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FEMA Releases Updated Flood Maps For Ocean City

by: Jeff Quintin, on August 28, 2013 - Uncategorized

Posted by Douglas Bergen (Editor) , August 28, 2013 at 07:14 AM


New flood maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Tuesday remove virtually all populated areas of Ocean City from “V Zones,” where the worst storm damage and the highest flood insurance premiums are likely.

Large sections of Ocean City had been included in “V Zones” in an “Advisory Base Flood Elevation” (ABFE) map released in late 2012. The new maps take into account many more mitigating factors than the conservative and very preliminary ABFE maps.

All of the Merion Park neighborhood, the entire downtown shopping district and the length of Bay Avenue, for instance, have been removed from the “V Zone” in the new map.

Members of the city staff attended a meeting at the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management early on Tuesday to review and discuss the new maps.

“My staff will be reviewing these maps and the data behind them in the coming days,” Mayor Jay Gillian said in a statement. “Our preliminary review has confirmed that virtually all of the properties place in the ‘V’ zone” on the ABFE maps have been returned to the ‘A’ zone on the new maps. Many of the required elevations have been reduced as well. That is welcome news and removes a great deal of uncertainty and confusion for homeowners needing to rebuild. We were certain that the ABFE maps were based on incomplete data and were seriously flawed for Ocean City. The release of the preliminary work maps confirms that.” (Read the full text of a letter from Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian to property owners.)

The city contracted with Atkins NA, a nationally known coastal engineering firm, to assist with data gathering and review of FEMA’s maps. City Council approved a $63,960 contract in February.

Cape May County property owners have been relying on FEMA’s advisory maps, which were released in late 2012. Those maps were “intentionally” conservative and placed more areas in ‘V’ zones than necessary, said Bill McDonnell, FEMA’s mitigation branch director for New Jersey.

The new maps are considered “preliminary work maps” by FEMA. Preliminary maps — which will be open to public comment before being finalized — are expected to be released sometime in the fall.

FEMA has said the official preliminary maps will closely reflect the work maps released today, according to Michael McMahon of the McMahon Agency in Ocean City.

Coastal areas prone to flooding are generally divided between ‘A’ and ‘V’ zones. Those in ‘A’ zones may elevate or build structures using block foundations, while those in ‘V’ zones must account for the potential for flowing water to impact their homes by raising them on pilings, which are more costly than block foundations. Flood insurance is also significantly more expensive for residents whose homes are located in the ‘V’ zones.

The new maps include recommended elevations for homes to withstand the floods of a 100-year storm. Many Ocean City properties have flood elevation certificates based on a 1929 datum. The new maps use a 1988 datum. Property owners can subtract 1.3 feet to convert from the 1929 to the 1988 scale.

Ocean City homeowners were able to view the updated maps at FEMA’s region two website ( after 4 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 27).

For further assistance, call the City of Ocean City at 609-399-6111.