New flood maps could help home owners financially

Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:57 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Charleston County have created new flood maps that go into effect Jan. 29, 2021. The new maps will be the first update since 2004.

“The general rule is the risk is decreasing,” said floodplain coordinator Katie Faith. “We are seeing a reduction in base flood elevation throughout the county. A lot of people will move from a VE zone – which is the highest risk zone – to an AE and some people are staying within the AE zone but dropping base flood level.”

In general, this means construction projects will not need to build as high off the ground. It also means many people can look forward to cheaper insurance.

Chris Silcox is one of the owners at C.T. Lowndes Insurance. He says many people getting re-zoned into a lower threat category will see rates drop.

“Some of the largest changes you are going to see will be the more exposed properties on the oceanfront or a row or two back,” Silcox said. “They will see a substantial reduction in their rates.”

There are two main ways the rates drop. The first is for being in a zone that is less threatening and the other is by having your home or business above the minimum flood standard.

“There’s a credit for every one foot above base flood elevation up to four feet,” Silcox said. “If someone is right at the right level currently or maybe a foot above and then the base flood elevation comes down and they end up ‘more positive’ then their rate would come down.”

According to the county building services director, Hakim Bayyoud, there are more than 80,000 buildings that have a new flood zone designation. With generally rising sea levels and the Lowcountry’s already low elevation, Silcox said he would have thought more properties would have shifted to a higher risk category.

Faith says advances in technology and multiple studies by different companies confirmed a general decrease in flood risk. She also says some of it has to do with when the flood data was taken.

“This data is not collecting Hurricane Mathew. It’s not collecting Irma,” Faith said. “Also, the maps only reflect hurricane storm surge flooding. So maybe people will see flooding when there is an extensive amount of rainfall, but the flood maps are not reflecting that. That is not what our county is mapped on.”

She says the maps represent a certain type of flood very well but argues there may be need for additional evaluation for different types of flooding.

“The concern we have is giving property owners a false sense of security and wondering if they need flood insurance,”Silcox said. “It’s not called the Lowcountry for any other reason than our location and we do have issues with hurricanes.”

If you would like to see what zone your property is in, you can find the maps here.

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