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Implications of ‘flood-prone’

King George County plans an open house Aug. 27 to explain the complicated issue of flood-prone coastal areas and what it means to be in one.

“There’s a lot of facets to this,” said David Bollinger, a coordinator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region III, which includes Virginia. “It’s not something you can just give somebody one answer to.”

FEMA has updated maps of flood-prone areas known as FIRMS, or Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The maps were last updated in 2009.

At that time, King George had nine residential addresses in the flood plains. As of the 2014 maps, there are three more addresses listed in flood-prone areas for a total of 12.

That’s not a large portion of county properties, but for those who are part of the new flood zone, “it’s going to be a huge change,” Bollinger said.

Anyone in a high-risk flood zone has to have mandatory flood insurance, according to King George County’s website.

The purpose of the Aug. 27 meeting—which stars at 7 p.m. in the boardroom of the Revercomb Administration Center—is to go over the maps and answer residents’ questions. Representatives from the county, state and FEMA will be there.

Bollinger said the best thing for residents to do is look at the paper maps provided by the county—in the Community Development Office—or FEMA’s online version to see where their homes are.

The online maps are searchable by address only, so it’s not possible to look at the maps and identify the overall areas of the flood zones.

As for mandatory flood insurance, Bollinger said that’s even more complicated. Unlike homeowners’ insurance, it is specific to the property and its first-floor elevation.

“If you have a mortgage backed by federal money, you have to have flood insurance to cover that risk,” Bollinger said.

Flood insurance can cost “anywhere from $500 a year to whatever,” depending on the structure and what’s around it, he said.

As a county, King George has to adopt updated maps to continue participating in the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes flood insurance available to the community.

FEMA held a similar open house in Stafford County on Aug. 14.

FEMA’s Region III includes Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Virginia has the largest number of coastal communities, with 28 counties along the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay shorelines, according to FEMA’s website.

To look at the coastal flood zones in Virginia, go to Maps are available for the counties of Essex, King George, Stafford and Westmoreland.

Click on the desired county, then “more info,” then users will see a field to click to enter their address.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425