Flood Protection Information
Be Prepared for Floods/Hurricane Season
Floods and flash floods occur from excessive rainfall, intense thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes. Coastal flooding often occurs when strong onshore winds and or storm associated low pressure associated create a storm surge that will push water from the bay onto land. Excessive, heavy or prolonged rainfall can also result in flooding or flash flooding especially where water is concentrated in a small channel. Slow moving storms or stationary frontal systems will also increase the likelihood of flooding.
Gloucester County with the Chesapeake Bay to the east, the York River to the south, the Piankatank River to the north, has many coastal floodplains as well as numerous creeks, streams, and wetlands.
In recent years Gloucester County has been affected by storm events that have caused significant flooding. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 created a tidal surge of 6.4 feet at Gloucester Point. Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 brought 5 to 8 inches of rainfall, and tides 4 to 5 feet above normal. Hurricane Irene in 2011 caused flooding in parts of Gloucester County. Most recently Hurricane Sandy in 2012 battered the East Coast, leaving a vast trail of destruction from the Carolinas to Maine. Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second costliest hurricane in United States history.
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Natural and Beneficial Functions
The Floodplain in Gloucester County contains valuable natural resources including wetlands, beaches, forests, rivers, streams and the plant and animal communities that inhabit them. Highlighting the county are vast salt marshes and expansive rivers and creeks. These natural resources are unique to the Chesapeake Bay Region and are important to Gloucester County’s environment and economic welfare. These resources are part of the Resource Protection Area (RPA) which includes tidal and non-tidal wetlands, tidal shores and the 100’ buffer adjacent and landward of these areas. The RPA has sensitive features that filter sediments and pollutants and prevent erosion.
To help preserve and protect these valuable resource areas Gloucester County has adopted the following programs which are administered locally: Chesapeake Bay Preservation, Erosion and Sediment Control, Wetlands Protection, and Floodplain Management.
For more information on Gloucester County’s environmental programs visit our website.
Visit the FEMA website for more information on Protecting Floodplain Resources.
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Flood Insurance. Do you need it?
Gloucester County is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and is classed a 7 FEMA Community Rating System (CRS), which allows property owners to obtain federally backed flood insurance at a 15% premium discount. This insurance is available to any owner of insurable property in this county (with exception of those properties located in FEMA designated coastal barrier areas.). Flood insurance policies are available from local insurance companies. The actual cost may vary depending on the degree of flood hazard and the amount of coverage desired. Residents who live or own property in flood hazard areas are urged to purchase flood insurance to protect themselves from losses due to flooding.Some facts consumers need to know about NFIP:
- Coverage for contents is not automatically included with building coverage. Ask your insurance agent about contents coverage.
- Standard home owners insurance policies do not cover losses due to floods.
- There is a 30 day waiting period before coverage goes into effect.
- This insurance is required if purchasing a home through a federally backed mortgage.
The Gloucester County Building Inspection Office has the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) available to determine if your property is located in a designated coastal barrier area or floodplain. You may contact them at 693-2744. Gloucester County FIRMs can be viewed online at www.gloucesterva.info., under Flood Protection Information or on the FEMA map service center at www.msc.fema.gov.
New preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for the County have been delivered and are available for viewing at the Building Inspection Office. In addition the Gloucester County Physical FIRM Map Revision and Coastal Study have been posted on a FEMA web-site at https://www.rampp-team.com/va.htm. The FEMA site includes a Preliminary Interactive Flood Map Index, the Flood Insurance Study (FIS), and a Gloucester County Fact Sheet.
A new flood transition coastal A zone that lies between the VE (wave height greater than 3 feet) and AE (wave height less than 3 feet) flood zones has been added to the new FIRMs. This transition zone is designated on the FIRMs by a line identified as a “Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA).
The new FIRMs are projected for final adoption and become official November 19, 2014.
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Flood Hazard Map
Following is a list of the flood hazard areas and their definitions.
Flood hazard areas identified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) are identified as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). SFHA are defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The 1-percent annual chance flood is also referred to as the base flood or 100-year flood.
AE: (Rising water flood zone; Wave height less than 3 feet) Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual chance flood event determined by detailed methods. Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements and floodplain management standards apply.
AO: Area of shallow flooding with a 1 percent or greater annual chance of flooding to an average depth of 1 to 3 feet where a clearly defined channel does not exist, where the path of flooding is unpredictable, where velocity flow may be evident. Such flooding is characterized by ponding or sheet flow.
A: (Rising water flood zone) Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event generally determined using approximate methodologies. Because detailed hydraulic analyses have not been performed, no Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) or flood depths are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements and floodplain management standards apply.
VE: (Wave action flood zone; Wave height greater than 3 feet) Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards due to storm-induced velocity wave action. Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements and floodplain management standards apply.
