Gulf of Mexico
A home in Mexico Beach. Alicia Devine, Tallahassee Democrat

Outdated FEMA flood maps cost uninsured homeowners millions; North Florida hit the hardest

Mexico Beach was ground zero for Hurricane Michael, destroying 70 percent of the resort community’s homes and businesses with its Category 5 winds and 18-foot storm surge. Because its flood maps hadn’t been updated in 10 years, 80 percent of those structures were uninsured because FEMA placed them in flood zone "X" – areas that have low-to-moderate risks for flooding, according to a report by My Flood Risk, an affiliate of Melbourne, Fla.-based National Flood Insurance LLC.

“When it comes to uninsured flood victims in the United States, Florida’s Panhandle ranks the highest,” said Jennifer Scherff, marketing project manager for My Flood Risk. “Eighty percent percent of flood losses were uninsured.”

Those outdated maps pose a high risk to homeowners and business owners alike, said Amanda Bryant, director of operations for My Flood Risk. Many of those outdated flood maps are in parts of Florida hit hard by hurricanes in the last few years. Hurricane Irma caused $50 billion in damage in Florida, making it the most expensive in the state's history. Michael caused $3 billion in the Florida Panhandle.

“It is dangerously inaccurate,” Bryant said.

FEMA acknowledges the maps need updating and says they are is the process of doing so.

"FEMA recommends flood insurance coverage, even if it is not required by law or a financial lender for a mortgage, as the best protection against the unpredictable and significant financial losses a flooding event can cause," a FEMA spokesman said.

FEMA provides individual and household protection assistance to people in the "X" flood zone for their uninsured or under-insured disaster-caused expenses and serious needs if they meet the required eligibility factors, the spokesman said.

Nationally, the FEMA maps are leaving some 100 million Americans and 35 to 40 million uninsured homes and businesses at risk of flooding, Bryant said. Yet only 5.5 million policies are in effect, and 40 percent of them are in Florida, according to FEMA's own data.

“Florida is less behind than other states but that’s because we’re the most flood prone state of all,” Bryant said.

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