The Investigators: Outdated FEMA maps mean Mid-Southerners at risk of flooding are unaware

The Investigators: Outdated FEMA maps mean Mid-Southerners at risk of flooding are unaware

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thousands of homes are at risk of flooding in the Mid-South, yet few homeowners have the insurance they need to protect their greatest asset.

One reason is that many people don’t know their house is at risk of flooding until it’s too late.

The Investigators discovered flood risk data is vastly outdated.

“There’s a lot of people who have risk and don’t know it,” said Dr. Jeremy Porter with First Street Foundation, a non-profit that has assigned a flood risk score to every property in the U.S. on its website.

FEMA also has property-level data that’s publicly available but their maps are rarely updated, according to Porter.

“A lot of the pushback comes from local communities, legislators, homeowners who don’t want to take on the extra burden of the insurance requirements that come with new FEMA maps," he told The Investigators.

We checked FEMA’s flood maps in our area.

In Memphis, some of the maps haven’t been updated since 2013, or even 2007.

Crittenden County hasn’t been updated since 2011.

Some parts of DeSoto County haven’t been updated since 2007 while others were updated in 2018.

Floodfactor.com shows many of the homes at risk in the Mid-South are located near rivers and tributaries.

“It doesn’t need to be a 100-year flood event. It could be a flash flood, it could be something in a nearby creek that floods and backs up,” said Kevin Walters with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

In 2011, the Mississippi River reached its second highest peak in recorded history.

Tom Lee Park was under water, Beale Street Landing was covered and the casinos flooded in Tunica County, Mississippi.

Though, it doesn’t take a major weather event to cause major flood damage to your property.

“One inch of flood water is going to account for $25,000 worth of damages and that can be devastating to most families,” said Walters.

Flood insurance typically costs around $600 a year.

“Ultimately, it’s a drop in the bucket to have a flood insurance policy to help in times of need because a typical homeowner’s policy won’t be able to help you,” he said.

Using state and First Street Foundation data, The Investigators found there are 27,598 flood insurance policies in Tennessee while 482,532 properties are at risk of flooding.

Approximately 66,100 Mississippians have flood insurance, but nearly 351,972 properties have flood risk.

In Arkansas, there are 14,744 but 247,510 properties are at risk of flooding.

You can purchase flood insurance through the same person or company who sells your home or auto insurance.

Some communities that participate in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program get a discount because they are at higher risk of flooding.

West Tennessee residents aren’t eligible but residents in West Memphis receive a 10% discount, the City of Hernando gets a 5% discount and Panola County gets a 5% discount.

We reached out to FEMA multiple times for comment but did not hear back.

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