FEMA updating flood maps including those for Tybee Island

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - For the first time since 2008, FEMA is updating their flood zone maps, and that includes the Coastal Empire.

Those changes could affect your insurance policies, as well as whether or not you're required to have flood insurance.

The changes to FEMA flood zones were approved a few weeks ago and will go into effect this August, so between now and then, if you're a home or business owner, you should contact your insurance agent to see if your zone has changed.

The maps change after taking several things into consideration, like height above sea level, historical storm data, and for the first time ever on Tybee, dune coverage. Tybee is one community that could see some significant premium savings.

"I think there are two people that are going to be particularly impacted in a positive way," said Tybee Island Mayor, Jason Buelterman. "Those who were in what's called velocity zone, which is where FEMA predicted wave action could take out or structurally damage homes."

Most of Tybee is out of that zone now. The mayor says the other group benefitting will be those at or near base flood elevation along the island's interior. Following last year's hurricane season that saw significant flooding during Irma, insurance experts strongly encourage home and business owners to start looking at the map changes, keeping in mind that flooding can happen even in areas that don't require insurance.

"A flood doesn't have to be a massive storm surge event. It can be your neighborhood lake overflowing and coming across your property and your neighbor's property. Those things would all be excluded under homeowners form," said Timothy Blanco, Thomas J. Sheehan Insurance, Inc. "Just because you're not federally required to have flood insurance doesn't mean that it's not a good idea to have it. We recommend that all of our property owners, especially in coastal counties like Chatham and Bryan, review their flood exposure and we recommend they purchase flood insurance."

Blanco says nationally, somewhere between 25 to 30 percent of all flood losses annually happen to properties that are not in a flood zone.

Now is the time to talk to your insurance agent before Aug. 16.

"We highly recommend people go to a website, georgiadfirm.com. They can plug in their address. It will give you your current flood zone. It will also give the anticipated flood zone after Aug. 16, 2018, so you can start to have that dialogue with your agent on, 'hey, I'm moving from this zone to that zone, is grandfathering applicable to me? Or is my premium going to decrease? Am I going to go into a preferred policy versus a special high-hazard policy,' Blanco said.

You can visit that website here.

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