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Big Mistakes in the Federal Flooding Maps

Posted on Jul 29, 2014


Richard Drake and his wife had recently raised their home above the standard level based off of the federal flood maps that are set forth by the National Flood Insurance. Previously, the Drakes were paying $598 for the insurance coverage, however, the family had recently received a bill that requires a payment of $32,000 plus the previous $598.

The couple had raised their home 3 feet above the requirements stated in the federal flood maps.

Apparently, officials aren't surprised by the complaints. The federal flood maps require certain houses to raise their homes to a certain standard, depending on which section, or "zone," the home is located in.

When the Drakes had first purchased their house in 1993, the house was listed in the “A” zone, an area that suggest a minimal amount of flooding. What many do not know, the ground beneath all the homes have been shifting since everyone had first purchased their homes. The Drakes were considered to be in zone “V” – or velocity zone – in other words, the more critical zone for flooding. The couple was not aware nor were they notified of the change. Instead, they have been paying the same premiums and only had knowledge of the change until Sandy had hit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency released the original maps in December 2012 for those who are in need of rebuilding.

At the time that the Drakes needed to rebuild their home, they were listed in the “V” zone. Though due to the high costs, the couple decided to wait until FEMA released an updated map.

In this past June, “V” zones in Monmouth County had decreased by 46%. The Drake household was one of the few that had returned back into the “A” zone.

Richard Drake went to a construction official and flood plain manager for Union Beach, Bob Burlew, for advice. Burlew had told the Drakes to raise their home by 2 feet, but the Drakes wanted to be even more cautious, so they decided to elevate their home for an extra foot.

FEMA officials announced that the new maps released in June will not be taken into effect until the end of 2015. With that being said, the Drakes were still part of the "V" zone. A zone that requires a higher level of elevation of the home than the three feet that the Drakes had already done. 

Wright Flood, the Drakes’ insurance provider, has sent the matter to FEMA and is waiting for their decision.

On the other hand, FEMA spokesman Dan Watson said that homeowners who are using the flood insurance program should build to the more “stringent standard.”

Burlew is still convinced that the Drakes are still part of the “V” zone and that this whole thing is a “big mistake.”

John Miller, legislative committee chair for the New Jersey of Floodplain Management, acknowledges the differences in state and federal standards. He released a statement, “This confusion needs to be resolved. Every instance is going to be a little different, but we need to get people at the same table and work out these possibilities and how they are going to be dealt with.”





O'Neill, Erin. "Union Beach Couple Gets $33K Flood Insurance Bill after Raising Home above New Federal Standards." NJ.com. The Star-Ledger, 27 July 2014. Web. 29 July 2014.

Joseph M. Ghabour
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