U.S. Water News Online
ATLANTA -- Many Georgia homeowners have learned the hard
way recently that their property is not as safe from flooding as they
Flood plains have changed in many fast-growing counties, and state
environmental officials are busy updating flood plain maps for all
As a result, some homeowners may soon find their homes are in a
flood plain, and that the designation could cost hundreds of dollars
in additional insurance costs each year.
The process of updating the flood plain maps is already under way
in most of Georgia's fastest-growing counties, including Fulton,
Cobb, Cherokee, Henry and Paulding.
For developers, the flood plain designation could bring additional
costs and delays for building under stricter flood plain regulations.
Flood plains can shift and expand as developers clear-cut trees
for buildings and roads. Homes become more vulnerable to rising
water, making the old maps obsolete, officials say.
"With all the development going on, many flood plains shift within
just a few years," said Collis Brown, flood plain management
coordinator with the state Environmental Protection Division.
Many Georgians had their homes severely damaged by floods spawned
by heavy rain from Hurricane Dennis.
Homeowner Sheldon Vick, who lives in south Cobb County, said he
was "overwhelmed" as the rising water inundated his ranch-style house
and those of his neighbors on Clay Road. Vick, 39, said he didn't get
flood insurance when he bought his home last fall because he wasn't
told that his property was in a flood plain.
"This was my first home," Vick said. "I'm not sure I'll be able to
return to it."
Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked that parts of Cobb, Douglas and
Cherokee counties be designated disaster areas because of the
flooding, much of which was outside of mapped flood plains.
As mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the flood
plain maps distinguish which properties lie within the 100-year flood
plain -- meaning that they face a 1 percent chance of flooding in any
given year. Cities and counties use the maps to help regulate flood
Homeowners in a flood plain must buy FEMA flood insurance with
their mortgage. Homeowners without mortgages are urged to buy the
The average flood insurance policy costs a little more than $400 a
year for about $100,000 of coverage, according to FEMA.
Officials say about 70 percent of Georgia's map is outdated by as
much as 20 years, according to officials.
"Given the rapid development in the metro Atlanta area, those maps
can quickly become outdated," said Steve Haubner, principal engineer
with the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Among the first to get notices that they now live in a flood plain
will be a number of Henry County residents.
Over the next few years, other communities throughout Georgia will
be going through a similar process.
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