New Flood Maps: What You Need to Know


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, September 18, 2019 – Updates on the flood zones in Sarasota County are currently underway, and a series of workshops have been initiated starting this September to disseminate not only vital changes in the county’s flood maps. These meetings, set at Sarasota’s public libraries, are also aimed at educating homeowners, residents, lenders, real estate agents, and insurance agents about flood risks, associated regulations, and policies especially vital for real estate deals.

It was in 1971 that Sarasota drew up its initial flood map, and this was updated in 1992. The county started a second update in 2016, and it completed a preliminary coastal plan last year for areas around Little Sarasota Bay and Phillippi Creek. This plan has been reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and its changes are set to become effective in 2020. Due for completion this year are preliminary plans for Dona Bay and Lemon Bay, with their updates expected to become effective in 2021.

Zones Defined

The updates to Sarasota’s flood maps dovetail with FEMA’s nationwide revision of flood maps to assess the flooding risks of properties. In 2016, the agency released its Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for all of Sarasota County. Using local flood studies, the county has been identifying risk-prone areas not included in FEMA’s FIRMs.

Basically, FEMA’s flood insurance maps designates flood risk levels of each area. Those areas with a 1 percent chance or higher probability of rising floodwaters annually are designated as “A” flood zones. These zones notably help set a county’s floodplain elevations.

The designation “V” zone, on the other hand, refers to real estate properties that are exposed to additional threats from storm surge, wind, or other impacts from hurricanes and other severe weather disturbance. An “X” zone designation is given to those properties that have little chance of flooding (0.02% or less).

FEMA’s FIRMs for Manatee County has already been released, too. The preliminary flood zone maps for Charlotte County are still awaiting completion of FEMA review.

Vital Decision-making Input

It is critical for homeowners, residents and business owners to know their current flood risk. This would allow them to arrive at better decisions about protecting their property against floods. The flood zone map can ascertain if property owners, especially those with outstanding loans or mortgages, will have to carry federal flood insurance.

Similarly, real estate agents’ knowledge about flood maps puts them in a better position to provide advice to clients on the risk factors and insurance requirements that accompany a property listed on the market.

The updated map are also essential for homebuilders and property developers. With it, they can determine where and how to build structures more safely and how high to build to minimize the risk of flood damage.

For insurance agents, their takeaway lies in the capability to advise their clients on current flood risks and to recommend the appropriate flood insurance coverage.

Notably, FEMA has made available online not only its current flood maps but also its Flood Insurance Study reports. These are accessible on the agency’s Map Service Center website Local flood risk areas can likewise be viewed through Sarasota County’s FEMA Flood Zone Locator at