As we approach the hurricane season deeper, we want to cover the upcoming flood map changes to Pottsville and Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. We'll unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly changes this can bring to locals and what it means to flood insurance in the future.
These changes are expected to take effect next week on May 18th and will affect many residents across the county. It's important to note that this update will solely focus on Schuylkill Pennsylvania, so if you want to know more flood map updates, tune in with us as we cover a lot of these changes.
Flood map updates or technically Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) are a long process that involves collecting, analyzing, and understanding flood data across the United States. This can take a lot of time, so if you still haven't received an update on your community flood map, you can expect one in the future.
Pottsville and Flood
First, let's talk about the flooding in Pottsville and Pennsylvania in general in order to understand the risks of flooding in these areas.
Now, it's important to remind ourselves that Pennsylvania has been subject to the worst flooding in modern times. We've seen this on how much damage the state received from the Flood of 1889. This flooding caused 20 million tons of water to ravage through Johnstown and this, unfortunately, took thousands of lives.
There's also the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936 which caused $300 million in damages and took more than 100 lives in its wake. Due to the huge quantity of snowfall in Winter which was preserved by the low temperature which was then melted by the warm climate as the state starts the Spring season.
You also have to consider the state's damages from different hurricanes and storms such as Diane in '55, Tropical Storm Agnes in '72, Eloise in '75. There's also the Second Great flood of 1977 that caused five dams to fail.
In more recent times, there was the Hurricane Ivan flooding of 2004 that caused more than $264 million in property damage and 12 official deaths. Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 also brought an estimated more than $150,000 in damages from the event which caused a lot of properties to be demolished due to major damages. A year and a month after Lee came Superstorm Sandy in 2012 which caused an estimate of $75 billion in property damages and 181 deaths across the country.
As you can see, Pennsylvania has had a long history of flooding which was caused by melting snow, heavy rainfall, and what seems to be a hotspot of storms as well. This can be something that we may experience in the future which is. If you look at last year (2020), Pottsville faced flash flooding due to rainfall. Protection from flood insurance is not an option at this point for locals, it's a must if you want to be safe from flood loss.
Let's talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly changes that the new flood map update will bring to Pottsville.
When it comes to this flood map change coming on May 18th, we're seeing big numbers when it comes to how properties will be moved. This good change generally talks about the "in to out" movement. This is talking about properties moving out of the high-risk flood zones and into low-risk flood zones or preferred flood zones.
Around 2400 residents are going to experience this good change. This could mean that if you're previously in a high-risk zone where flood insurance might be required, you won't have to carry mandatory flood insurance.
Although it's still highly recommended to get flood insurance even if you're in these low-risk zones like flood zone X since there are multiple reasons why you can still be flooded. In the case of Pottsville, you really want to make sure you're protected especially with the consistent threat of flash floods across the city.
This also means that you won't have to deal with the expensive flood insurance rates that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will ask of you since being moved in to out generally provides a decrease on previous flood insurance premiums of about five to fifteen percent. If previously you're paying for maybe $1200 premium for your flood policy, this can go down to $1000.
Now, when it comes to what we'd like to call bad changes, this is when properties are moving "out to in". This is the exact opposite of what's happening to the previous one since around 2200 properties are moving into these high-risk flood zones like Flood Zone A when previously they're in a low-risk flood zone.
This is what we consider bad changes since you're going to face a lot of things that you didn't worry about if you weren't carrying flood insurance with your property previously. Generally, mortgage companies will require you to carry flood insurance for your property in order to make sure that its value is protected and also because high-risk flood zones or special flood hazard areas (SFHA) are required to have flood insurance regardless.
It's important to note that you should get your flood insurance before your mortgage lender could force-place a policy on the property since this will cost you a lot of money, but not enough flood insurance.
Flood insurance rates for the SFHA or high-risk zones are also significantly higher than the preferred zones. This can mean that you're going to pay a $1500 to $2000 premium each year and this is something that 2200 property owners will face once this flood map change kicks in on May 18th.
