Three decades old flood maps raise concerns about who lives in a flood zone

30-year-old FEMA maps raise flood risk concerns

JUPITER, Fla. - Nancy Heins will never forget the destruction and flooding Tropical Storm Gordon left on her Jupiter home.

"We took out all the cabinets all the dry wall from two feet down all the insulation and literally had to rebuild the house from the bottom down," she said.

A $50,000 rebuild she and her then husband had to pay for out of pocket because they weren't prepared. 

"I didn't have flood insurance because it was considered a no flood zone," she said.

That was in 1995 and at the time FEMA's flood insurance rate maps for the Town of Jupiter were 13 years old.

Now the 1982 maps are 30 years old.

"The fact that they haven't updated the maps in over 30 years is just hard to believe," Heins said. "It's just sad."

She also thinks it's a cause for concern.

"When you're buying a place or renting a place you need to understand if you're at risk," she said.

Palm Beach County Water Resource Manager Ken Todd said FEMA is working on it.

Problem is they've been working on updating them for 11 years.

Todd said it's not normally supposed to take that long.

FEMA representatives told NewsChannel 5 they didn't meet with the county until 2008 to work on the maps.

Either way, FEMA said updating Palm Beach County maps is taking longer than expected.

The process normally takes two to three years, FEMA said.

In the meantime, flood insurance agents said they're charging low rates that don't match the risk.

"When you can buy something that's $100,000 for $150 it kind of diminishes the value and people say, 'Do we really need this," flood insurance agent Jim Boldon said.

Boldon runs the company Common Sense Insurance and he said flood insurance rates should probably be double what they are now.

In the meantime, FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program is billions of dollars in debt.

"They need more money so where is it going to come from it's either going to come from the person who is buying the policy or the federal government," Boldon said.

A FEMA spokeswoman said the maps should be finished for the county and public to review in 2013.

"I do believe there will be changes where some people will be in a flood zone who weren't previously in a flood zone may be taken out," Todd said.

A move that could increase premiums for those with flood insurance, but Heins said that's better than going what she went through in '95.

"It's still much better to pay several hundred a year than pay several thousand dollars in damages," Heins added.

A FEMA spokeswoman in an email said dep ending on the complexities involved, some mapping projects take more time. 

In the case of Palm Beach County, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have been closely working together to incorporate technical data as it relates to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, she said.

In addition, some mapping projects took additional time while FEMA reviewed the analysis it uses when mapping levees and structures such as the Herbert Hoover Dike, she added.

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