GENERAL FLOOD INFORMATION
Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States, as well as the most common type of severe weather emergency. Some floods develop slowly, while others such as flash floods can develop rapidly without any visible signs of rain. Additionally, floods can be local, impacting a neighborhood or a community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states.
A flood is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow. A flash flood is a rapid flooding of low-lying areas in less than six hours, which is caused by intense rainfall from a thunderstorm or several thunderstorms. Liberty County is at risk of floods caused by tropical storms and hurricanes, flash floods, floods after fire, and floods caused by developments.
There are sources of water along three sides of Liberty County. On the northeastern side flows the Canoochee River. The Jerico, Medway and North Newport Rivers are on the southeast side. On the southeastern side runs the South Newport River. Most of Liberty County is located in or adjacent to the 100 year floodplain, these properties have a one percent probability of a flood occurring in any given year.
One of the easiest, yet often overlooked flood preparation strategies is educating yourself so you can properly protect you and your family. It is important to understand the four different flood hazard terms to prepare accordingly. A flood watch means that flooding is possible and a flood warning means that flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. A flash flood watch means flooding is possible and a flash flood warning means a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground immediately.
The Liberty County Emergency Management Agency (LCEMA) is a unit of the county government with the lead role in preparing for and responding to major emergencies and disasters, both natural and manmade. LCEMA works to ensure that all residents receive adequate warning in time of emergencies through local television stations, emails, cell phone texts, and through the Liberty Alert Line at 912-369-3333. You may also purchase a radio that receives National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
Throughout an emergency, LCEMA works with local television stations to provide continuous coverage on the effect that the flood is having in Liberty County. A message warning of road closures, school closures, estimated duration of the flood, and/or evacuation announcements will scroll across the bottom of the screen. This is a joint effort of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the LCEMA through the Weather Channel to continuously update Liberty County citizens. For additional information about Liberty County’s flood warning system, contact Mike Hodges, EMA Director at 912-368-2201.
FLOOD SAFETY PLAN
While it is true that Liberty County’s assessed risk of a flood happening is moderate to low, anywhere that it rains, it can flood. Are you prepared if your community floods? The most important safety precaution one can take is having flood insurance. In addition to having flood insurance, there are other measures to take to prepare for a flood. Stay on firm ground. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths. Individuals should build an emergency kit, as well as have a family communications plan. Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home, most communities have ordinances that restrict and/or monitor development in flood zones. Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk. The number two cause of death in a flood is electric shock; steer clear of all power lines and electric wires. Remember, play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warning and information. You should only return home when authorities indicate that it is safe.
Nearly 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from moderate to low risk areas and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. Flood insurance is not typically covered by renter or homeowner’s insurance policies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which makes federally-backed flood insurance available in communities that adopt a floodplain management ordinance. Residents of Liberty County are eligible for this insurance. There is a 30 day waiting period before the insurance goes into effect.
If a mortgage on a property is through a federally regulated or insured lender, you will be required to purchase flood insurance. The average flood insurance policy costs about $650 annually, while the average flood claim amount from 2008 to 2012 averaged $38,000. When contacting an insurance agent about purchasing flood insurance, make sure you access your needs. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers and the property’s flood risk. You might want to discuss insuring personal property with your agent, since contents coverage is optional.
UPCOMING MAP CHANGES
Several factors are taken into consideration to determine a community’s flood risk. FEMA conducts a Flood Insurance Study to examine statistical data for river flow, storm tides, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses, and rainfall and topographic surveys. Over time, flood risk can and does change due to recent flood risk changes; in cooperation with FEMA, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has initiated flood map revisions for the inland (riverine) portion of Liberty County which went into effect May 5, 2014. Changes to the coastal areas of Liberty County will follow at a later point in time.
The new flood maps, also known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMS), show flood risk at a property-by-property level. When new maps are issued, flood insurance requirements may change to reflect the updated risk level. If your property is mapped out of a high risk area, your flood insurance cost will likely decrease. If you’ve been mapped into a high-risk area, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if your mortgage is through a federally regulated or insured lender. Property newly mapped into a high-risk flood zone after October 1, 2008 may qualify for a Preferred Risk Policy( PRP) flood insurance policy. In order to find out if your property is affected by these revisions, visit the Georgia DFIRM website at http://map.georgiadfirm.com/.
A permit is required prior to the development of any land in Liberty County. Parcels that are located in a flood hazard area may require special permits beyond the usual building permits prior to any development activity and your plans may be subject to special requirements. All new construction within floodplains will have to be in compliance with FEMA regulations and local ordinances such as elevation, mitigation for developed areas, earthen fill placement, storage of drainage facilities, etc.
The purpose of the regulations is to minimize the impact of floods on human health, safety and welfare, avoid long- and short-term adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains and the destruction and modification
of wetlands, and avoid direct and indirect support of floodplain development and new construction in wetlands wherever there is a practicable alternative. Information on permits for floodplain development may be obtained by contacting Steve Welborn (912- 876-4147) in the City of Hinesville, and Paul Zechman (912-876-8454) in the unincorporated Liberty County, Town of Allenhurst, and Cities of Flemington, Gum Branch, Midway, Riceboro, and Walthourville.
OUR NATURAL RESOURCES
Wetlands and floodplains have a tremendous environmental, economic, recreational, and scenic value, and provide flood protection, erosion control, water quality maintenance, drought management, and valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands support more wildlife per unit of land than any other type of habitat. Floodplains in their natural or relatively undisturbed state provide three broad set of values: water maintenance and groundwater recharge, living resource benefits, including habitat for large and diverse population of plants and animals, and cultural resource benefits, including archeological, scientific, recreational, and aesthetic sites. Some floodplain sites are generally highly productive for agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry, where these uses are compatible. By limiting development in the one hundred year floodplain zone and and/or complying with all federal flood management regulations greatly reduces the risk associated with development activity in these areas.