New Jersey Coastal Flood Risk Worse Than Thought: FEMA

By GEOFF MULVIHILL | December 17, 2012

FEMA gave details on an advisory flood map for 10 New Jersey counties that shows the risk of flood levels is worse than it was believed on the current flood zone maps, which were adopted nearly 30 years ago. FEMA said that the water levels in floods could be 1 to 5 feet higher in most coastal flood zones.

Houses in Reeds Beach suffered severe damage during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

The advisory flood map is to be released on Saturday to help guide property owners and communities as they decide how to rebuild.

“It’s important as we move forward that people know their risk,” said Ryan Pietrimeli, the FEMA risk analysis branch chief.

The maps being made public Saturday are based on data gathered as the agency sought to update the maps it uses to determine premiums in the federal flood insurance program.

Information used to make the maps predates when Sandy crashed into New Jersey’s shore in October, devastating many coastal areas. The maps do not incorporate projections that the sea level will rise at an accelerating rate.

The official flood insurance map is due to be unveiled next year and adopted in 2014.

Pietrimeli said that communities should adopt the map to be made public Saturday into building codes. In some place, it will mean that structures should be built on pilings or piers to be kept above places where flood waters are now seen as a risk. He also said there could be tougher codes in areas where waves could crash into buildings.

Pietrimeli said one incentive for homeowners to follow the new map is that they can receive discounts on flood insurance if they elevate their homes about the levels currently required.

The map being released Saturday covers 194 municipalities in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union Counties.

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