New flood insurance maps in Pinellas, Manatee counties: What you should do now

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(Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you live in Florida, you’re probably used to rain, wind and water. Here’s what to know about new flood risk maps in Tampa Bay, and what flood insurance is needed.

For Manatee and Pinellas counties, there are updated maps in August showing flood risks published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a part of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

If you don’t have flood insurance and need it, keep in mind that there’s usually a 30-day waiting period for the policy to take effect, so don’t wait if you think you might be at risk for flooding damage, especially with hurricane season in full swing.

Ahead of the peak of hurricane season, it’s important to check if you’re in a high-risk flood zone. Now that the maps are updated, here’s what the new flood maps look like:

Still, the information in the maps is preliminary or pending, set to take effect officially today, Aug. 24.

When you go to check out the new map for Pinellas County, you’ll be greeted with a warning on data accuracy.

(Source: Pinellas County ArcGIS map for Flood Risk)

Pinellas County provides an easy explainer to help you know if you should get flood insurance for your home.

(Source: Pinellas County)

To understand why the maps exist, it’s important to know what they’re used for.

Flood risk maps and flood insurance

FEMA provides these maps to show the risk of flooding in your area. According to FEMA, the maps show any place with a 1% or higher chance of experiencing a flood each year, or high risk. Those spots on the map that meet the flooding risk have a 25% chance to flood during a 30-year mortgage.

The agency also warns that “floods don’t follow city limits or property lines” and “there is no such thing as a ‘no-risk zone,'” but the maps show which areas have a lower or moderate risk, as well as the high risk for flood damage.

FEMA says a single inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage.

When you purchase or rent a home, and get the appropriate homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you’ll have an option to purchase flood insurance.

Flood insurance is there to cover costs of repairing flood damages up to $250,000 for a one to four family, non-condominium residential building. For other buildings, some non-condominium residential or non-residential buildings, the NFIP cap can go as high as $500,000.

However, lenders can require more coverage than the minimum set by the National Flood Insurance Act.

The premium cost for your flood insurance is based on a few factors, including your deductible, the amount of contents coverage, and the flood risk of the building, among others.

Unlike other insurance types, you pay yearly for flood insurance, instead of monthly.

National Flood Insurance Program

So, what is the NFIP?

In 1968, Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act, and amended it in 1973 to add the Flood Disaster Protection Act.

The two laws are what give FEMA power to create and carry out programs for disaster relief and to sell flood insurance to homeowners through the NFIP, meaning your flood insurance is federally backed.

Flood insurance coverage is fairly specific.

It gives building coverage and content coverage, and splits each category between “What’s covered” and “What’s covered in areas below the lowest elevated floor.”

The areas below the lowest elevated floors “include crawlspaces under an elevated building, enclosed areas beneath buildings, and buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls (sometimes referred to as “walkout basements”). A post-FIRM building is a building for which construction or substantial improvement occurred after December 31, 1974, or on or after the effective date of an initial FIRM, whichever is later,” according to FEMA.

According to FEMA, about 60 insurance companies provide flood insurance, in addition to the NFIP Direct. NFIP Direct is the version of flood insurance handled directly by FEMA and the federal government.

You can find a flood insurance provider to purhcase coverage from at FloodSmart.gov or by calling the NFIP at 877-336-2627.

You can see what level of risk your community has for flooding online with FEMA.

Additionally, some legislative changes in 2014 updated some of the costs to policyholders due to concerns of affordability.

Currently, all policyholders must pay $25 per year for renters and owners of a primary residence, while those who own or rent non-primary residences or non-residential buildings have an extra $250 per year instead.

Basically, if you live in the home that’s covered for flood damages, you’re paying less on your yearly premiums, but if you have a second home, like a snowbird or a business owner that has flooding insurance, you’re paying 10 times more each year on the surcharge.

What’s covered and not covered by flood insurance

The types of damages that are covered are based on flooding.

FEMA provides examples of flooding, and includes overflow from storm surge; runoff from a heavy rainfall that overwhelms drainage or absorption in a specific area; mudflow from heavy or sustained rainfall; and erosion from the overflow of a body of water.

Here’s what’s actually covered by your building flood insurance:

  • The insured building and its foundation
  • The electrical and plumbing systems
  • Central airconditioning equipment, furnaces, and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished foor
  • Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases, and cabinets
  • Window blinds
  • Debris removal
  • Flood damage clean up

Here’s what’s covered below the lowest elevated floor:

  • Foundation wlls, anchorage systems, and staircases attached to the building
  • Central air conditioners
  • Cisterns and the water in them
  • Electrical outlets, switches, and circuit-breaker boxes
  • Fuel tanks and the fuel in them, solar energy equipment, and well water tanks and pumps
  • Furnaces, water heaters, heat pumps, and sump pumps

If you’ve got contents coverage, here’s what’s covered:

  • Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
  • Curtains
  • Portable and window air conditioners
  • Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers
  • Carpeting not included in building coverage
  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Food freezers and the food in them
  • Certain valuable items such as artwork, furs, and jewelry (up to $2,500)

What’s covered below the lowest elevated floor if you have contents coverage:

  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Food freezers and the food in them (excluding refrigerator freezer compartments)
  • Instlaled portable and window air conditioners

While your specific policy could have coverage exclusions and limitations, some of what damages are not included are:

  • Damage or losses caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that can be avoided by the property owner
  • Living expenses like temporary housing, cars or car parts
  • Property or belongings outside of a building including septic systems decks, patios, hot tubs and swimming pools, wells, trees, fences and seawalls
  • Losses caused by business interruption as a result of a flood
  • Damage caused by water flow beneath the earth’s surface, or caused by sewer backup and seepage
  • Cost to copmly with ordinances requiring or regulating construction, demolition, remodels, renovation, or proprety repair, including debris removal

Changing the flood map for your home

If you don’t think that your home is actually in a special flood hazard area, you can send a letter to the NFIP that corrects the record.

A Letter of Map Amendemnt is an official document that amends the map, and records your home as being “inadvertently mapped as being in the floodplain.”

According to FEMA, this can be used for homes that are technically mapped in a floodplain but are on natural high ground above the base flood elevation.

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