Some Residents Relieved By New FEMA Flood Elevation Maps

June 17, 2013 | Energy & Environment, Politics
The newest flood maps have put more residences in A zones than V zones. V zones are the most hazardous flood zones.

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

Mantoloking resident Jeanne Hulse finally feels some sense of relief since Superstorm Sandy barreled in and left parts of her home in shambles.

“That’s just amazing to wake up today and come to this house and realize we don’t have to raise it 13 feet,” Hulse said.

That’s because today FEMA rolled out new flood maps — called Preliminary Work Maps — for Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic counties. After the storm, the Advisory Base Flood maps placed Hulse’s home in a V Zone — the most hazardous flood zone. But these revised work maps put her home in a lower risk A zone.

“V zone meaning velocity zone, and there are structures within a certain geographical area that could be impacted by a three-foot wave. And then the A zone is more of a coastal flooding zone,” said FEMA Public Information Officer Chris McKniff.

“If you go back to an A zone you don’t have to raise your house as high to comply with the new elevations and that means thousands and thousands of dollars,” explained Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher. “The thing that is gonna benefit so many of our property owners here in Toms River is the fact that FEMA has just about eliminated the V zones on the map.”

Toms River isn’t the only shore community that’s seen a drop in properties classified in V zones.

“In Ocean County it’s about 45 percent that have decreased from a V zone to an A zone. That’s very simply because it was time for that part of the study to be completed and we went in and looked at impediments and other features that might affect that three-foot wave velocity,” McKniff said.

Many homeowners faced with rebuilding waited for FEMA to release the new maps before they applied for construction permits.

“We’re gonna have an avalanche of people coming into the town to get permits,” Kelaher said.

Back in Mantoloking, Husle continues to rebuild.

“I’m just thinking dollar signs in my head, it’s all about the dollars, you know. And now we can sit back, regroup and try to move forward,” Husle said.

In neighboring Bay Head, resident Bill Gage shares a similar sense of relief.

“Goodness gracious, the cost of repairing my home in its present state was bad enough but then thinking about what I’d have to pay for it to raise it up really was getting me a lot of sleepless nights,” Bill said.

There are lots of homeowners along the Jersey Shore that are happy with the revised flood maps, but it’s not all good news for everyone. For example, one home being demoed is in a V zone, but the house next door is in an A Zone.

“It can look, where people live across the street from each other, it can look a bit odd sometimes that someone’s in an A zone and someone’s in a V zone but it’s all done very scientifically and they are mapped into these areas for specific reasons,” McKniff said.

The maps won’t be finalized for another 18 to 24 months after a regulatory and appeals process. Flood insurance rates won’t reflect the new maps until they’re finalized.

Related: Stop FEMA Now Founder Says New Flood Maps Is a Good Start