Let's dive into one of the biggest numbers we're seeing in this new flood map change and what we'd like to call the ugly change. About 9200 are expected to be moved deeper in the SFHA. This generally means that homeowners will now be mapped into a higher-risk flood zone. Some would call this "moving from Flood Zone A to AE".
Now, most of the residents affected here are sure to have flood insurance with their properties however what might be very jarring to handle is the increase of flood insurance rates for these affected properties. This "in to in" movement means that flood premiums can go up to $3000 or maybe even $5000 depending on the construction of the property and its history of flood loss.
Other than having to carry mandatory flood insurance, the NFIP and other insurance carriers from the private market might require you to carry additional documents like photos and an elevation certificate for you to be able to even start buying flood insurance when you move into higher-risk zones.
Now, let's cover your flood insurance options and how you may be able to manage and fight these changes.
Flood Insurance Options
Considering how much movement Pottsville is getting when it comes to flood zone designation and the constant threat of flash flooding that may repeat from last year, it's important to understand how your flood insurance options can help you be protected from flood damage and eventually flood loss.
If you're in a participating community then you can easily get your flood insurance policy from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It's important to preface this part that the NFIP will have to ask you to follow a 30-day waiting period before your policy can take effect on the listed property. So, you really need to be ahead of time when you're looking to get a policy from FEMA.
The NFIP provides maximum coverage of $250,000 for property damage and $100,000 in contents or personal property coverage. You should take note of the maximum amount of coverage since this is the coverage limit of the NFIP when it comes to residential properties. If you're doing a commercial policy, the property or building coverage can go up to a maximum of $500,000. The NFIP doesn't provide additional coverage such as additional living expenses, replacement costs, or loss of use.
The good thing about the NFIP is that they'll provide what's called "Newly Mapped" rates. This is intended for those who are moving into a higher-risk area compared to their previous flood zone before the flood map update kicks in. This is a cost-saving option wherein for the first 12 months after this flood map update, you can pay for a lower-cost preferred risk policy (PRP). Your rates will go up no more than 18% each year until you reach the intended rate for the new flood zone of your property.
The NFIP also allows homeowners to appeal their flood zone if they believe that they shouldn't be mapped into Flood Zone A or AE. This may be a very complex process since if you're planning to get the flood zone from this new map reverted to your previous zone, you're going to have to use an elevation certificate showing that your lowest adjacent grade or lowest floor is at least 4-feet above the base-flood elevation levels in Pottsville. After doing so, you may file for a letter of map change (LOMC) to appeal to the upcoming flood zone however this isn't certain that you'll win the appeal.
The Private Flood
If the NFIP option doesn't fit what you really need when it comes to flood insurance, you can always go through the private market also known as the private flood. Private flood insurance is provided by private insurance companies who aren't really bound by the guidelines and red tapes that FEMA usually has to go through. This is why the maximum waiting period to get a policy from private flood is only up to fifteen days.
Private flood doesn't have any coverage limits, so you can go up to more than $500,000 on property or building coverage regardless of the type of building you're planning to list on the property. The same goes for coverage for contents as it can be more than $100,000. Private flood also provides extra coverage in form of additional living expenses, replacement costs, and loss of use.
The private market generally provides lower rates and annual premiums for clients compared to federal flood insurance. This is regardless of the flood zone you're in, so even if you're in the SFHA and you're mapped into Flood Zone AE, you're still going to get much cheaper rates compared to what FEMA can offer.
Note, private flood isn't required to provide insurance to everyone, unlike FEMA who takes all the risks when doing flood insurance. Since these policies are provided by private insurance companies, they can pick and choose what risks they're going to take and whom they provide insurance to.
At the end of the day, the choice of where you get your flood policy isn't concerning so long as you make sure that you're protected from flood damage especially since we're experiencing a lot of floodings and flash floods even before we got into the hurricane season.
Remember, we have an educational background in flood mitigation and we want to help you prepare when crap happens. So, if you have any questions on flood insurance or want to get a quote with us, you reach out to us using the links below. You can also visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch our daily flood education videos.