Hamilton residents get first look at FEMA's new digital flood maps
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
Chattanooga's Development Resource Center is where longtime resident Ann O'Connell and others have come to see FEMA's new, digital flood maps, and whether they apply to their respective homes.
Mark Vieira, a senior engineer with FEMA's region 4 says these new maps have been a decade or more in the making. "A good 12-13 years ago, it was decided we got to get into the digital world, so the idea was to take all these paper maps and put them in a digital format," says Vieira, who adds some of the new maps are simply old information now modernized.
But some areas such as Collegedale and parts of Chattanooga that have seen growth and new development, required renewed studies and flood risk rating. "If you have farm land or a grass area or a forest, the rain comes down and normally soaks into the ground. When you go out there and put asphalt roof tops, water cannot soak into the ground, it's going to run off," says Vieira, which in turn creates potential flooding in low lying areas. For O'Connell, who lives near Red Bank Elementary, she now knows where she stands in regard to the flood plain.
"I found out that I was in a zone "C" and they have moved me to a zone A-E," smiles O'Connell, who says she has to review exactly what that means to her home.
"A lot of people think once the maps go effective, they're set in stone, they never can be changed. Which is incorrect, they can be changed," points out Vieira, who says homeowners who do object to their flood risk rating can appeal, but any appeal requires some scientific backing to support their argument.
For many who disagree on the flood threat to their home, it's all about paying flood insurance, which for federally backed mortgages is a requirement.
As for Ann O'Connell, she found out she's spared that expense. "If we sell and a new buyer comes in and puts a mortgage on it, then they might have to have flood insurance," speculates O'Connell.