FEMA to explain new St. John flood maps

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2010

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Residents of St. John the Baptist Parish will have the chance to view updated Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps starting Wednesday.

Following a hurricane preparedness seminar organized by the parish, FEMA representatives will be on hand from 6 to 8 p.m. at the central branch of the St. John Library on U.S. Highway 51 in LaPlace to discuss the new maps with parish residents.

Said Mitigation Community and Education Outreach Supervisor for FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office Ronnie Simpson, “People really need to know and make important decisions.”

The maps were last updated in February 1983, and technological leaps made since then, such as GPS and laser-guided radar, have allowed for more accurate mapping of the area.

“It’s a much more granular view of the floodplain,” said Simpson.

He said representatives at the site will sit down with residents in one-on-one sessions to explain the maps and answer any questions. Despite the personal service, however, FEMA representatives assured the process will go relatively quickly. At a similar event in Tangipahoa Parish, residents moved through quickly and lines were short to non-existent, said Simpson.

“We’ll have enough people there,” he said. “We usually get people out within five to 10 minutes.”

In all, locals will have four chances to view the maps in the presence of FEMA specialists. Besides the initial event Wednesday, other opportunities include Wednesday, June 23, and Wednesday, June 30, at the same location and Thursday, July 1, at the Westbank Community Center in Edgard. All session are from 6 to 8 p.m.

Simpson added, “Folks can go online and do their homework from their own living room.”

The maps can be viewed at www.lamappingproject.com, and residents can call 866-751-3989 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with any questions. Questions may also be directed to the St. John the Baptist Parish floodplain administrator at 985-651-5565. According to Stephanie Moffett of the FEMA External Affairs news desk, the maps will be available on the website by Wednesday.

Regardless of how they choose to do their research, Simpson stressed the importance of doing so before the maps take effect Nov. 4.

He said, “If they don’t already have insurance, we want to strongly encourage them to do so.”

That is because those already having flood insurance by the time the new maps become effective will be grandfathered in under the old floodplain designations.

Of course, flood insurance rates are not the only use for the new maps.

“Property owners are encouraged to stop by to speak with one of our specialists … and assess their current risks of potential flooding,” said Mark Landry, FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office interim director.