Floodplain maps can help homeowners identify flood risks, insurance payments | News

LEISBURG – Two properties in Lewisburg, bought in the 1980s by Mike Molesevich, were not included in a high-risk flood zone, but both ended up there 36 years later when the floodplain map was updated. .

“When I bought the property, flood insurance was not required because it was not in a high-risk area,” he told the two homes of St. Catherine and South Fourth Street.

The changing landscape due to climate change led to floodplain maps from the mid-1970s being updated about two years ago, said Andrew Stul, an associate professor of environmental research and science at Bucknell University.

The tragedy of Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which killed 50 people in Pennsylvania, did provide useful information on protecting lives and property from destruction. The floodplain maps developed after the storm, Stul said, identify areas at risk of flooding, allowing freedom of choice while protecting citizens and their property.

“People want to have the choice to live where they want, even if it puts them at greater risk,” Stul said, adding that floodplain mapping provided property owners with the necessary information about flood-prone areas. “Some would be evacuated and others would stay and be better prepared.

This is important in a state with more than 86,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks, second only to Alaska in the United States.

“More than a third of the structures in some communities are in the floodplain,” Stul said.

As Molesevich prepared to sell his two Lewisburg properties last year, which he only recently had to cover with several thousand dollars a year in flood insurance, he decided to hire Meck-Tech, an engineering firm at Hummels Wharf, to conduct an altitude study. from floods to determine whether the property was actually exposed to flood risk and how much the prospective buyer may have to pay for flood insurance.

The study, which could cost between $ 500 and $ 800, found that properties are outside the high-risk flood zone, making it easier to sell homes.

“If (potential buyers) needed a mortgage, it was a price less than they would have,” Molesevic said, encouraging other property owners to “do their due diligence.”

Mech-Tech President Art Thomas has been hired to provide more flood altitude certificates in the nine years since the Bigert-Waters Act was passed, which has partially reduced government-subsidized flood insurance.

“From 1971 to 2013, altitude certificates were a minor inconvenience” for the company’s inspectors, who conducted only a few each year, Thomas said.

After the Bigert-Waters Act was passed in 2012, property owners realized they could save thousands of dollars if they could prove that their land is not in a high-risk area.

“In some cases, the cards are wrong,” Thomas said.

In the event that inspectors determine that the property is not in a high-risk area, he said, they fill out a letter of modification (LOMA) and send it to FEMA for review. If the government agency agrees with the finding, it will issue an official letter to the property owner, which exempts him from paying for additional insurance.

Areas near flood-prone rivers are often well-established by mapping, but Thomas said there are many unnamed tributaries and properties in rural areas that are not well-mapped.

The floodplain map turned out to be accurate in about 70 percent of the 150 flood altitude certificates that Thomas’ company has made in the past nine years.

Of the remaining 30 percent, he said, 10 percent of the properties received LOMA; Flood insurance was reduced by 10 percent due to lower flood risk, and 10 percent was found to be at greater risk and insurance costs increased.

Updating the maps is good for the people of the valley, the taxpayers. Updating the floodplain map is necessary to save lives and protect taxpayers, said state spokeswoman Linda Schlegel Culver.

“We need fewer people to build in the floodplain, because eventually the day will come when you will flood,” she said. “If you want to live (in a flood-prone area), you need to know what you’re getting into. Let’s face it, Susquehanna Rivers is absolutely beautiful. (But if a natural disaster happens) someone has to pay for it and it’s a safety issue.

Residents living in the flood zone can take precautions, Molesevic said, such as keeping basements as empty as possible and having a plan in case of an emergency.

He reminds how devastating the flood can be from the marker, which notes how high the water was during the flood of March 19, 1936 in South Water Street, Lewisberg, the house where he lives.

For the past two years, Chair has spoken to many about the impact of Hurricane Agnes as the 50th anniversary of the June 2022 disaster approaches.

“No one I’ve talked to is worried about the next flood,” he said. “We can either choose to plan ahead by redrawing the maps, or we can’t do it and deal with the consequences.

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