Watershed

Oral

398810 - Strengths and Weaknesses of FEMA Flood Maps

Thursday, June 7
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Skyway Room

Inundation flood maps in the United States are provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Over the last several decades, NFIP has improved flood resilience throughout the nation by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. Flood maps are integral part of FEMA’s and NFIP’s flood resilience initiatives and provide flood hazard and risk assessment and information for town planners, home owners, businesses, industrial facilities, and insurance industry. These FEMA flood maps, that are generally perceived to be providing complete and accurate flood risk information, have lately been critiqued for being inaccurate, incomplete, and outdated. The recent flood disasters, namely the Louisiana Floods of 2016 and the Houston Floods in 2017, have again proved that significant flood risk exist outside of the designated high flood risk areas or so called “Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA)” or the 100-year flood zone. Communities have suffered tremendous flood losses in these “minimal flood hazard” designated areas that are outside of SFHAs and even outside of 500-year flood zones. FEMA’s flood risk assessment and mapping program is a comprehensive program that has strengths of overall consistency, coherence, and accuracy. However, there are certain critical flooding scenarios, for example simultaneous occurrence of extreme riverine and extreme precipitation-based flooding, that have not been fully represented in FEMA’s flood maps. Furthermore, there are frequent references to FEMA maps being outdated in many areas, not accurate in some areas, and being a costly and time consuming affair. This study brings out strengths and weaknesses of FEMA’s flood risk assessment and mapping program such that further improvements can be planned.

Hemant Chowdhary, Ph.D.

Principal Scientist
AIR Worldwide

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398810 - Strengths and Weaknesses of FEMA Flood Maps



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