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FEMA's Flood Maps Are Way Out of Date
ProPublica: Digital maps often based on data collected decades ago
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2013 7:34 PM CDT
Flooding from the Red River south of Fargo, N.D., in 2009. FEMA's soon-to-be-released flood maps for North Dakota don't include data from this flood or other huge floods in 1997 and 2011.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(Newser) – FEMA is constantly putting out new flood maps for different parts of the country, which seems like a good thing. Except for this: A ProPublica investigation finds that the maps are often based on outdated information, resulting in huge headaches for homeowners whose insurance premiums are based on them. Countless cases reveal two big themes:

  • The maps put homeowners in flood zones that aren't actually flood zones. One homeowner in Texas discovered she was in a "special flood hazard area" even though she lives atop a hill. After a long fight, she got FEMA to admit the mistake.
  • Maybe worse, some homeowners who do live in flood zones don't know it. North Dakota, for example, is about to get "updated" maps, but those maps won't reflect data from the biggest floods in state history—in 1997, 2009, and 2011.

The problem is that while FEMA is putting out digitized maps these days, they are often based on data from paper maps that go back decades. Surely, modern technology can fix this? Yep, a system called lidar in which planes fire laser pulses at the ground can provide accuracy 10 times greater than the old methods. "Yet as we’ve reported, Congress, with the support of the White House, has actually cut map funding by more than half since 2010, from $221 million down to $100 million this year," writes ProPublica's Theodoric Meyer. Click for the full story.

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
Jul 19, 2013 11:00 AM CDT
Isn't it amazing -- Spend $100 million, or so, for one of the President's recent trips, yet something this important is ignored! Government budgeting priority never learns, does it?
Jul 19, 2013 7:42 AM CDT
fema loves us this i know for obama told me so!
Jul 19, 2013 7:38 AM CDT
But they know every phone call, email. chat and web site you have visited in the last ten years. They know to 90% accuracy where you are at any given moment and can track you in real time if they need to. Just all about priorities in the Police States of America, thanks libs, you done good.