X: 500-year flood. Moderate flood hazard areas, labeled Zone X (shaded) are also shown on the FIRM, and are the areas between the limits of the base flood and the 0.2-percent-annual-chance (or 500-year) flood.
X: Outside 500-year flood. The areas of minimal flood hazard, which are the areas outside the SFHA and have higher than a 0.2-percent-annual-chance flood, are labeled Zone X (unshaded).
Coastal A: This new flood transition zone lies between the VE (wave height greater than 3 feet) and AE (wave height less than 3 feet) flood zones has been added to the new FIRMs. This transition zone is designated on the FIRMs by a line identified as a Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) (wave heights between 1.5 and 3 feet).
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Natural and Beneficial Functions
The Floodplain in Gloucester County contains valuable natural resources including wetlands, beaches, forests, rivers, streams and the plant and animal communities that inhabit them. Highlighting the county are vast salt marshes, expansive rivers and creeks. Such as the salt marshes that surround the Jenkins Neck, Robins Neck and Guinea areas. These natural resources are unique to the Chesapeake Bay Region and are important to Gloucester County’s environment and economic welfare. These resources offer a variety of values and functions; improved water quality-through sediment trapping and filtering and Flood buffering-absorbing flood waters and slowly releasing them.
Through a volunteer FEMA grant program Gloucester County has acquired some 74 plus acres of property that will remain undeveloped in perpetuity. Such undeveloped property will provide additional benefit to the County floodplain.
To help preserve and protect these valuable resource areas Gloucester County has adopted the following programs which are administered locally: Hazard Mitigation Open Space Plan, Chesapeake Bay Preservation, Erosion and Sediment Control, Wetlands Protection, and Floodplain Management Plan. These programs, and how well they are administered, have a direct effect on water quality (WQ) in the community.
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Developing in Floodplain
Always check with the Gloucester County Building Inspection office before you build on, clear, grade or fill your property. All floodplain development requires a permit from Gloucester County.
If you see building, clearing, grading or filling on a property without a permit posted please call the Building Inspection office at 693-2744.
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Substantial Improvement /damage requirements
If your home/dwelling is located within a flood zone and you plan to substantially improve your dwelling with additions, renovations and/or repairs from damage you will be required to elevate the dwelling to meet the requirements for new construction. The Gloucester County Floodplain Management Ordinance requires the dwelling floor be elevated to 2 foot above base flood elevation (BFE).
Substantial improvement/damage means any repair, reconstruction, improvement or damage of any origin to the structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds fifty (50) percent of the market value of the structure either (a) before the improvement or repair is started, or (b) if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred.
Any questions you have about Substantial Improvement or Substantial damage should be directed to the Building Inspection office at 693-2744.
Protective Measures to Take:
If your property is located in a flood zone there are various actions that should be taken to flood proof your existing home and other structures. Electrical panel boxes, furnaces, water heaters, and washers/dryers should be elevated or relocated to a location less likely to be flooded. Basement floor drains and interior and exterior backwater valves can be installed, and interior floodwalls can be placed around utilities.
There are ways to permanently retrofit a building, retrofitting means making changes to an existing building to protect it from flooding. Six ways are discussed in FEMA publication 312, Homeowner’s guide to Retrofitting. You can obtain this document from www.fema.gov. The six ways to retrofit are:
- Elevation- raising your house so the lowest floor is 2 foot above flood level.
- Wet flood proofing-to make uninhabited parts of your home resistant to flood damage.
- Relocation- moving your house to higher ground.
- Dry flood proofing- sealing your house to prevent flood waters from entering.
- Levee and floodwall- construct barriers to prevent flood from entering.
- Demolition- demolish home and rebuild meeting flood requirements or moving elsewhere.
Emergency flood proofing measures are generally less expensive than those listed above, however they require substantial warning. They do not satisfy the minimum requirements set forth by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and are temporary in nature. Some emergency flood proofing measures include:
- Constructing a double row of walls with boards and posts to create a “crib”. Then filling the crib with soil.
To learn more about what you can do to protect your property from flooding, visit the Gloucester Public Library and read more about it.
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Drainage System Maintenance
As a resident of Gloucester County you may already have a BMP (Best Management Practice). These are structural or vegetation devices designed to reduce sediment and pollutant loads contained in storm water runoff. These may include dry wells, infiltration trenches, vegetative filter strips and grass swells. Larger projects may include wet ponds and extended detention ponds.
Many of the roads in Gloucester County are state roads and the roads and the ditches associated with them are state maintained. If you find obstructions impeding the functions of these ditches please contact VDOT in Saluda at
The remainder of the roads in the County are privately owned and maintained. With the hurricane season approaching residents living on private roads may want to check ditches and remove any debris or obstructions. The proper maintenance and removal of debris from road ditches will assure floodwater drainage.
