By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Despite heavy criticism from many coastal towns damaged by floods and sea level rise regarding FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) outdated flood maps, the government agency says that the revision of flood maps is underway, but slowly due to cost constraints.
“Each year, FEMA initiates studies and restudies of flood hazards in communities across the U.S. for the creation, as well as the revision, of community flood hazard maps,” says FEMA’s website, adding, “Because of funding constraints, however, FEMA can study or restudy only a limited number of communities each year.”
According to critics, FEMA flood maps today fails to factor in how global warming is changing the climate, leading people to believe their homes are safe from flooding.
“People for forty years were led to believe that FEMA flood maps were the gospel on their flood risk,” Albert Slap, president of Florida-based Coastal Risk Consulting was quoted as saying by The Miami Herald. “People have been wiped out as a result of following FEMA flood maps.”
For Mexico Beach residents, in Florida, however, a revision of flood risk maps may have convinced many to get flood insurance before 2018 Hurricane Michael hit the area, saving thousands of dollars and heartache. According to data, the flood maps for the area dated back to 2009.
With a population of nearly 1,200, and most cinder block homes dating back to the 1950’s, Mexico Beach almost disappeared after Hurricane Michael. Approximately seventy percent of the homes were destroyed, while ten percent of the remaining ones were severely damaged.
The precision of FEMA’s flood maps has been called into question before, including by Homeland Security. In a 2017 report, the agency acknowledges the inaccuracies of the maps.
“FEMA is unable to assess flood hazard miles to meet its program goal and is not ensuring mapping partner quality reviews are completed in accordance with applicable guidance,” stated the report.
Now with political pressure from Congress to drastically revise the National Flood Insurance Program and restructure its risk rate, FEMA may finally be forced to update all maps, showing flooding and sea level rise risks, giving homeowners the true picture of their houses’ risks.
According to the entity, the highest priority is given to where the maps are most outdated.