For a second time the Federal Emergency Management Agency has admitted its new flood-hazard maps incorrectly placed hundreds of properties in high-risk zones, meaning some homeowners in South Los Angeles will no longer be required to pay expensive insurance premiums.
FEMA had previously reversed course on a decision to publish a map placing more than a thousand Oxnard homeowners in high-risk zones. Both decisions followed SoCal Connected's coverage of the issue in those same communities.
In November, SoCal Connected first uncovered how some South Los Angeles residents were protesting FEMA's proposed map changes because they expanded the high-hazard zones to include hundreds of homes that were not considered at risk before.
FEMA publishes the maps used by insurance companies to determine a property's flood risk. The agency defines a high-risk zone as having a one-percent chance of flooding any given year. By law, homeowners with a federally backed mortgage are required to purchase flood insurance if their property lies within such a zone, and premiums can surpass $1,700 a year.
But several long-time residents in South L.A. had done some research of their own, taking on-the-ground measurements to compare against FEMA's maps. They claimed FEMA had based their maps on faulty information.
A week after the first segment, SoCal Connected aired a follow-up piece showing how homeowners in Ventura County faced a similar predicament. When SoCal Connected pressed FEMA for more information, one of its engineers handed over a map showing a much smaller hazard zone than the one the agency had shared with the public.
Within a week, FEMA announced it would postpone publishing its Oxnard flood map until it had completed a more in-depth study of the area.
Now the agency is pulling a second about-face with homeowners in South Los Angeles, raising the question of whether FEMA will be rethinking its flood-zone designations in other communities as it attempts to revise its maps nationwide.
To find out if your home is in a flood zone, check out our post here. Note, however, that data for Ventura County have not been published yet and the maps for South L.A. are now outdated.
For more information about your home's flood risk, you can also try floodsmart.gov.