Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
“Preliminary” Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)
***Updated for Changes 03/11/2013 – Second Appeal Period***
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) division of Office of Water Resources (OWR) as a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) with FEMA is updating the FIRMs as a part of their Map Maintenance program. As a part of this effort, the Madison County (including portions of the Cities of Huntsville and Madison in Limestone County) FIRMs have been preliminarily updated. This website allows a few ways to view the “Preliminary” Mapping for the City of Huntsville (City) as well as some additional items and information.
Although this Preliminary mapping is an update to fully replace (at some point in the near future) the “1998 Effective” mapping the City has been using these past many years, all areas have not necessarily changed or may have changed only subtly from the “Effective” mapping. That being said there are areas of significant change especially those along streams not previously studied as well as those that were restudied. It is important to note that in these areas the new studies are based on more up-to-date data as well as improved modeling techniques to more accurately reflect current conditions.
If you are planning to investigate the Preliminary Mapping and other available information discussed in the following text, it is recommended that you print this page out to use as guidance while exploring the links, as you will likely have to refer back to it. If questions come up regarding terminology etc., it is recommended that you refer to the City’s most recent annual Community Rating System (CRS) Floodplain mailing, it may have the information you’re looking for or suggest other avenues (including websites) to pursue. However, the following two points are being provided here to address frequently asked questions: It is the City’s understanding from FEMA that if a structure is in the Effective 100-yr. Floodplain, lending institutions should require the owner to carry Flood Insurance. Additionally, if any portion of a property is in the Effective or Preliminary 100-yr. Floodplain, it falls under City zoning requirements for Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) and the City is required to regulate to the more restrictive of the two data sets.
Public Meetings *** Updated for Changes 09/29/2011***
Public Meetings were held in December 2010 to discuss the Preliminary Floodplain Mapping changes.
To those of you that were unable to attend the meeting, here is a link to the powerpoint presentation that was given.
Second Appeal Period *** Updated for Changes 03/11/2013***
Subsequent to the Public Meeting, a 90-Day appeal/protest period began. Items of appeal submitted at the meeting and during the following 90-days were submitted to OWR by the City. They were then reviewed by OWR/FEMA and, where appropriate, revisions were made to the mapping which was then published Revised Preliminary on 05/9/2012. As a result, a second 90-day appeal period was required and after two public notices were published in the Huntsville Times, a second 90-day appeal period for all the mapping started on 03/11/2013.
Anyone wishing to provide comment to the mapping may do so within the 90 days. Following is a link to a generic form that needs to at least be filled out and used as a cover for any submitted information: Huntsville Community Comments Template. Comments can be submitted electronically via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail plus attachment(s) size limit of 10 MG). Comments can also be submitted to the City of Huntsville Engineering Division at 320 Fountain Cir. (second floor) Huntsville, AL 35801 or by mail to City of Huntsville Engineering-Floodplain P.O Box 308 Huntsville, AL 35804.
Please keep in mind, that revisions to the floodplain will not likely occur unless sound technical information by a licensed professional is submitted such as revised hydraulic &/or hydrologic modeling, surveying data, etc (Criteria for Appeals of Flood Insurance Rate Maps). That said, comments such as mislabeled street names, missing roadways, etc. are very much welcome.
Viewing the Mapping at the City’s “Interactive Maps” Website
*** Updated for Changes 09/29/2011***
Individuals can view digital versions of the Preliminary FIRM, amongst other data, and search for specific addresses through the City’s interactive mapping website at maps.hsvcity.com. Once you’ve selected the website a “Disclaimer” page will be pulled up. Read and “Accept” this Disclaimer and you will be taken to the mapping page. Note near the bottom of the page that “Using a pop-up blocker may prevent some features of Interactive Maps from working.” So, turn off any pop-up blockers you have on; alternately on some computer systems if you hold down the control (i.e. Ctrl on most keyboards) key while clicking Accept, pop-up blockers can be disabled temporarily.Next, check the “Preliminary FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map” box under the “Layers” list in the “Map Contents” box on the left side of the screen to display the 100-Year (yr.) Floodplain. Select “Find Address” near the top left of the page. Enter only the address number in the “Address Contains:” field. Similarly, enter only the street name in the “Street Name Contains:” field. Do not include words or abbreviations like Road, Dr., Circle, etc… that follow the specific street name nor directional distinctions like North, S, Southwest, etc…. Once both are entered, then click the “Find” button. The specific address or a list of addresses meeting the entered criteria will be displayed on the left side of the screen in the “Results” box under “Find Address” and “Building Address Point.” Right-click on the appropriate address and choose “Zoom To.” If the 100-yr Floodplain is within the area of the address searched, it will be shown in light and dark pink (the Flood-Fringe and Floodway, respectively). Additionally, there are a series of tools in the menu bar near the top right of the page to zoom in (“+” magnifying glass) and out (“-” magnifying glass) by creating boxes, pan (hand), measure (ruler), etc.
