Follow flood prevention guidelines to stay safe during hurricane season

  • Monday, August 5, 2013

You may not know that the Town of Mount Pleasant provides several important services to residents and businesses within the Special Flood Hazard Areas (Zones AE and VE) as identified on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Every year, the town releases information that can be used to help protect yourself and your property against flooding,” said floodplain manager Rob Rogerson. “We must publicize this information yearly as part of the Community Rating System (CRS) Program in which the town participates. This program allows us to earn points for a variety of activities, including outreach projects to the community, enforcement of construction regulations pertaining to flood damage prevention, and participation in the Charleston Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. The town is currently rated as a Class 6 community and residents therefore receive a 20 percent reduction in their annual flood insurance premiums.”

Flood hazard

Two types of flooding occur in Mount Pleasant. The first type is localized flooding due to blocked or inadequate drainage facilities. The second is due to rising water caused by tropical storms and hurricanes, commonly known as the “storm surge.” This type of flooding may also have wave action which could exert velocity impact forces against structures located in Coastal High Hazard Areas (also known as “V” or “VE” flood zones). The most recent events that have extensively flooded the low areas of Mount Pleasant include an extreme high tide on New Year’s Day 1987 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989. High water marks resulting from Hugo have been surveyed and are shown on maps in the Building Inspection Division Office.

Map determinations

The town responds to verbal and written inquiries regarding flood zones and base flood elevations for properties located in the Town of Mount Pleasant. When requesting this information, please provide the property address and the TMS (Tax Map Sequence) number or the PID (Property Identification Number) for the parcel. Flood zone determinations may be obtained by contacting the floodplain manager at 849-2029 or through the town’s web site “Request Tracker” feature on the home page (www.tompsc.com). The flood zone determinations are free.

The town’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are available to the public for viewing in the Building Inspection Division office. FIRMs can also be viewed or purchased through FEMA’s Map Service Center online at www.fema.gov. Portions of the individual FIRMs (called FIRMettes) may be downloaded at no cost from FEMA’s Map Service Center.

Elevation certificates

During construction, Elevation Certificates are required to be submitted to the town for all structures built in Special Flood Hazard Areas. These Elevation Certificates are permanently maintained on file by the town. Copies are available from the town for a small fee. Contact the Building Inspection Permitting Office at 884-5184 for a copy of the “Request for Information” form or download a copy of the form from the Town’s web site (www.tompsc.com).

Floof insirance

Standard property insurance policies do not cover losses due to floods. However, the town is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which makes it possible for Mount Pleasant property owners to obtain federally backed flood insurance. This insurance is available to any owner of insurable property (a building or its contents). Tenants can obtain coverage for their personal property, even if the owner does not buy structural coverage on the building. Flood insurance is affordable and it is available no matter what your risk. We urge all who live or own property in high-risk flood hazard areas (AE and VE flood zones) to purchase flood insurance. Don’t wait until it’s too late. There is normally a 30-day waiting period from the date of application before the coverage goes into effect. For more information, call your insurance agent or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Property protection measures

There are a number of measures that can be taken to help protect a property against flood damage including retrofitting, regrading around a structure to create positive drainage away from the structure, correcting local drainage problems, and emergency measures such as moving furniture and installing sandbags. Retrofitting measures can include major projects such as elevating the whole structure or less costly measures such as elevating electrical panel boxes, water heaters and heating and air conditioning equipment. Washer, dryers and other appliances can also be elevated or moved to areas less likely to flood. If flooding is likely, and time permits, essential items and furniture should be moved to the upper floors of your home. Keep sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing. Go to www.fema.gov for more information.

If requested, town staff is available to visit a property to offer assistance with flooding problems and to suggest ways to prevent flood damage. Contact the floodplain manager at 849-2029 to schedule an appointment. These services are free.

Flood safety

There are several actions residents of flood prone areas can take to decrease the potential for damage or injury due to flooding:

• Know the storm warning systems and monitor local television and radio broadcasts for updates as a storm approaches.

• If you are advised to evacuate, do so promptly.

• Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off all utilities (power, water, and gas) at the main disconnects.

• Do not walk through flowing water.

• Avoid driving through a flooded area. If your vehicle stalls in high water, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.

• Keep everyone away from flood waters, ditches, culverts and storm drains.

• Stay away from downed power lines and other electrical wires.

• Be alert for gas leaks.

• Look out for animals, especially snakes.

• Report blocked drains and flooded areas to the town for investigation.

• Keep yard debris and other materials away from drains – check and clear the drains before a storm event.

• Contact the Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division at 202-7400 or visit www.fema.gov/hazard/flood/index.shtm for more information.

Permit requirements

Permits are required for all types of development in the floodplain, not just for the construction of buildings. These permitting requirements are in place to help control activities which may increase the flood hazard on your property or for a neighboring property. Before you build, fill, or otherwise develop in the floodplain, please contact the Building Inspection Division at 884-5184 or the Planning Department at 884-1229. Also, if you see construction, clearing, or filling in the floodplain but no permit sign is posted, please notify the town at one of the above numbers.

Information concerning special construction requirements in the floodplain, such as freeboard and flood resistant materials, can be obtained by contacting the Building Inspection Division at 884-5184. Also, the town’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance is available online at www.tompsc.com.

Substantial improvement/substantial damage requirements

If your home or business sustains damage or if you are making improvements to the structure and/or the interior of the building, then the town’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance may affect how you rebuild or make improvements if your structure is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area. For instance, a building that is “substantially damaged” must be repaired to meet the same construction requirements as a new building, including the elevation requirements.

“Substantial damage” is damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. It is important to note that substantial damage includes damage of any origin, not just flooding.

A “substantial improvement” is any repair, reconstruction, alteration or improvement to a structure, the cumulative cost of which for a 10-year period equals or exceeds 50 percent of the fair market value of the structure either before the start of construction of the improvement or if the structure has been damaged or is being restored, before the damage occurred. As with substantial damage, buildings that are substantially improved must meet the same construction requirements as new buildings. Note that costs are cumulative for ten years.

If you are planning repair or renovation work on a structure in a Special Flood Hazard Area, please contact the Building Inspection Division at 884-5184 to determine if your project will be impacted by these regulations. General information on substantial damage/substantial improvement can also be obtained from FEMA’s web site, www.fema.gov.

Drainage system maintenance

The town has a complex storm drainage system composed of open ditches and closed pipe sections. These systems may be owned by the town, state, the county or private property owners. The ditch systems and piped systems work together to carry stormwater runoff from homes and roadways to area ponds, creeks and marshes. It is critical to maintain these systems in a high flow capacity to reduce flood occurrences. To accomplish this, the town inspects major ditch systems twice a year and cleans systems as needed or reported. Residents should take extra care to prevent debris from entering the ditch and piped systems. Blockages or flooded areas should be reported to the stormwater office at 856-2157 for investigation and cleaning.

Stream dumping

A Stream Dumping Ordinance prohibits littering in the drainage system and in bodies of water. Because dumping can create flooding and harm the environment, please report illegal dumping into the drainage system to the stormwater office. Also, drainage systems may not be connected to or altered without proper approvals. If you know of any unapproved changes to a drainage system (filling, rerouting of streams, nuisances, or ditching), please contact the town’s Land Codes Inspector at 884-1229 or the stormwater office at 856-2157.

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