MOUNT VERNON — The Fedral Emergency Management Agency is in the process of updating Knox County’s flood plain maps. Flood plains or zones are geographic areas that FEMA has defined according to varying levels of flood risk. These zones are depicted on a community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map or Flood Hazard Boundary Map. Each zone reflects the severity or type of flooding in the area.
“To the county, it means there have been some revisions and there’s some areas in the county and city especially, that are being affected,” said Darrel Severns, secretary for the Knox County Regional Planning Commission. “These areas are being affected adversely in the need to purchase flood insurance now on properties that hadn’t been required to do so before.”
Severns said the new studies done for the update of the maps are much more accurate than in the past. Because of this, properties formerly outside of a flood zone are now in one.
“FEMA is not necessarily recognizing levees that were built years ago that might not be up to their standards anymore,” he said. “So areas in the west end of Mount Vernon are being protected by levees that are not recognized on the FEMA maps.”
This update has had an affect on people living in the west and south areas of Mount Vernon. The levees in place generally date from 1959, having been built after the great flood of that year. Because the levees are 50 years old and do not meet other specifications, FEMA regards those areas as not being protected by the levees.
“These people are not very happy having to purchase flood insurance,” Severns said. “That’s the major thing going on right now with the updates.”
Severns explained that although the maps have changed — mostly expanding the flood zone areas — the rules concerning the flood zones have not changed.
Severns said the maps are valuable to insurance companies, and the information is invaluable in determining what kind of insurance coverage a homeowner needs.
“We offer flood insurance through the federal government,” said Don White of Don White Insurance in Mount Vernon.
Agents like White have no problems, however, with changes in updated maps.
“I don’t use any maps,” White explained. “It’s software. We have a flood determination tool. We plug in the address and it comes back telling us yes or no whether it’s in a flood plain or not. It tells us what zone it’s in and gives us all the information we need. You don’t have to look at a map anymore.”
White said it makes it a little easier, but he still has to explain flood insurance to people. And what most people are not aware of is that flood insurance is not a part of normal homowners insurance policies. It is a special insurance offered by the federal government and available throough local insurance agents who are brokers for the government flood insurance. If a home is in a flood plain and it has a mortgage, flood insurance is required by the bank.