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You could be in a flood zone. Here’s what we know about Horry County risk maps

Horry County could adopt its new FEMA flood maps next year following a four-year amendment process.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency creates flood maps that determine the risk properties face for flooding. If you’re a property owner in one of these zones, you’re required to get flood insurance.

Released last month, the new maps can be viewed on Horry County’s website.

The maps are very different from the current flood maps, especially in Bucksport and along the Intracoastal Waterway. Largely, the maps mirror the flooded areas that followed Hurricane Florence.

“People need to look at them because a year from now they will become official and you will have to get flood insurance, which can be a significant expense,” Horry County Stormwater Manager Tom Garigen said.

Folks in the high-risk flood zones who have a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender are required to get flood insurance, according to FEMA’s website.

The agency looks at land elevations, proximity to waterways and other factors. Horry County appealed the maps FEMA created in 2015 because Garigen said they did not reflect some localized data.

A study was conducted by Horry County and the information was presented to FEMA. New maps were then drafted with some alterations, especially in the lower Waccamaw area below the waterway.

The maps must be approved by local governments before they become official. Once a letter of final determination is made, likely in the spring of 2020, Horry County has six months to approve the maps.

Failing to approve the maps could result in all of Horry County being removed from the National Flood Insurance Program..

“We don’t want that,” Horry County Council Member Al Allen said.

“It’s critical we meet that deadline,” Garigen said.

Once approved, the maps will likely be in use for well over a decade, Garigen said. Approving the maps will hopefully be done by November 2020 at the latest, but can possibly be done earlier depending on possible appeals.

The flood maps are largely used for the NFIP, a government program to help flood-prone homeowners afford insurance. Private flood insurance has just recently become an option. Even if you live near the flood zone, Garigen believes you should consider buying flood insurance.

Council Member Bill Howard said he thinks council should not approve any rezoning request in a flood zone. While that wouldn’t stop all development in flood zones, it would restrict what property owners can build to their current zoning code.

Planning Director David Schwerd said over the last year his department has asked engineers to move homes out of the flood zone as they increase density. While not an outright requirement, he said engineers have been willing to move homes out of flood zones.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said Bill Howard should approve any rezoning request in a flood zone.

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