This is especially true in a tidal community. If the flood and storm waters are restricted from draining the situation can be dramatically impacted with the occurrence of the next high tide.
Please note that placing refuse, refuse receptacles or containers in or over storm drains would be viewed as a violation of the
Gloucester County Code Sec 9-36. Violations should be reported to the Gloucester County Environmental Programs office at 693-1217.
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Several actions can be taken by floodplain residents to reduce the potential of injury due to flooding.
Do not walk through flowing water. Currents can be deceptive and can knock you off your feet. If you must walk through standing water carry a stick or pole with you to test ground where you are walking.
Do not drive through flooded areas. If you come to a flooded road TURN AROUND, you won’t know the depth of the water or the condition of the road under the water. Many deaths occur when automobiles are swept downstream.
Evacuate the flood hazard area in times of impending flood or when advised to. Don’t delay in evacuating once you get word to leave. Take your most reliable vehicle and stick to designated evacuation routes.
Shut off all utilities, including electricity, water services and gas to your home.
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Flood Protection Assistance and Flood Zone Determination:
The Office of Building Inspection provides flood protection assistance to citizens. This assistance provides information on how to select a qualified contractor and what recourse individuals have if dissatisfied with a contractor’s performance; conduct site visits to review flooding, drainage, and sewer problems and provide one-on-one advice to property owner on flood proofing and retrofitting techniques.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are available for use at the Gloucester County Office of Building Inspection. The Building Inspection office can assist you in locating your property on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to determine if your property is located in the Special Flood Hazard Area, which flood zone the property is in and its base flood elevation. You may contact them at 693-2744. FIRMs can also be viewed on the FEMA Map Service Center website at www.msc.fema.gov.
Copies of Elevation Certificates for some properties in the floodplain are available at The Gloucester County Building Inspection office for review during normal business hours by appointment. Please contact them at 693-2744.
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Gloucester’s Flood Warning Procedure:
The Gloucester County Emergency Operations Plan was developed to prepare the county for a variety of disasters, including flooding. If a flood should occur, warning and emergency communications will be coordinated through Emergency Services and the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office. When activated during a storm event the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During a disaster the Emergency Phone Help Line may be activated through the Emergency Operations Center, at which time the number will be published through the media and on the County’s website. Watches and warning will be issued by the National Weather Service as applicable and should protective actions such as sheltering in place and/or evacuation action be necessary, County will make notifications using all available resources including the CodeRED system.
The Gloucester County Sheriff’s office is the point of contact for receipt of all warnings and notification of actual or impending floods. The dispatcher on duty will notify key Gloucester County Staff and the appropriate department heads as required. The Emergency Services Department and/or Public Information Office will contact the following local radio and television stations and newspapers to notify residents of a potential flood danger.
Radio Stations: Television Stations: Newspapers:
WXGM (AM 1420 or FM 99.1) WTKR – Channel 3 The Daily Press
WKEZ (FM 94) WVEC – Channel 13 The Gloucester- WQSF (FM 96) WAVY – Channel 10
Mathews Gazette-Journal WWDE “2WD” (FM 102) The Glo-Quips
Emergency Notification System
Gloucester County uses a new CodeRED rapid notification system to alert citizens on their landline telephone of impending disasters. Citizen may also enroll into the CodeRED system and be also notified on their cell phones and or by email. Visit www.gloucesterva.info or telephone (804)-693-1390 for more information.
NOAA Weather Radio: a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio (NWR) can be purchased with a battery backup and warning alarm tone. This can be used to listen for flood watches and warnings. See the NOAA website at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/ for more information. NWR is available for the hearing impaired that incorporates a flashing light to help alert residents.
Should an evacuation become necessary, appropriate information and instructions will be provided to the local media outlets listed above. The Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Gloucester Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and/or the Abingdon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department may use public address systems on emergency apparatus to ensure residents in the threatened areas receive the appropriate information regarding the protective action recommendation. In a major disaster, public schools may be designated as primary Evacuation Assembly Centers/Shelters.
Any questions please call Emergency Services at. (804) 693-1390.
Attention lenders, insurance agents, real estate offices and citizens:
The new NFIP Elevation Certificate (FEMA Form 086-0-33) with an expiration date of July 31, 2015 is in effect and must be used as of August 1, 2013.
These new certificates as well as existing elevation certificates on file are available in the Gloucester County Building Inspection office and are available for review during normal business hours by appointment.
Thank you for taking the time to read through the information that has been provided. County staff has worked hard along with other State and Federal agencies to provide the most up to date information to keep you, your family and property safe and out of harm’s way. Again thank you!