FEMA proposes new flood maps for Hillsborough, Pinellas counties

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If you weren't previously living in a flood zone, you may want to check the new boundaries from Hillsborough County and FEMA. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency released preliminary updates to flood map for the coastal areas of Hillsborough County which could change your risk and your insurance rates.

The changes would impact as many as 60,000 people between the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County, according to county officials. Eugene Henry with the Hillsborough County Public Works Department said that there will be several open houses coming up to help homeowners understand the changes.

“It's really all the coastal area started in Ruskin, the old Sun City, goes all the way up to Town 'N Country and Oldsmar and then Pinellas is going through the same thing, so it goes completely around the bay,” Henry said.

The city of Tampa also sent a letter to residents about the preliminary maps. It warns homeowners three things could happen:

- You'll be in a flood zone when you weren't before.
- You'll be in a higher risk flood zone.
- Or the base flood elevation on your property will change.

Those could impact how much you pay for the flood insurance your mortgage lender requires. Area insurance companies said they're already hearing from customers.

“Alarmed concerned afraid not understanding, and what needs to happen is communication so they understand what it’s going to do to our housing market,” said Kathy Walsh, CEO of Coast to Coast Insurance.

South Tampa realtor John Hudson agrees it’s nerve-wracking. He is organizing a community meeting to learn more. He is also considering hiring an engineer to look at the validity of the proposed new coastal flood plain. 

“The big concern is since this is preliminary we want to get everybody together before this is proposed so the community can have some sort of impact on this because it appears to want to change a lot of how the area is currently viewed under the insurance program,” Hudson said. “When you've never even had a puddle in your front yard ever.. its a little bit little bit of a shock.”

Anyone who thinks their property is incorrectly categorized can submit an appeal between April 3 and July 3.

Once FEMA looks at all the appeals and comments, and incorporates changes, the maps will be finalized.

There's a possibility some residences could be grandfathered in, but there's also the chance lenders will still update those policies according to the new maps.

The new maps are available on FEMA’s website at https://www.fema.gov/view-your-communitys-preliminary-flood-hazard-data

More information can be found at https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1468504201672-3c52280b1b1d936e8d23e26f12816017/Flood_Hazard_Mapping_Updates_Overview_Fact_Sheet.pdf

The schedule for official FEMA and county official open houses can be viewed at https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/public-safety/flood-maps/coastal-flood-risk-map-update

Residents and business owners can learn how the map changes may impact their properties and structures at a series of open house meetings. Representatives from FEMA, Hillsborough County, and the city of Tampa will be in attendance. The same information will be provided at all the meetings.

April 3, 2019 from 5-8 p.m. in Tampa

April 4, 2019 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. in Tampa

April 4, 2019 4-7 p.m. in Riverview