The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to play with the minds and wallets of victims long after the physical damage has been done. We’ve talked about the pre-dawn attack of looters; we’ve scratched our heads at the red tape of insurance companies and adjusters. Legal professionals have instructed us to act before deadlines or walk away with nothing. Add the ever-present knife in the back of dishonest businesses and scamming charities, and you’re probably thinking that it might make more sense to move on than to stay put in this hornet’s nest of inhumanity.
Ok, I know I’m a bit dark with this article, but the fact remains that I have much empathy for my fellow residents and musicians that continue to go through these life-altering situations. I don’t know what I would do if I had to jump through so many hoops and run gauntlets of government and corporate officials just to be able to be back in my home. Unfortunately, that opens the next door in this ongoing saga of discontent.
With the passing of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, FEMA has changed the zoning maps that have affected NJ residents in a big way. To understand this subject, I went to several sites to read up on the initial zoning and reason for changes. Honestly, it’s as simple as the coastal area itself. Nature has its own agenda of change, and we are nothing more than easily moved pawns in its path. All I can really bring it down to is that sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you pay the price.
Flood risk is an ever-changing beast, and after becoming well read on the subject, I came to be familiar with terms such as “Levee Classifications” and “Environmental Changes.” The fact is that FEMA has implicated an update of all DFIRMS (Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps), which will show flood risk at a property-by-property level. Unfortunately for some, this means that while initially they may have escaped the zone drones, now they are right in their path.
Zoning maps are issued by FEMA and designed to classify properties for flood insurance regulations. As maps are updated, zone reassignments move like chess pieces all over the proverbial board. Some homeowners get lucky, being downgraded from one higher risk zone to another while others end up in precarious financial straights when they realize that they are now part of the high-risk area. These high-risk areas will of course mean that, unless you fall under a “Grandfathering” clause, you have to make huge changes that include purchasing upgraded flood insurance if your home is mortgaged under a federally regulated lender.
Zones run from several “A” classifications, to the dreaded “V” zone. V zone is where flood plain management comes into play and from what I’m reading, it’s extremely expensive and time consuming. Basically, if you’re assigned to the V zone, you have to raise your home up on stilts and implement other methods to be able to withstand storm waves.
Many that are discovering the predicament of V zone classification are balking, defending their turf and asking why they have neighbors who are mere feet away who have a different zone classification. They have good reason to be upset. On top of building their homes into a demented crow’s nest, if they want manageable insurance (a joke in itself), V zone residents also have to rebuild at a certain “above flood elevation” that is determined by the federal, state and local government.
The good news is that FEMA may be rethinking the latest version of their “100 Year Flood Maps” and backing down on previous statements for final zoning. FEMA’s head analyst has been quoted in the media as saying that the method for estimating wave height in certain areas may have been “overstated.”
That being said, there are things that we can do. Talk to your insurance agent immediately. Look into the PRP (Preferred Risk Policy) to see if you are eligible for manageable insurance on your home. Also, don’t ignore “Grandfathering.” This is purchasing insurance before map changes are put into effect. Map changes at this point may still be months away from completion and have an open time frame. If you qualify, once new maps are put into play, you get two years to renew before year three, which then qualifies you for rates associated with moderate-to-low risk zones.
I recently read an article on the aftermath of Katrina and how many former residents just never went back. Lifelong homes, vacation hideaways and fishing clubs are nothing more than sand-covered foundations that look as if man had never set foot there. Like some apocalyptic film, extinction appears to rule the day. Government delay and insurance snafus played a big part in that abandonment, just like I am sure it will try to do here on certain sections of our coast. The only thing we can do is remain educated and informed. Don’t just give up and walk away; we never know what’s facing us around the next corner. There are avenues still left to explore here, and the end game remains a wide-open challenge that needs to be played by any means necessary.
To quote the wise words of The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, “It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.”
If you require any information on what was discussed here, please go take a look at floodsmart.gov and fema.gov.
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