Nov 8, 201110:28 AM
The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy

FEMA Strikes Back

Photo Courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

My dad had a saying that the most frightening phrase in the English language is “I’m with the government, and I’m here to help.” His wisdom was again proven true by FEMA’s recently-released new flood zone maps. If you haven’t heard about these, and if you live in an area that is affected by them and are required to have flood insurance, you might be in for a rude awakening. These maps may present yet another obstacle to homeowners hoping to remain within the city and, for some, it may be insurmountable.

According to these, the area bounded roughly below St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street have been determined to be "High-Risk" and therefore require Flood Zone A1 flood insurance, which comes with A1 prices. If you live here and were previously zoned B, expect your annual flood insurance premium to increase by an order of magnitude once these maps get caught up in the cogs of the system. And they will, as they did in my case, all for a property which saw no flooding as a result of the levee breaks or any significant street flooding as far back as four generations of neighborhood memory can recall.

Now a cheap shot at the web-optimization skills of the tech folks at FEMA. If you are familiar with the minor hassle of friends or family who e-mail attachments like photos to you at their original un-cropped size, then you will be familiar with the massive PDFs embedded in the FEMA site where the mere act of clicking on them will peg your CPU at 100% before crashing your computer. Then, once reloaded, they required you to navigate within them using the scroll bars to the far right and bottom of your screen. Impressive. The bloated file size of a blue-ray release combined with the navigational capacity of Pong! does not an intuitive user interface make.

It is kind of disheartening to get blindsided by something like this. With homeowner’s insurance already at sky-high prices and largely unavailable on the private market, coupled with property tax and these new flood rates, homeowners might soon see 40 percent of their monthly note going to stuff other than P&I. Recently, I mentioned to an out-of-town friend how much a homeowner’s premium costs in New Orleans. Later, when he stopped laughing, I learned that his policy cost about 10 percent of what I was paying. It was, essentially, negligible.

As the effect of this new map ramifies through the insurance providers’ network, more people will become aware of what this actually means to the average New Orleans homeowner. Maybe then there will be some mainstream focus on the issue. Until then I will order a flood elevation certificate, submit it, and cross my fingers in the hope that the offsetting consequence will offer sufficient rationalization to justify remaining in the neighborhood FEMA has painted with its red brush.

Reader Comments:
Nov 15, 2011 11:45 am
 Posted by  JJ

Its really kinda lame to say that the government is causing you a problem when they are giving you a realistic, scientific appraisal of your flood likelihood.

Would you rather they said nothing and you get a big surprise next hurricane?

If you live in a flood zone, you pay flood insurance. You think they should make a special exception for you?

Quit the lame teabagger griping about government causing your problems. If you don't like paying flood insurance, then move.

Or petition your government to increase flood protection!

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The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy

about

Annie Drummond is a graphic designer and artist from Columbus, Ohio. She has a degree from the Columbus College of Art & Design. Two years ago she made the move from the Midwest to New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood and fell deeply in love as she discovered the rhythms and traditions of her new city. In addition to The Lighter Side, she writes about food, art and design (and other stuff) at www.AnniedelaDolce.com.

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