FEMA Works on New Flood Maps, Insurance Rates Affected

Jan 31, 2013

Federal flood maps are being redrawn, and for those areas hit by Hurricane Sandy, that could mean guidance on whether to rebuild on higher ground. The new maps will also impact flood-insurance premiums.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is redrawing flood-zone maps for the New York City area. Michael Byrne is FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for New York. He says the map revisions began before Hurricane Sandy, but are of even greater concern since Sandy.

The maps depict Advisory Base Flood Elevations, or ABFEs. Byrne says a final draft of the maps should be ready by the summer, at which point there will be a public comment period. He says it could take up to two years until final plans are adopted. And, he says, in the case of Westchester, it would be up to the county legislators to adopt the maps; in New York City, it would be the city council that has to vote to adopt them.

MaryJane Shimsky is a Westchester legislator whose district includes three communities near the Hudson River – Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, and Dobbs Ferry. The Democrat, who focuses on flooding and stormwater issues, attended a recently-held FEMA meeting during which the revised maps were discussed. She says the maps will most greatly impact the Sound Shore communities of Westchester – on the Long Island Sound – as well as communities along the Hudson River. And, she says, residents will be affected.

As for the effects on homeowners, FEMA’s Byrne says there are a few. First, he says homeowners will know their flooding risk, and be able to mitigate it.

And he gives three hypothetical situations regarding flood-insurance premiums.

One may visit FEMA’s Region Two web site, and find out whether a certain address will be affected, by plugging that address into “What is my ABFE?”, or Advisory Base Flood Elevation. Again, this is for Westchester County, New York City, and New Jersey.