Similarly you can search by the Parcel Personal Identification Number (PPIN) included on the top line of the address label on the envelope mailings were sent out in. Select “Find Parcel” near the top center of the page. Enter the PPIN then click the Find button. The specific PPIN will be display on the left side of the screen in the “Results” section under “Find Parcel”. In either case Right-click on the appropriate address or PPIN and choose “Zoom To.” If the 100-yr Floodplain is within the area of the address searched, it will be shown in light and dark pink (the Flood-Fringe and Floodway, respectively).
As you will/can see, there are many data sets you can check in the “Layers” list in the “Map Contents” section on the left side of the screen besides “Preliminary FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map”. Included in the list is “FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map” which is the Effective mapping previously discussed and is similarly displayed to the Preliminary except in shades of blue. If you have them both checked you’ll notice the blues and pinks mix into other shades that show where they overlap. If you’re interested in seeing our aerial photos scroll towards the bottom of the list; we recommend “Aerials Photos March 2007” as the most accurate.
Additionally, there are a series of tools in the menu bar near the top right of the page to zoom in (“+” magnifying glass) and out (“-” magnifying glass) by creating boxes, pan (hand), measure (ruler), etc.
Viewing PDF Mapping
The PDF refers to the electronic file type that this mapping is in; this mapping is what the hard copy type of maps you may have seen are printed from. They have roadway data that was in the Interactive Maps discussed above but beyond that and the flood related information they lack all other data. That being said, this PDF mapping, which is broken down into the actual Map Panels that the hardcopy maps are in, has legends as well as additional notes that you may find useful. Obviously you’ll want to look at the legends to identify the information you’re viewing, but keep in mind that “Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) Subject to Inundation by the 1% Annual Chance Flood” is just another way to say the 100-year Floodplain.
To help citizens find which panel they need to look at, the City’s Geographic Information System (GIS) Division created a couple of ways to help search the maps. The first way, maps.hsvcity.com/prelimfirm , is based on entering your address similarly to that described above in the “Viewing the Mapping at the City’s ‘Interactive Maps’ Website” section. So, once the page is open enter your street address number in the “Address:” field and enter the street name only (do not include words or abbreviations like Road, Dr., Circle, North, S, Southwest, etc.) in the “Street:” field and then hit the “Search” button. The screen should update and show your full “Mailing Address” and the “FIRM Map Panel” number, which should be in a format similar to “01089C0###F”, as a link to that panel. So, click the link and it should take you to a view of the panel your address is located on.
Once you are at the panel you can use the zoom in (“+”) and zoom out (“-”) buttons or the selection box near the top left of center of the page to help you view and find your location on the map. Once you zoom in close enough, scroll bars will appear on the bottom and right side of the page which you can also use to help you navigate the map.
The second way, www.hsvcity.com/gis/PrelimFIRM/PrelimFIRMPanels.htm , is more visual. Once you get to the site you’ll see a map of Madison County as well as a portion of Limestone County with major roads and communities noted. You will also see the map broken into 8 major areas. Clicking on the area you want to see will open a new window to that zoomed in portion of the FIRM Map Index. From there you will need to click on the appropriate panel for the area you are interested in and that will open up a new window of that Map Panel that you can navigate as discussed in the paragraph above.
If you would like to view the entire FIRM Map Index directly there is a link at the bottom of the original page for this searching option or you can click HERE ; it also has additional information you may find interesting. Navigating around the index is just like navigating the panels as discussed above.
