Can My Land Be Designated a Flood Zone in North Carolina?

No, not one day magically. But there are incidences where floodplain maps, FEMA maps, change. I had a client ask me this question just within the last week, believe it or not. 100-year floodplains, I mean, it’s not often that Uncle Sam’s redoing that. It’s very, very labor-intensive. They’re doing topographical studies, hydraulic flow studies, and those do change. When you look at the maps over a large area, they don’t change very much significantly, but if you’re at an individual property it could change significantly.

The thing that I like is that we usually have 100-year maps and 500-year maps. You know, 500 years ago we’re talking Columbus times. But since I’ve lived in Chatham County since 1993, this area’s had two 500-year events. We had Fran and Floyd. Those were major, major flooding situations, Rocky River, Haw River, everybody. I remember I was in this listing one time at a house at Rocky River and I asked a guy. He built his house rather close to the river and you can’t do that anymore. But I asked him, “What’s the highest the water’s ever gotten here?” We were sitting in his kitchen and he’s like, “Oh, it was right here to my ankle.”

I was like, “You mean in your backyard it was to your ankles?” He’s like, “No, it was here in the kitchen.” The water went into the kitchen. It does happen. It does happen. But you have to be realistic. It always blows my mind when we see these tragic flood stories at the Mississippi or the Missouri or whatever and people are just in shock that the river went over its bank and came there. I mean, if you live close to a river, it’s- I mean, it’s one of the beauties of being close to a water source. That’s what everybody wants to be. But not everybody knows the perils of river life.

I used to have a property at a river and it floods and it goes over the banks and then there’s a deer carcass 14 feet in a tree. Well, I don’t know what the average person could do, but it is not easy taking down a deer carcass 14 feet in a tree. But that’s one of the perils of living on the river. You have all your picnic tables, you have everything so nice and neat and mowed and yada yada, but flood comes and it’s a mess. It’s a mess. Floodplains, yeah, they can change but significantly change, they’re not gonna significantly change unless you have a small property that’s on a stream.

I’ve seen the FEMA maps change twice in my 20-year career. It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. When it does happen, usually people are grandfathered in. They don’t have to get flood insurance. But then when they’re transferring the property, the new person might have to get flood insurance and that’s a devastating change in the value of the property.