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  • Writer's pictureAl Friedman

Know Your Zone

"Low Risk" is not "No Risk"

Information provided by Count of Dare North Carolina and

The State of North Carolina and FEMA have released updated flood maps for all of Dare County. Flood maps serve as the cornerstone for floodplain management. The updated maps are scheduled to be effective on June 19, 2020.  The updated flood maps cannot be used for flood

insurance rating purposes until they become effective in June 2020.

The updated flood maps feature significant changes from the 2006 flood maps.

Many properties will be re-classified as Shaded X or X zone properties, which are considered low-risk zones.Other properties that remain in a flood zone, such as the AE flood zone, may have a lower base flood elevation.

For example, a property designated AE8 on the 2006 maps may be designated as AE4 on the updated maps.

What does this mean for you?

Potential cost savings on your flood insurance policy. Talk to your insurance agent about how your flood insurance rate is set and what savings you may realize once the updated maps are adopted.

What does this mean for your community?

Flood maps only depict those areas subject to a 1% annual chance of flooding and do not reflect other flooding sources such as heavy rainfall or elevated groundwater levels. Floods can happen anywhere. Natural hazards and storms are a part of living on the Outer Banks and the sustainability of our community depends on managing flood hazards from all sources.  Dare County and its Towns recognize the importance of protecting our infrastructure, our homes and our businesses. We have joined efforts to educate the public on how to protect your home from flooding, to raise awareness on the importance of flood insurance, and to develop local elevation standards to protect our community for future generations.

In response to the maps, Dare County is considering the adoption of a local elevation standard to use in conjunction with the flood maps.    The local elevation standard (LES) would apply additional freeboard amounts in AE flood zones and establish a regulatory flood elevation level for Shaded X and X zones where the natural grade is below a certain elevation.   These regulations would apply to the unincorporated areas of Dare County which include Martin's Point, Colington, the Mainland villages,   Roanoke Island (outside of the Manteo town limits) and Hatteras Island.

The local towns of Manteo, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores and Duck may also consider similar regulations.  For information on their efforts, you should the town directly.

Storm surge from hurricanes is not the only cause of flooding.

Rainfall from hurricanes and other storms can cause flooding.  Even homes in areas that generally do not flood may be damaged due to flash flooding from rain, high groundwater levels and the naturally low island topography of the Outer Banks.  Even homes on higher grounds may flood. Rainfall from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 exceeded 10 inches in Dare County communities. Strong winds combined with saturated soils from excessive rainfall can result in downed trees.

Properties located in low-risk Shaded X or X-zones are still vulnerable to flooding. A low risk flood zone does not mean your property will not flood. 25% of flood losses occur in low-risk flood zones.

Alteration of natural drainage patterns and wetland areas can result in increased risks of flooding. Wetland areas help dissipate wave energy and reduce erosion.

Drainage ditches and streams should be maintained and kept free of debris. Heavy rain and surface runoff may overwhelm storm water improvements resulting in floodwaters overflowing into roads and bridges. Rain and surface runoff can cause storm water systems to overflow.


There are many factors that affect the cost of a flood insurance policy. Here are some items that affect how flood insurance costs are determined.

ARE YOU IN A FLOOD ZONE?   If the property is located in a flood zone, then the cost of flood insurance will reflect the flood zone designation for the property. Properties in low-risk X zones or Shaded X zones generally have lower flood insurance rates. Some X zone properties may qualify for a preferred risk  policy (PRP). Properties in AE zones, AO zones and VE zones will be higher in cost due to the higher risk associated with these flood zones. VE zones are the highest risk zones and may have higher flood insurance rates.

HAS THE ZONE CHANGED?  If the flood zone designation for your property has changed, talk to your insurance agent about what impacts the new designation may have on your insurance rate. If your property has changed from a higher risk zone to a lower risk zone, you may experience decreased flood insurance costs. Please contact your insurance agent to discuss your options.

ELEVATE TO MITIGATE   The elevation of the first floor of living area directly impacts the cost of flood insurance. If the first floor is below the base flood elevation, then your insurance rate will be significantly higher. Elevation of structures is the preferred construction technique on the Outer Banks to mitigate flood risks. Older, existing homes can be raised to mitigate flood risks. Equipment, such as the HVAC unit, should also be elevated to the applicable base flood elevation for costs savings.

FLOOD VENTS      Flood vents are required for enclosed areas located below the base flood elevation. Proper installation of flood vents will impact your flood insurance rate.

ENCLOSED AREAS   Areas located below the base flood elevation are limited to use for parking, access and storage. All construction materials used in areas below the base flood must be flood resistant materials. A list of flood resistant materials can be found at


1 Foot = 30% Reduction

An elevation of 1 foot above the base flood elevation may result in significant savings in flood insurance premiums. Elevating a home above the base flood is the best way to reduce the cost of your annual flood insurance premiums (Source: FEMA October 2017)


AE—zone that corresponds to the 1% annual chance floodplains, base flood elevations established, flood insurance required if associated with federally-insured mortgage.  AE zones are the base floodplain with a base flood elevation expressed as a number such as AE-4.  These are the most common flood zone in Dare County.

AO-zone that corresponds to the areas of 1% annual chance shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) with average depths of 1 and 3, elevation required based on flood depth, flood insurance required if associated with federally-insured mortgage.

AH – zone that corresponds to the areas of 1% annual chance shallow flooding (usually ponding) where average depths are between 1 and 3 feet, base flood elevations established, flood insurance required if associated with federally-insured mortgage.

VE-  zone that corresponds to the 12% annual chance coastal floodplains that have additional hazards associated with storm waves, base flood elevations established,   flood insurance required  if associated with federally-insured mortgage.

Shaded X - zone that corresponds to the 0.2% annual chance for flood and represents the areas of moderate flood hazard shown on the FIRM and are the areas between the limits of the base flood and the 0.2% annual chance for flood.   Commonly referred to as the 500-year flood.  No flood insurance required.

X or unshaded X –zone that corresponds to elevations that are higher than the 0.2% annul flood chance and represents the areas of minimal flood hazard and are areas outside of the Special Flood Hazard Areas or outside of the flood zone.   No flood insurance is required.

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