FEMA highlights flood risks

Published 10:26 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mower County residents got a lot more detailed information Wednesday night about how flooding may affect them.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), came armed with maps, brochures and insurance information for concerned homeowners.

“Everyone is at some risk of flooding,” said Andrew Velasquez III in a news release, regional administrator of FEMA Region V in Chicago. “Mower and Freeborn county residents and business owners need to know what that risk is so they can make informed decisions about their safety and financial investments.”

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New, preliminary digital flood insurance rate maps show residents more detailed information about flood elevations in relationships to their homes.

“We’re using the most updated elevation information,” said Ceil Strauss, floodplain hydrologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Though the Map Modernization Program is updating county flood maps in 92 percent of the country, Mower County is unique in that all of its topography has been mapped using light detecting and ranging (LIDAR). That aerial imaging technique maps ground elevations to within two feet. Old flood insurance maps only mapped elevations to within 10 feet.

According to FEMA, Some residents may be required to purchase flood insurance once local communities adopt these maps. Federally insured mortgage lenders require flood insurance for structures located in high-risk flood areas. Once effective, these maps will more accurately determine flood risk, develop mitigation measures and encourage responsible risk management to help reduce the damaging effects of flooding.

“We want people to be aware of what the real risk is,” Strauss said.

FEMA and the DNR will hold Freeborn County’s open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Commissioners Board Room of the Freeborn County Government Center. 411 South Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, Minn.