For some time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been working to update its flood hazard maps based on new data. These maps play a role in determining whether properties need to be covered by flood insurance, as well as as the cost of insuring structures.
The agency's proactive approach to evaluating risk and planning for floods is particularly important in light of research that indicates many states, particularly those in the Northeast, will experience more severe thunderstorms in the coming years. These events can cause large tidal surges and heavy rainfall, which can combine to produce extensive flooding in low-lying areas located next to rivers or along the coast. A report from scientists at Stanford University predicted that the frequency of severe thunderstorms affecting the Northeast will increase by as much as 70 percent in the next 60 years, with other regions experiencing less dramatic increases.
In June, FEMA released updated flood hazard maps for 21 states. Some of the changes could have a significant effect. This blog previously looked at the impact from updated flood maps for Boston, Massachusetts, where the number of residential and commercial structures in special flood hazard areas skyrocketed. Vast tracts of the city's downtown and financial district, as well as many other areas, were drawn into these high-risk zones for the first time.
In a notice published in the Federal Register on June 13, FEMA noted that it had already announced the flood map changes to affected communities and resolved pertinent appeals. This means the new maps are in effect and "must be used for all new policies and renewals." Insurance carriers and financial institutions will need a valuation solution that can provide accurate replacement cost estimates for structures that require flood insurance coverage.