FEMA Flood Rate Maps Explained

The Town of Seabrook Island hosted a public meeting on February 16, 2018, to allow Charleston County Building Inspection Services (CCBIS) representatives to answer area residents’ questions about how their properties will be affected by the adoption of the current “Preliminary” Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  Councilman Skip Crane introduced CCBIS’ Cindy Cahill, Floodplain Management Coordinator, and Katie Faith.

Katie Faith works with Property Owners; Cindy Cahill in foreground

Ms. Faith briefly discussed the maps’ technical basis and their adoption process.  The new maps are far more accurate than earlier maps because they were developed using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology.  Included in the maps’ Special Hazard Flood Area (SHFA) are the familiar V Zone where wave heights of 3 feet or more could be expected, the A Zone where waves of 1.5 feet or less could be expected, and a new “Coastal A” Zone between V and A where waves between 1.5 feet and 3 feet in height could be expected.  A “LIMWA” (Limit of Moderate Wave Action) line on the map indicates the boundary between the Coastal A Zone and the “regular” A Zone.  (Note that the maps also indicate an X Zone for properties that are not included in the SHFA.)

The Town of Seabrook Island’s website offers a wealth of information on this subject.  Click here to access the Town’s links to the County’s interactive mapping tool and instructions for using it, to FAQs and general information about the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps, and to FEMA’s appeals criteria and process.

Ms. Faith noted that the new maps removed 24 Seabrook Island properties from the SHFA (and added zero properties to it), while Kiawah Island had no change in its SFHA property designations.  (Other areas of Charleston County are experiencing greater changes.  As one example, 424 properties in the Town of James Island were added to the SHFA and 655 were removed.)  CCBIS recommends that property owners contact their flood insurance agents if their property’s flood zone is changing or if its elevation is changing by more than one foot.

The appeal/comment period for the Preliminary Flood Maps began on January 18, 2018, and ends on April 18.  A property owner’s appeal to dispute flood depths or location of the SHFA boundary must be based on technical quantitative data such as an engineering study or a land survey.  (Use the link above to the Town’s article for useful information and instructions related to appeals.)

CCBIS estimates that FEMA will finish addressing appeals by this summer, at which time FEMA will send Letters of Final Map Determinations to local jurisdictions.   Jurisdictions will then have up to 6 months to adopt and enforce the new maps.

Tidelines Editors

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