Commissioners Discuss New Flood Plain Maps

On Thursday, April 18th the Pocahontas County Commission met with Tim Keaton, the National Flood Insurance Coordinator for WV; Betsy Ranson from FEMA; several representatives of the state Emergency Management Agency; two WVU GIS Specialists; and with the County, Durbin and Marlinton Flood Plain Coordinators; to discuss the new FEMA Flood Plain Maps for the county.

Keaton explained that FEMA’s new flood maps for Pocahontas County have just been released in preliminary form. He said that for now the maps are “advisory.” He said they can be seen on the WV Flood Map Tool at-  He said they can also be found on the FEMA website- There is currently a 90-day appeal period, then 6 months after that ends, the maps will become official.

He said the new maps have been under development for many years, and are much more accurate than the old maps were. This is because Lidar mapping from aircraft was utilized to determine the exact elevations of the surface of the land. Keaton said the old maps used highway maps containing 20-foot elevation contours, and those are not nearly as accurate as the radar-based Lidar mapping is.

Keaton said, the new maps show expanded flood plain and floodway areas in the county. As a result, a much larger portion of Marlinton, as well as of other parts of the county are now in a flood plain or floodway. The areas in a floodway are more dangerous than those simply in a flood plain, He said new construction is very restricted in a floodway, while construction in a flood plain, while difficult, is still possible.

They said that the owner of a building in a flood plain should purchase National Flood Insurance, but if there is a mortgage on the structure, flood insurance is required by most lenders. He also warned that If your home is mortgaged and the new flood maps place it in a flood plain when it was not before, your mortgage company will likely require that you purchase flood insurance.

Without flood insurance, Keaton explained, if your home is damaged in a flood, you could receive a very limited amount of disaster relief from FEMA -an average of about $4.000, but if it floods a second time you won’t be eligible for any more disaster relief funds. But, If a structure is covered by flood insurance there is an average flood damage reimbursement of $19,000 for each flood damage occurrence.

They said that the new maps show that about 200 structures in Pocahontas County have been moved into flood plains, and about she same number have been moved out of flood plains. The new maps show there are about 900 structures in the county that are in flood plains, but only 190 of them are covered by flood insurance.

They said that the flood plain and floodway areas in Marlinton and elsewhere in the county have increased in size. Part of the reason for that is the increased accuracy of the flood mapping  techniques used, but also because people have illegally elevated their structures by adding fill which increases the size of the flood plain and the amount of flood damages experienced by other properties in the area. They said FEMA, in the near future, will be cracking down on those fill-elevated properties that were built up on fill without proper permits.

Keaton also said there are flood mitigation grants available to homeowners who wish to legally increase the elevation of their houses by raising them up on piers.

The presenters also said that Marlinton is in the top 10% of all flood risk areas in West Virginia.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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