The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released revised maps of the floodplain on the New Jersey coastline. To the relief of many homeowners facing a hard recovery from Hurricane Sandy, the latest revision of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) has drastically scaled back the "V Zone," or "velocity zone" — the zone of greatest hazard, where storm surge flooding could bring destructive 3-foot or higher waves able to pound wood-frame walls into fragments.
"In Monmouth County, N.J., the acreage that stood in the highest-risk V or velocity zones dropped from 5,003 in the old advisory flood maps to 2,698 in the new maps, a 46% decrease," USA Today reports ("New FEMA maps shrink N.J. flood zones," by Ken Serrano/Asbury Park Press). "In Ocean County, the V Zones were reduced from 38,012 in the old advisory maps to 20,808 in the working maps, a 45% reduction. In Atlantic County, the acreage that sat in V Zones stood at 46,749 and is now 9,567, an 80% drop."
The change can bring a sharp decrease in building cost for new construction, major renovations, or post-storm rebuilding projects — because if the house lies in a designated A Zone (subject to rising water, but not wave action), there's no requirement for elevated piling foundations with open space under the lowest occupied floor. Instead, homeowners can build conventional concrete or masonry foundations (although some modifications such as flood vents to release water pressure will still be required).
Some New Yorkers have also gotten the news that their properties won't be in the V Zone after all, reports the Staten Island Advance ("New FEMA flood zone maps show fewer on Staten Island are in harm's way," by Jillian Jorgensen. "The Preliminary Work Maps released Monday show just 400 structures in Zone V, the area subject to waves higher than three feet -- compared to 1,700 structures that were in Zone V on Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps released in January," reports the Advance. "Those maps never took effect -- but Monday's maps are expected to become the city's Flood Insurance Rate Maps."
But the shrunken V Zone is not necessarily good news for every Staten Island victim of Sandy. Many homeowners in the worst-hit low-lying shore areas have been eager to take advantage of government buyouts. And for some of those, the change in zone designation of their property means they're not eligible, reports local station PIX11 ("FEMA flood maps may cost Sandy victims buyout option," by Erica Pitzi).
Great Kills, Staten Island resident Rosemarie Caruso told the station lost her house and business when Sandy washed on shore in Staten Island. But on the revised working flood maps, the lot where her house stood before Sandy is now listed in the AE Zone, not in the V Zone. "If they bought us out, we can pay off our mortgage and go get a little apartment or condo or whatever we need to have to live and be okay," Caruso told the station. "Right now, we have nothing. We are basically screwed."