Finally, if you know the FIRM Panel Number you want to view, you can go to a list of the panels by number, www.hsvcity.com/gis/PrelimFIRM/ListofFIRMPanels.htm , and select the number link to that panel directly.
Letters of Map Change (LOMCs) and Summary of Map Action (SOMA)
*** Updated for Changes 05/09/12***
When appropriate, FEMA publishes LOMCs based on applicants’ requests. These letters include Letters of Map Amendment (LOMAs) which recognize an error on FEMAs part, Letters of Map Revision based on Fill (LOMR-Fs) which reflect filling of an area in the Flood Fringe (NOT the Floodway) portion of the 100-year Floodplain, and Letters of Map Revision (LOMRs) which reflect an updated flood study of a particular area.
As a part of the updated effort previously discussed a Preliminary SOMA was also produced. It reports on the proposed status of LOMCs affecting the area in question stating what is proposed to be recertified and superseded. Although a LOMC may be recertified it may not be reflected on the updated mapping, hence the need for the SOMA.
If you want to check to see if your house or property is the subject of a LOMC, you’ll need to go to the Interactive Mapping discussed above. Once there, turn on (check) the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map layer. You will see (amongst the other floodplain information displayed) green polygons and dots, which represent the LOMCs. Do the address search as previously discussed and if your home/property is the subject of a LOMC you will see one of the green dots on the structure or (and you may have to zoom out a little) the property within a green polygon. Once zoomed in close enough, click the “Map Identify” (“i”) tool from the upper right menu bar area. When it is on (the area around it will go from blue to a white box) then click on either the green dot or the green “Case Number” inside the polygon, whichever is the case.
Make note of the case number and go to the SOMA and see which category it follows into as far as being recertified (“Incorporated” or “Unincorporated” in the new mapping), “Superseded”, or to be reevaluated (“Redetermined”). Incidentally, the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map layer does visually reflect the LOMCs in the cases where you see a polygon and not a dot; so in a case where the Preliminary FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map layer shows an area in the floodplain, but the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map layer shows a LOMC removing it from the floodplain, and the SOMA says that LOMC is to be recertified, then based on the preliminary information it will remain out of the floodplain.
100-year vs. 500-year Floodplain
The Interactive Mapping shows the 100-year Floodplains as described above as well as the 500-year Floodplains which are a dark red line in the Effective mapping layer and a dark purple (almost black) line in the Preliminary mapping layer. It is the area between the boundary line and the 100-year Floodplain that is the 500-year Floodplain. If a 500-year Floodplain boundary is not viewable, then it is either the same as the 100-year Floodplain or one may not have been determined.
On the PDF maps the 500-year Floodplain is shown as a light shaded area designated “Zone X” with the description of “Areas of 0.2% annual chance flood; areas of 1% annual chance flood with average depths of less than 1 foot or with drainage areas less than 1 square mile…” in the legend. This is a more specific/appropriate definition than to just say the 500-year Floodplain.
The use of 0.2% is just another way to say 1 chance out of 500 (1 divided by 500 is 0.002 or 0.2%); similarly the use of 1% is just another way to say 1 chance out of 100 (1 divided by 100 is 0.01 or 1%). When you say 100-year Floodplain it doesn’t mean it’s the flood that will happen once every hundred years, it’s the flood event that would result from a large enough rainfall event that has a 1% chance of happening every year; similarly the 500-year Floodplain is a result of a rainfall event that has a 0.2% chance of happening every year.
Street Address and PPIN Unavailable
*** Updated for Changes 11/12/10***
If a street address and Parcel Personal Information Number (PPIN) are not available for you to use either of the mapping scenarios above, and you would still like to see exactly what things looks like on a specific property, you can go to the following website, www.emapsplus.com/almadison/maps. Once there try searching by “Owner” on the upper left of the page as they instruct. You can search just by a last name as well. Search results meeting the criteria will be generated after clicking the “Search” button. Select the correct Parcel number at the top of the correct search result and it will zoom in on the mapping to that parcel. Generate a report with the PPIN in it by selecting “Report” in the upper right corner of the page. Now use the PPIN to locate the property as discussed above or you can also use the “ZOOM TOOLS” in the upper left of the page to visually determine the property location and then use the PDF mapping also discussed above.