The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has advised Pinellas County that the multi-year project to re-examine Pinellas County coastal flood zones and develop detailed, digital flood hazard maps (Flood Insurance Rate Maps) has been completed. These new maps are based on revised coastal flood modeling and may affect owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and inland areas near waterways connected to the Gulf or Bay.
FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood hazard mapping is the basis for local and federal development regulations and flood insurance requirements. Not only is flooding one of the most common and costly disasters, the risk for flooding changes over time due to erosion, land use, new building and development, weather events and other factors. FEMA studies and restudies flood hazards in communities across the U.S. to keep flood hazard maps up to date. The process usually takes several years to complete and includes the following steps:
Each time FEMA provides a community with updated flood hazard data, the community must adopt or amend floodplain management regulations to incorporate the new data and meet any additional requirements that result from any changes in the data.
In 2012, FEMA initiated a coastal flood risk study for the West Florida Study Area that affects Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. The results of that study will be incorporated into updated digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports for these counties.
This multi-year project to re-examine Pinellas County coastal flood zones and develop detailed, digital flood hazard maps has been completed. FEMA released the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports, which reflect current flood risks, for public review last summer (2018). The County in partnership with its municipalities and FEMA held four open house style public meetings around the county soon after the release of the preliminary maps. The County also made the preliminary maps available to the public on two online map services (links above) and at County offices.
The new FEMA map updates include a new Coastal AE zone and a line called the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA). The LiMWA indicates where waves can reach heights of over 1.5 feet.
FEMA initiated a 90-day appeal period on May 2, 2019. During this period, the County, in coordination with its municipalities, held three open house style public meetings to provide an opportunity for citizens to comment on the preliminary data. Pinellas County performed an independent review of the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports and submitted findings and all public comments to FEMA at the end of July. County citizens also had an opportunity to appeal or comment on the proposed flood hazard information shown on the Preliminary FIRM and/or FIS report. To support an appeal, scientific or technical data showing the flood hazard information is shown in error was required to be submitted. For more information, review the Criteria for Appeals of Flood Insurance Rate Maps .
FEMA has since satisfactorily resolved the preliminary study comments and appeals and performed their final quality review of the data. On March 5th, 2021 the County received a letter from FEMA stating that “the determination of the Agency as to the flood hazard information for your community is considered final. FEMA will publish a notice of final flood hazard determinations in the Federal Register as soon as possible. The modified flood hazard determinations and revised map panels for your community will be effective as of August 24, 2021, and will revise the FIRM that was in effect prior to that date.” As a condition of continued eligibility in the NFIP, affected communities must adopt or show evidence of adoption of floodplain management regulations prior to the effective date.
The County has not yet received the final data package. Once FEMA prints and distributes the FIRM and FIS report and provides the digital files containing the final flood hazard data to the County they will be made available. The updated flood hazard information will replace the study and map that is up to 18 years old. The new flood hazard mapping information will be available on the Pinellas County Flood Map Service.
Flood insurance will be required for properties that have a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender and are shown on the effective FIRM in a regulated flood zone or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Flood insurance policies on properties affected by a flood zone and/or Base Flood Elevation (BFE) change will be adjusted to reflect rates associated with the changes as well. Contact your insurance agent to discuss potential changes to your policy. For flood insurance technical assistance, visit our Advocates page.
General questions regarding this in-progress coastal flood risk study can be addressed to the FEMA staff listed below: