Let’s turn inland to west Boca (image above), closer to the Everglades than the beach. We are out of the tidal area. We are out of the Hurricane Storm Surge area. But we are not out of danger from flooding. Why? Because of heavy rainfall flooding.
The images on this slide are from two pages of the risk report from his home in Boca West. The first image on the left shows the heavy rainfall risk for a significant rainstorm event – like Hurricane Harvey in Houston. This model shows that his home would be surrounded by up to 3’ of rainwater – above the ground level. His garage and front door are not 3’ above ground level. So, in this type of rainstorm event, should it occur, his home would be damaged by flooding inside unless he deployed some removable flood barriers or sandbags to protect it.
The second image to the right shows the FEMA flood zone for the property. It shows that the house is located in a FEMA X-zone or the lowest risk zone that FEMA maps. FEMA says that the risk to his property from flooding is less than .2% per year. FEMA says that he does not need flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP, the federal flood insurance provider) also says that he does not need flood insurance. His mortgage lender told him that he did not need flood insurance. His insurance agent told him that he did not need flood insurance.
But what did they mean by the word “need”? Did they mean that, by law, he does not “need” flood insurance in order to get a federally-guaranteed mortgage loan? Yes, they meant that.
Here are the lessons from this analysis:
LESSON #1 – Not all coastal Palm Beach properties have the same tidal/sea level rise flood risk now and in 30-years. Some need a lot of help from King Tides now and may lose most of their market value due to sea level rise in the next mortgage cycle unless the local government invests many millions of dollars in resilience. Other Palm Beach properties are fine now and will likely continue to gain market value in the future due to their higher elevations.
LESSON #2 – Even in the western areas of Palm Beach County away from the coast, there are significant flood risks due heavy rainfall, which is getting worse with climate change. Most residents in the FEMA X zones do not carry flood insurance and don’t know about their heavy rainfall flood risks. These homeowners also don’t know that, by virtue of being in a FEMA X zone, their flood insurance premiums would be laughably low should they choose to purchase flood coverage – and, they should all run out and get flood insurance, today.
Mr. Slap is a member of The Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Advisory Board (www.nature.org). Mr. Slap was also was a Board Member and General Counsel of Friends of the Everglades. For his outstanding legal work, Mr. Slap was the recipient in 2014 of the prestigious Marjory Stoneman Douglas “Defender of the Everglades Award.”