FEMA delivers flood news to Thurston County residents

TUMWATER – Is your property in or is it out?

That was the question answered Monday evening as Thurston County residents pored over maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that show what properties are at risk of flooding.

FEMA and Thurston County officials discussed flooding issues with about 25 property owners during an open house at the New Market Skills Center. Residents walked through stations to determine if their properties were in flood plains under the preliminary digital flood insurance rate maps. With the new data in hand, the county says 342 properties that are now in flood zones will be removed if the new map is adopted early next year, and about 100 properties that aren’t in a flood zone now will be added.

Ted Perkins, regional engineer for FEMA, said the new digital maps do a better job at locating properties and that projections now match topography.

“Before the update we had all the old maps that were difficult to update,” he said. The new maps will “better show you the risk.”

Many residents started their night at the digital mapping station where FEMA representatives helped residents find their properties and revealed if they were in or out of the flood zone. It was the station where the good and bad news was doled out.

Brian Larson came to the meeting knowing his home on the 1000 block of Frog Hollow Lane Southwest near Scatter Creek in the outskirts of Tenino was in the flood zone according to the new maps. However, he discovered that his home is not only in the zone now, but had been when he purchased it seven years ago. He even built a garage several years ago and wasn’t told.

“I’m kinda frustrated because I didn’t want this to be an issue buying a home,” Larson said.

He then spoke with county flood plain manager Tim Rubert, who told him that it appears the subdivision maps don’t match up with the FEMA maps.

There were also stations where people could talk about studies, regulations and insurance.

Standing in line at the insurance table, Yelm resident Cassandra Noble held a recently printed map showing her home outside the flood plain – information she still wasn’t too sure of. Noble said she was unaware her home was in a flood area until she did some research one year after she purchased the property.

“I was alarmed that there might have been danger when I bought the house,” she said.

When she went to her mortgage company for a flood insurance estimate, they said it would cost $4,000 a year.

“I couldn’t afford to get it,” she said. Now it looks like she won’t have to.

There are 733 policies in effect within Thurston County through the National Flood Insurance Program, with an average annual premium of $480, according to FEMA.

Others came knowing they were in a flood plain but wanted information.

Chuck and Suzanne Hornbuckle’s home near Waddle Creek flooded in December 2007. The couple doesn’t have a mortgage or flood insurance and said damages were less than they would have paid in insurance costs over a 30-year period. Their concern is when they decide to sell the property and how it will affect potential buyers.

Other updates are also in the works, meaning flood lines could move again in the coming years.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476