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New flood maps In Pinellas County could affect insurance rates

The updated Pinellas County maps are the result of a coastal flood risk study started in 2012 and under review since 2018.

Updated federal flood zone maps in Pinellas County went into effect Tuesday [Aug. 24th].

The maps are used to identify who with federally-backed mortgages are required to buy policies. And they help set minimum development requirements – for instance, how high new homes should be built above flood stage.

And then they're used to set flood insurance rates. That's something the Federal Emergency Management Agency is changing in October under a new pricing methodology it calls "Risk Rating 2.0".

Lisa Foster is the floodplain administrator for Pinellas County.

"It's really important that folks are talking to their flood insurance agents now," she said. "When Risk Rating 2.0 goes into effect in October, it could really impact the rates."

FEMA says the new national pricing approach is trying to make insurance rates more equitable by incorporating more variables into its calculations. That includes factors like flood frequency, flood types and the cost to rebuild.

The Pinellas maps are the result of a coastal flood risk study started in 2012 and under review since 2018.

"The new methodology is going to be looking at the distance to the water whether or not you're on a barrier island, what kind of foundation you have, meaning are you on a slab," Foster said. "Or are you on piles or piers? What the first floor elevation is. There are a number of parameters to determine the actuary risk that will be used."

Foster said people who have a federal flood insurance policy could see their rates raised gradually, instead of all at once.

Anyone wanting to see if their home or business is in a flood zone can click on