Credit: VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen
Water Street in Jamaica where four houses were destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene.
Credit: Agency of Natural Resources
Map of Water Street in Jamaica, VT. The red area, the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), has a 1% annual chance of a flood; the grey area has a 0.2% chance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released updated advisory Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMS, for New York and New Jersey coastal regions that were badly flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Citizens in the two states are protesting that the new maps are too strict, and will create an unsustainable burden for homeowners newly required to purchase flood insurance — including those who were not flooded in the hurricane, reports public radio station WNYC ("FEMA Flood Maps Engender Backlash," by Matthew Schuerman).
But homeowners in Vermont have the opposite problem, reports Vermont Public Radio ("FEMA Maps Central To Buy-Out Denials," by Nancy Eve Cohen) — it's the old maps, not the new ones, that are the source of trouble. Hurricane Irene's remnants brought severe flooding to Vermont in 2011. Now, some Vermont homeowners whose houses were actually washed away in the flooding have been told that they're not eligible for a FEMA buyout program. Why? Well, on the map, they're not in the flood plain.
FEMA's region-by-region program to update the agency's official flood maps still hasn't reached the small town of Jamaica, where the homeowners who lost their houses lived. Most of Vermont's official flood maps date back to 1980. When the local updates are created and released, the flooded sections of Jamaica where the Ball Mountain Brook escaped its banks in 2011 may or not be part of the new zone. But that doesn't matter: for now, the washed-out homeowners will have to find another way to cope.