Flood Information Frequently Asked Questions

Flood Insurance

Do I need flood insurance?

Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover losses due to flooding.

Flood insurance is mandatory for federally-backed mortgages. You must have flood insurance to get federally-secured financing to buy, construct or improve a building in a high-risk area known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (Zones V, VE, A or AE), where more than 75% of all flood claims are paid.

Lending institutions that are federally regulated or insured must determine if the building is in a Special Flood Hazard Area. If it is, the lender must require flood insurance on FHA loans, VA loans, second mortgages, home equity loans, home improvement loans, construction loans, commercial loans and farm credit loans. There is a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect, so don’t delay.

Visit www.floodsmart.gov, or call toll-free at (888) 379-9531, for information on policy rates and coverage. Contact a local insurance agent or lender for details.

Do I need flood insurance in Zones X or X (500)?

Although FEMA doesn’t mandate insurance and a mortgage company may not require it, purchasing flood insurance at a lower rate (known as “Preferred Risk”) may be a wise idea. Nationwide, over 30% of reported flood claims are in an X Zone (unshaded areas on the FIRMs) or X (500) Zone (lightly shaded areas FIRMs). Find your flood zone.

Am I eligible to purchase flood insurance?

You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Pinellas County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program on behalf of residents living in unincorporated areas.

If you are in unincorporated Pinellas County, you are eligible.

How much flood insurance should I buy?

For federally-secured financing in a Special Flood Hazard Area, the law requires flood insurance in an amount equal to the outstanding principal balance of the loan, the value of the building or the maximum coverage available, whichever is less. It also requires flood insurance to be maintained for the life of the loan.

While the law requires coverage only for the loan balance, you should consider protecting your equity. It’s wise to insure primary residences and businesses in sufficient amounts to fully protect the building and its contents.

The National Flood Insurance Program provides up to $250,000 coverage for single-family residential buildings and up to $100,000 coverage for contents. Other residential and commercial property owners can also obtain flood insurance.

For more information about the National Flood Insurance Program and flood insurance, call (800) 427-4661 or contact your insurance company or agent. For an agent referral, call (888) 435-6637 or TDD (800) 427-5593.

Where can I find an Elevation Certificate on my structure?

If your structure was built in unincorporated Pinellas County after September 1992 and is in a Special Flood Hazard Area Zone, then the County should have a copy of your elevation certificate. To complete your elevation certificate, find out what flood zone you are in and contact the Pinellas County Flood Information Services staff at (727) 464-7700.

For all other jurisdictions, please contact the individual municipality.

If there isn’t an elevation certificate on record, then you will have to hire a licensed land surveyor, registered professional engineer or registered architect who is authorized by state or local law. They can prepare and certify an elevation certificate for you. Community officials who are authorized by local law or ordinance to provide floodplain management information may also sign some sections of the certificate.

Am I paying too much for flood insurance?

Make sure you’re in the correct flood zone. Find your flood zone.

Pinellas County actively participates in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. Unincorporated Pinellas County is currently rated a Class 5, which saves residents over $5 million in flood insurance premiums annually.

When you renew your Flood Insurance Policy, please check for your “Community Rating Number” stated on your policy. Should your policy indicate something other than five, and you live in the unincorporated area of the county, please call your insurance agent in order to correct the error.

Unincorporated Pinellas County residents should receive a 25% reduction for properties in the Safety Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and a 10% discount outside the SFHA.

What is the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012?

Under the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, rates will reflect current risks, which means premium rate increases for some, but not all, policyholders over time.

Are sandbags helpful?

Sandbags are not an effective way to block or minimize water intrusion into homes or buildings. Still, some homeowners feel a sense of wellbeing by using sandbags.

How do I get FEMA to remove my property from a Special Flood Hazard Area Zone?

Check Section C.2 of your Elevation Certificate and see if both the elevation of the lowest floor and the lowest adjacent grade are at or above the Base Flood Elevation for the respective flood zone.

Then, check Section C.2 of your Elevation Certificate to see if the North American Vertical Datum 1988 was used. If so, and both elevations are at or above the Base Flood Elevation, you may then contact FEMA at (877) 336-2627 and apply for a Letter of Map Amendment (if fill dirt was not used when your house was built) or for a Letter of Map Revision by Fill (if fill was brought in by the builder/developer).

How do I find out if there is an existing Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision by Fill on my property?

Search by address for Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision by Fill information on the Pinellas County Flood Map Service.

Flood Zones / Mapping / Storm Surge

What is my flood risk?

Everyone is at risk for flooding, regardless of whether they are in a flood zone or not.

Pinellas County, and much of Florida, is characterized by many factors that can lead to flooding including:

  • Low-lying topography.
  • Surrounded by water.
  • Frequent heavy rainfall associated with hurricanes, tropical storms or other major rainfall events.

You may be in a flood zone, a storm surge area or an evacuation zone. Find out more.

What flood zone am I in?

What are the Special Flood Hazard Area Zones?

Zones V, VE, A or AE are all considered to be Special Flood Hazard Area Zones, meaning these properties have a greater than 1% chance of flooding in any given year.

Am I in a storm surge area?

Pinellas County has developed an interactive map that shows the storm surge flood depths, evacuation zones and more. The map is searchable by address. Visit the Storm Surge Protector Application to find out what your risk is.

What types of flooding am I susceptible to?

You can find out your flood risk using Pinellas County’s interactive Flood Zone Map, Storm Surge Protector Application and Evacuation Zone Map.

