Everyone should find out how the government just recalculated their flood risk.

It doesn’t matter if you live near the coast or not, if you rent or own.

That was the message Nov. 26 to the public at the Charlotte County Commission meeting.

In October, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency delivered its new flood plain maps to Charlotte County, said Jason Green, engineering consultant to the county. The new maps have changed estimated flood plain categories and levels for many sections of the county, Green said. If your home is already built, that means your flood insurance rating could change up or down. If you are thinking of building or about to build, the number of feet above sea level that you need is about to change too.

The best way to find out is to go to one of the upcoming three sessions the county is holding for residents of Charlotte and DeSoto counties, Green said. People from FEMA and the county and insurance agents will be there to work with everyone, one on one, he said.

“These three meetings are very, very important for the public to get to,” said Commission Chairman Bill Truex.

You can also go online with the county’s website to look up your property to see a before and after view of where you are located, he said. FEMA has a website too, but the county’s is really good, he added.

FEMA has been working to change its flood maps for awhile, and has in recent years updated maps on the east coast of Florida. It needed to start using more advanced techniques than what it used for the original maps, Green said, and it needed to use newer data about storms.

Accuracy is not the only motivating factor for FEMA, however. FEMA runs the national flood insurance program, because private insurance companies have historically not handled that risk. Catastrophic flooding across the county has left the federal program bankrupt, and FEMA is under pressure to stop losing money.

So FEMA announced some months ago that it is changing its insurance calculations to reflect the real cost, which it will do gradually. Green told the Sun he is not advising people on whether their insurance is going up. That’s because the last time FEMA tried to raise its rates, Congress blocked it rather than overwhelm coastal property owners.

Commissioner Christopher Constance advised the public, however, to expect their flood insurance rates to go up no matter what.

“They’re running out of money and they’ve got to find better ways of spreading the pain,” Constance said of FEMA.

One confusing thing to watch out for, Green said, is that FEMA has lowered the estimate of sea level for Charlotte County by about one foot. So if your map level was, say, 9 feet base flood elevation before the map change, and 9 feet after, you are actually one foot lower than you were. So don’t assume nothing has changed. Go to the meetings and find out for sure, Green said.

And another reason to attend an open house — even if you’re not in a mandatory flood insurance zone, 25% of claims are in the so-called X zone, Green said, where flood risk is moderate to low.

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