Friday | September 22, 2017
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Residents advised to review updated flood maps

East Hawaii residents had the chance to discuss the impacts of upcoming changes to the region’s flood insurance rate maps during an open house session Wednesday evening.

Several dozen attended the meeting to speak with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hawaii County Department of Public Works and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Changes to the flood maps have been in the works for nearly a decade, as FEMA adjusted its assessments of high-risk flood areas based on updates in topographic data and changes in residential development. The new maps will go into effect Sept. 29.

When they do, property owners could see significant changes in their flood insurance premiums. Some areas have been remapped into high-risk flood zones, meaning that flood insurance is a required purchase. Other areas now lie in low-risk areas.

To view the flood maps, visit .

High-risk areas are those designated as having a 1 percent or greater chance of annual flooding. On the maps, they are zones that begin with the labels A or V.

“We’re trying to get the message out that people should check with the county and find out if they’re going to have a change,” said FEMA insurance specialist Edie Lohmann.

If people purchase flood insurance prior to the Sept. 29 deadline, they will be grandfathered in to the lower rates. The rates also will apply for the first year the new maps are in effect.

“Buying sooner allows you to get in on this newly mapped plan and save money in the long term,” said FEMA regional engineer Eric Simmons, adding that rates would still go up.

“After that year, that’s when it could get expensive, depending on a number of factors,” Lohmann said. One of those is the age of the building: Buildings constructed after 1982, the year Hawaii County’s first floodplain maps were created, will have lower rates than older structures.

Alan Inaba, a land surveyor, said he attended the meeting on behalf of his clients.

“I try to keep up with the changes,” he said.

Realtor Mary Begier said she had checked for zoning changes in all properties she had sold. A FEMA meeting with Realtors and insurance agents Tuesday was standing room only, she said.

“I’ve told a couple of people what to do (about insurance),” Begier said. “I don’t think enough people know. We’ve been encouraging people to tell their friends.”

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