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Hundreds attend flood risk open house in Marco Island

Over 350 people attended an open house in Marco Island's Frank E. Mackle Community Park on Tuesday to learn about their properties' risk of flooding and how it might affect their flood insurance rates. 

Danon Lucas, spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said the existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps or FIRMs are from 2012.

"The reason why we are having these meetings is because we are doing a roll-out of new coastal flood insurance rate maps for Collier County," Lucas said. "These maps show the risk of flooding in the area."

"While these maps won't go effective for probably another 18 months or so it's really important we come out and make sure people have information about them before they go effective in case they want to make any changes to their insurance."

At the open house, people could check their current and proposed flood zones, see how it might affect their insurance rates and learn how to appeal. 

More:Will new flood maps affect your home? Public meetings in Collier may hold the answer

And:New flood maps draw a crowd in Collier as property owners try to gauge impact

"I'm mostly here to see the map and what is the likelihood of damage to my property," said Mary Lou Mason, owner of a Marco home built in 1991. "I haven't had any flood damage since the house was built."

Linda Ferguson owns a house which is over 35-years-old.

"We have an older home so I'd like to find out how the elevation of the properties have changed," Ferguson said. "I've been here for 26 years and we have never had water (damage)."

Richard Blonna, a Marco Island resident since 2012, was more focused on insurance rates.

"I'm here just to see if the new flood plans will affect our flood insurance," Blonna said.

Blonna bought his house one month after Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island in 2017.

"I'm somewhat optimistic."

Lucas wrote in an email that the event had an excellent turnout.

"The feedback we received from those who attended was that they were leaving better informed about their flood risk," Lucas wrote. "That information will ultimately help attendees make better decisions about how to manage their current and future flood risk." 

Updating flood maps is a collaborative process during which FEMA works with partners and local communities to incorporate the latest and most accurate information into the maps so that they better reflect flood risks, according to Lucas. 

"Flood risk changes over time due to construction, development, environmental changes, shoreline erosion, and other natural or manmade factors," Lucas wrote. "These changes send water flowing in new directions, creating flood risks that did not exist previously — precisely why flood maps are updated."

FIRMs are used by lenders to determine flood insurance requirements and by communities to promote responsible floodplain development, according to Lucas.

"While FIRMs help define a level of risk, backed by the best available data, history shows that flooding can occur anywhere it rains," Lucas wrote. "Even a few inches of water in a home — the greatest investment most homeowners have — can cause thousands of dollars of damage."

"That is why we always recommend flood insurance, even if it is not a lender requirement."

All FIRMs are publicly available through FEMA’s Map Service Center, including preliminary maps. For more information, people can go to https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home

This round of preliminary maps is focusing largely on the U.S. 41 corridor, both toward the Gulf and inland, Christopher Mason, the county's FEMA floodplain coordinator, said to the Naples Daily News.

More than 90 percent of Collier is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, where flood insurance is required for residents financing homes through a federally backed loan. 

Additional reporting by Patrick Riley.

Omar Rodríguez Ortiz is a community reporter for Naples Daily News and Marco Eagle. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR, and on Facebook. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.