FEMA Updates Flood Elevations for Several Miss. Counties to Support Rebuilding Efforts

October 9, 2005

To help Mississippi coastal communities make safe rebuilding decisions during the Hurricane Katrina recovery process the Federal Emergency Management Agency developed advisory flood elevations for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. The advisory elevations were released to Gulf Coast officials and will be included on updated flood recovery maps scheduled to be released in November.

A flood elevation is the height above ground at which there is one-percent chance water could reach in a given year. The new advisory flood elevations update the existing flood elevations developed in the mid-1980s and include tide and storm data collected from Katrina and other storms like Hurricanes Elena and Georges. Analyses conclude the flood elevations shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps within these counties could be 3 to 8 feet too low. The advisory flood elevations, while only advisory, show where FEMA engineers and floodplain experts estimate that there is a 1 percent chance of floodwaters reaching in any given year.

“Our goal is to help states and local communities make the best decisions while reconstructing their communities,” said Vice Admiral Thad Allen, principal federal official and federal coordinating officer for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Recovery Efforts.

Hurricane Katrina’s waters far exceeded the one-percent chance flood event, which is sometimes known as the 100-year flood. The effects of this hurricane, and other recent storm events, have demonstrated the need to re-evaluate existing data along the Mississippi coast. The advisory flood elevations reportedly provide communities more accurate up-to-date data on where flooding is most likely to occur. The advisory elevations will reportedly not increase flood insurance premiums.

The effects of this hurricane, and other recent storm events, have pointed to the need to re-evaluate existing data along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The advisory flood elevations provide communities more accurate, up-to-date flood data. They can assist state and local officials and those rebuilding in making decisions on how to reconstruct their property.

“We are committed to building a bigger, better and safer Gulf Coast,” said Gov. Haley Barbour. “These advisories will help all of us meet that vision.”

FEMA provides advisory information to local governments, but ultimately it is state and local officials, working with their citizens, who make final decisions on land use and other building code requirements. An example of these requirements might be the need to elevate a structure or to build on stronger foundations.

FEMA strongly recommends communities build higher and stronger to reduce vulnerability from flooding during future hurricanes. In many cases, FEMA can reportedly provide resources during the recovery process to help implement these measures.

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