.

Beyond homeowners, flood maps with accurate information are important for community officials, mortgage lenders, insurance professionals, developers, and business owners.

Read on to learn about the latest changes to the Pinellas county flood zone map and why those changes are necessary for the community’s safety.

Why the Pinellas County Flood Zone Map Is Necessary

Compared to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more, flooding may seem like a relatively less catastrophic event. However, flooding carries significant risks to people’s lives and homes. These risks become all the more dangerous when they’re not taken seriously.

In fact, a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that the most overlooked health risk of floods is drowning while attempting to drive through water. Another hidden risk that makes itself known days and weeks after flooding is waterborne illnesses.

Heavy rains that lead to flooding are capable of contaminating drinking water with sewage, pesticides, herbicides, and farm animal waste. All in all, the amount of disease-causing bacteria rises astronomically.

As our climate changes, warm air holds more water vapor, leading to heavy rainfalls. Flooding is becoming more common, and so are the health risks that come along with it.

The Newest Changes

Until now, the Pinellas County Flood Zone Map hadn’t been updated since 2003. This is an indication that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has started to take the risks of climate change and heavy rains and flooding that accompany it seriously.

Throughout Pinellas County, some areas risks went up, while the risk in other areas went down. This is also due to changes in erosion, land use, and new building developments.

Keeping the flood hazard maps up to date is a careful, multi-step process that includes:

  1. Data collection and flood modeling
  2. Development of working map drafts
  3. Release of preliminary maps for community review
  4. An appeal and resolution period
  5. Final adoption of new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)

Here are some of the changes that were made during the last flood map revision.

1. Wave Risk

Florida counties are categorized into a range of flood zones depending on how high the risk of flooding is. Low-risk zones are “X,” high-risk zones are “A” and “V,” while the highest risk zone is “VE.”

“VE” zones were areas where buildings could be affected by high wave damage from storm surges. Although this previously meant waves that were three feet tall and higher, FEMA now recognizes that even waves of 1.5 feet in height can still pose significant risk.

These new zones that can be affected by waves of 1.5 feet or higher are now marked as “AE” zones.

2. Expensive Construction

Although these new standards indicate that properties need to be built to take into account the risks of smaller waves, this means that construction in those areas is becoming more expensive.

Pinellas County now requires new buildings in these zones to be built at least one foot above the base flood elevation. Only parking, building access, and limited storage can be located below the base flood elevation.

It’s also recommended to build smart through flood-proofing methods that may include walls or levees, and moving or sealing structures.

3. Low and High-Risk Zones

Parts of St. Petersburg and Oldsmar have been raised to a greater risk of flooding than before.

In St. Petersburg, this includes areas east of 12th Street S and south of 54th Avenue south. As long as your home was built to code, there shouldn’t be worries about raised insurance rates in those areas. Residents also have a year starting on the day the maps went into effect to keep their grandfathered rates.

Many coastal areas of Oldsmar have been raised to high-risk “AE” zones, particularly the southwestern and eastern areas of the city.

Areas such as Tierra Verde and west of Gandy Bridge have lowered in risk. This doesn’t necessarily mean those areas have become safer. Mapping technology has improved to give a more precise read on how risky those areas actually are.

If you live in areas such as Belair, your flood risk can drop from high to moderate, which will lower your insurance rates.

4. Newly Mapped Procedure

If you’re in areas that have changed from moderate to high-risk zones, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is offering a cost-savings option to help mitigate the financial burden of flood insurance for property owners.

If you buy coverage within 12 months of the new map start date, you’ll be allowed rating at the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). After a year, your rates will then begin transitioning to the full risk rates. During this time, property owners can work on flood proofing their homes and obtaining an elevation certificate, which will significantly lower flood insurance rates.

Keep Informed of Flood Risks

By now you should know the importance of the new Pinellas County flood zone map and why flooding is a particularly dangerous risk. It’s recommended to find out what zone your property is in case it’s been changed to a high-risk “AE” area.

Storm surges are something to take seriously, and these new changes will lead to more lives being saved through safe evacuations and properties built to withstand floods.

Are you in a flood zone and concerned about your rates rising, or need to purchase a new flood insurance policy? Receive a Florida insurance quote in seconds!