How deep could the flood get?

Visit the Storm Surge Protector Application to find out how deep the flooding from storm surge could get.

Is it safe to drive during a flood?

The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • One foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks.

What is the difference between a flood zone and an evacuation zone?

Flood zones and evacuation zones measure different conditions that may not occur at the same time. The flood zones and evacuation zones are determined by different methods and have different purposes. A home may be located in a non-evacuation zone yet still be located in a flood zone because of a nearby stream or pond. Residents must check both zones.

  • Flood zones are areas mapped by FEMA for use in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each flood zone designation, represented by a letter or letters, tells homeowners what the risk is for flooding at their property over a period of years, regardless of the cause.
  • Evacuation zones are based on hurricane storm surge zones determined by the National Hurricane Center using ground elevation and the area’s vulnerability to storm surge from a hurricane. The evacuation zones are marked from A through E, plus non-evacuation zones.

What evacuation zone am I in, and when do I evacuate?

Visit the Evacuation Zone Map to find out what zone you are in. The map also shows shelters and more. The map is searchable by address and provides real-time evacuation orders.

Now that you know which zone you are in (A through E), the County may order either a recommended or mandatory evacuation. The County will also notify the local news stations about emergency evacuations, so tune in for updates. Pinellas County has several additional methods of communication to keep you informed. You can:

  • Sign up for Alert Pinellas. This service is FREE to residents and provides multiple ways to receive information during an emergency. Register your contact information and an automated message will be sent to alert you to local emergencies.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Tune in to PCC-TV online or on TV at Spectrum 637, WOW! 18, Verizon 44.
  • Listen to your Weather Alert Radio. Weather alert radios can be found at many retailers, in catalogs, and online. An alarm from a weather alert radio can mean the difference between life and death because every minute counts.
  • Visit Emergency Management’s Preparedness page to learn more.

Building Smart

How can I protect my property?

Elevating utilities and floodproofing are ways to minimize property loss due to floods. Pinellas County Flood Information Services can provide you with information on techniques to reduce property loss and can review and critique your floodproofing plans.

How do I build responsibly?

See our Building Smart page for resources on how to floodproof and build responsibly.

Since I'm doing the work myself, do I have any labor fees to consider in the cost of construction with the 50% rule?

Yes. Square footage construction prices issued by the International Code Council will be used to determine compliance with the FEMA 50% cost requirements. Owner-contractors must include fair labor costs into their cost breakdown calculations, even if labor fees are not involved.

Where do I get the value of my structure for the 50% rule?

This is the market value of the structure only, property value is not considered. The market value of a structure reflects its pre-damaged quality, including the physical age of the building components. To find more information on how to get this value please review the County’s Floodplain Management Ordinance.

How long do I need to wait between improvement permits when dealing with the 50% rule?

Currently, Pinellas County has no waiting period. However, different jurisdictions vary on this depending on their local ordinances. Please consult your respective municipality.

Floodplain Management

How can I protect natural floodplains?

Natural floodplain areas, such as wetlands, lessen the effects of storms and floodwaters. They provide natural storage areas for floodwaters and buffer the coastal areas from storm surges. Natural floodplain areas also provide excellent habitats for diverse wildlife and enhance water quality.

To help protect our natural floodplains:

  • Build outside of the natural floodplain.
  • Educate your friends, neighbors and colleagues about the importance of natural floodplains.
  • Keep lawn waste and trash out of storm drains, ditches, wetlands, ponds or streams.
  • Report dumping, ditch obstructions, flooding issues and pond issues.

Who do I call to report a problem?

Report an issue here related to dumping, ditch obstructions, flooding issues and pond issues.

Do I live near a wetland?

The Natural Floodplains Map shows wetlands from the National Wetlands Inventory so you can see if your property is near a natural floodplain.

What can be done about flooding problems?

Drainage system maintenance is important since debris obstructs the flow of water, causing street and yard flooding. It is illegal to dump unauthorized chemical, sediment or waste materials into storm sewer systems, streams or bays in Pinellas County.

For maintenance issues for residents in unincorporated Pinellas County, call (727) 464-8900. Other residents need to call the city in which they live.

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is rainwater that flows over our yards, streets, parking lots and buildings and does not get absorbed into the ground. Stormwater may carry excess nutrients and other pollutants and trash from the watershed into water bodies. For more information see Stormwater Management.

What is a watershed?

A watershed is a defined area of land from which all precipitation collects and drains to a common stream, bay, marsh or lake. For more information see Pinellas County Watersheds.

Why can't I dump grass clippings into the storm drain or onto the roads?

Grass clippings and other landscape debris not only can block stormwater pipes, causing flooding, but they’re also a significant source of nutrients that can promote algal blooms or other unwanted growth.

It is illegal to dump grass clippings and landscape debris into storm drains or onto the road, and you could be fined up to $10,000 per violation.

How do I report someone dumping materials down a storm drain or blowing leaves into the street?

Water pollution concerns, such as someone dumping materials down a storm drain or blowing leaves into the street, can be called into our office during business hours at (727) 464-4425, called into our recorded line at (727) 464-5060 or reported online.

Who is going to clean up all this trash in my pond?

If the pond is privately owned, it is up to the homeowners or homeowner’s association to remove the debris. See Adopt-A-Pond for more information. Lake management companies can also be found in the yellow pages.

If the pond is County-owned, call Pinellas County Operations at (727) 464-8900 or report it online.