FEMA prepares new Flood Insurance Rate Maps

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has advised Pinellas County that the multi-year project to re-examine Pinellas County coastal flood zones and develop detailed, digital flood hazard maps (Flood Insurance Rate Maps) has been completed. These new maps are based on revised coastal flood modeling and may affect owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and inland areas near waterways connected to the Gulf or Bay.

Presentation from July 16, 2019 Commission Meeting
Link to www.pinellascounty.org/flooding


FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood hazard mapping is the basis for local and federal development regulations and flood insurance requirements. Not only is flooding one of the most common and costly disasters, the risk for flooding changes over time due to erosion, land use, new building and development, weather events and other factors. FEMA studies and restudies flood hazards in communities across the U.S. to keep flood hazard maps up to date. The process usually takes several years to complete and includes the following steps:


  • Data collection and flood modeling
  • Development of draft working maps
  • Release of Preliminary maps for community review
  • An appeal and resolution period
  • Final adoption of the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS)


Each time FEMA provides a community with updated flood hazard data, the community must adopt or amend floodplain management regulations to incorporate the new data and meet any additional requirements that result from any changes in the data.



In 2012, FEMA initiated a coastal flood risk study for the West Florida Study Area that affects Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. The results of that study will be incorporated into updated digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports for these counties.


This multi-year project to re-examine Pinellas County coastal flood zones and develop detailed, digital flood hazard maps has been completed. FEMA released the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports, which reflect current flood risks, for public review last summer.


The new FEMA map updates include a new Coastal AE zone and a line called the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA). The LiMWA indicates where waves can reach heights of over 1.5 feet.


Pinellas County is performing an independent review of the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports. Once adopted, they will replace maps that are up to 15 years old. The new flood hazard mapping information is available on the Pinellas County Map Service Center.


FEMA has advised Pinellas County that a 90-day appeal period will begin on May 2, 2019. During this period, the County, municipalities, and citizens may appeal or comment on the proposed flood hazard information shown on the Preliminary FIRM and/or FIS report. To support an appeal, scientific or technical data that proves the flood hazard information is shown in error must be submitted. For more information, review the Criteria for Appeals of Flood Insurance Rate Maps.


After appeals have been resolved and the appeal period ends, FEMA will issue Letters of Final Determination (LFDs) which will make the updated flood hazard information final. Affected communities must then adopt the revised FIRM and update their floodplain management ordinances to comply with Federal and State standards. Communities will have 6 months to comply, after which, flood insurance will be required for properties that have a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender and are shown on the FIRM in a regulated flood zone or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) . Flood insurance policies on properties affected by a flood zone and/or Base Flood Elevation (BFE) change will be adjusted to reflect rates associated with the changes as well.


Pinellas County is currently reviewing the Preliminary data. If you would like to provide input on the Preliminary map, please click here to complete a survey.


To learn more about this FEMA FIRM update and coastal flood risk study process, please visit FEMA Information for West Florida.


General questions regarding this in-progress coastal flood risk study can be addressed to the FEMA staff listed below: