Homeowners can go to the county’s website, www.colliergov.net/floodmaps where they will be able to search for what zone their homes are in and the base flood elevation.
NAPLES — More than 150 people attended the first of six flood map meetings in Collier County to find out if their property is suddenly considered to be in a flood zone.
“We just wanted to find out what our flood zone is and if it’s still what it used to be,” said North Naples resident Gary Norbo, 75, who attended the event at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church’s Parish Life Center with his wife Pat, 75.
Learning how their bottom line could be affected was another reason, said Pat Norbo.
“We might be able to save some money on insurance,” she said.
Nevertheless, the couple said they were turned off by the disorganized start of the event, which was held by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Collier County.
A line had formed outside the building and others sat inside the hall, even before the staff had finished setting up computers and registration stations.
Robert Wiley, Collier’s principal project manager for FEMA and Flood Insurance Rate Maps, said he understood some of the residents’ frustrations.
“We wanted people to spread out over a three hour period, but they all showed up at the front,” said Wiley. “And then it didn’t help that we got here a little late too.”
Instead of a formal presentation, county staff was meeting with individual residents to let them know whether or not they are in a flood zone — and what the options are if their homes now need insurance.
“Everybody’s situation is potentially different, so no presentation would accomplish what we want people to see: How their property is potentially impacted,” said Wiley adding that the map is a draft, and that it is being brought out so people can see and raise issues over the next six to eight months.
However, that process caused some friction, when the residents who had been inside for a while were told to sign-in after the line had already formed.
“That was after the fact,” said Gary Norbo. “I know that the people that are on the computers now, signed in after we did.”
A set of flood-plain maps released recently, has as many as 50,000 structures in Collier County that would now require flood insurance within the next nine months to 18 months.
The release of new flood maps from FEMA represents the first change in the flood plain designations in the county in more than a decade.
But the biggest difference between the old flood map and the proposed map is that rainfall is now being taken into consideration, Wiley said.
“They (FEMA) have a totally new storm surge analysis and a new rainfall analysis,” he said adding that he knows the change is a little contentious for residents out in Golden Gate Estates.
At Monday’s meeting, insurance agent Walter Howell said the proposed flood map has not only hit his customers, but that it’s also affecting him.
“Everyone has been calling to find out (if they’re affected),” said Howell with McDonald Insurance Agency. He has been fielding calls from customers on the issue for the past few days. “I suddenly discovered I’m in it (the proposed flood zone) and I don’t want to be in it.”
McDonald said he learned through county staff that his Island Walk home had gone from the exempt zone to an “AH” zone.
Only homeowners in zones designated with either an “A” or “V” are required to purchase flood insurance if their mortgage is backed by the federal government. Almost every bank mortgage has some sort of guarantee in place, meaning almost every mortgagee in an “A” or “V” zone needs insurance.
Zones starting with a “V” are considered velocity zones, meaning the main risk of flooding comes from a wind-related event such as a hurricane or tropical storm. Homes in these zones are most at risk from storm surge or tidal waves caused by storms.
Zones starting with an “A” are areas where flooding is most likely to occur because of a rain event, where standing water rises or sheet-flow flooding from heavy rains upstream cause the damage.
The new FEMA maps do little to change the “V” zones, but add thousands of acres to “A” zones. Originally, FEMA’s maps didn’t designate the elevation above which properties in an “A” zone no longer are considered a flood risk.
Howell said he wasn’t too happy with the verdict.
“I now have to buy flood insurance,” he said. “It means an additional $355 a year.”