Public meetings scheduled for county residents to learn about new FEMA flood insurance rate maps

Interactive map available online for persons to learn details about property they own

This image created from the Sarasota County interactive map based on the new FEMA flood insurance rate maps provides details about the property located at 168 Beach Road on Siesta Key.

With new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) for Sarasota County going into effect as of March 27, county staff will host an in-person open house later this month and an online session to inform members of the public about the changes, staff announced this week.

“All county property owners are invited to attend one of the public meetings to learn about their own flood risk” and view the newly updated FIRMs, a news release notes.

With no formal presentation scheduled, the release adds, residents may attend the in-person session whenever it is convenient for them to do so; no appointments are necessary. However, the release advised property owners to bring their elevation certificates, “if possible.”

The in-person meeting is set from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Frances T. Bourne Jacaranda Library, which stands at 4143 Woodmere Park Blvd. in Venice.

An online presentation via Zoom (ID 832 9202 7798) is planned from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13.

A meeting was held at the Fruitville Library on Feb. 14, prior to the publication of this issue of The Sarasota News Leader.

Individuals may view the FIRMs online at, the news release says. They also may visit the interactive map for more information.

“Please note that these changes do not affect hurricane evacuation levels, which may be viewed here or at,” the release emphasizes.

Representatives of Sarasota County Government and the Cities of Sarasota, Venice and North Port and the Town of Longboat Key will be available during the open houses to answer questions, the release notes. “All residents are encouraged to attend one of these informational sessions,” the release says.

On Dec. 12, 2023, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve the new FIRMs. (See the related article in this issue.)

A county staff memo provided to the board members in advance of that meeting pointed out that, to continue the county’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the commission had to amend Chapter 54, Article XVI, of the County Code of Ordinances to adopt the new FEMA Flood Insurance Study and the FIRMS no later than Feb. 27 of this year to avoid FEMA’s issuing a 30-day notice of pending suspension from the NFIP.

Chapter 54, Article XVI, Section 54-511 of the County Code contains the local requirements for regulating construction in high-risk, flood-prone areas in an effort to prevent loss of life and property, “and to minimize economic and social hardships that result from flooding,” the Dec. 12, 2023 memo added. “[I]t is imperative that our community retains the ability to purchase affordable flood insurance through the NFIP by meeting minimum participation requirements, including but not limited to adopting certain local regulations,” the memo emphasized.

Considerations in regard to risk of storm damage

This is a sample FIRM showing Zone AE, the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA), and Zone VE. Base Flood Elevations are noted in parentheses below the Zone AE/VE text. The Base Flood Elevations are site specific and vary by location. The Coastal Construction Control Line is overlayed onto the FIRM and shown for reference purposes only. Image and text provided by FEMA

The new FIRMs include a Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) line, the county news release points out. “Post-storm field visits and laboratory tests throughout coastal flood hazard areas have consistently confirmed that wave heights as low as 1.5 feet can cause significant damage” to structures built without consideration of coastal hazards, the release explains. This LiMWA line is the inland limit of the area expected to receive breaking waves of 1.5 in height, or greater, during what FEMA calls the 1% annual-chance flood event.

In a July 2023 document titled Designing for Flood Levels Above the Minimum Required Elevation After Hurricane Ian — published in advance of the release of the new FIRMS — FEMA said, “[S]evere flood damage is likely in areas where waves and high velocities accompany flooding as moving water and breaking waves impart large structural loads on the building. In Zone V and Coastal A Zone areas, waves are capable of causing significant damage to some buildings as a result of the energy of coastal waves striking and undermining buildings. As water depths increase, higher waves may be present resulting in higher breaking wave loads. The action of wave crests striking the elevated portion of a structure is known as ‘wave slam.’ ”

The document added, “Wave slam introduces lateral and vertical loads on the lower portions of the elevated structure. For example, for a residential structure and a 5-foot stillwater depth, when the wave crest extends above the bottom of the floor joist by 1 foot, 312 pounds per foot (lb/ft) is exerted by lateral wave slam. In comparison, wave crests extending above the bottom of the floor joist by 2 feet and 3 feet exert 624 lb/ft and 936 lb/ft, respectively, due to wave slam.”

The July 2023 document also noted, “The two Florida Gulf Coast counties primarily impacted by Hurricane Ian storm surge (Lee and Collier), were both in a map adoption process when the storm hit in September 2022. Lee County now has updated maps that went into effect in November 2022. Collier County has preliminary FIRMs that provide an understanding of current risks but are not the final regulatory products. These map updates include delineating the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA), which is depicted as a solid black line with arrows pointing in the direction of the area with additional wave-associated risk.”

Further, FEMA explained in that document, “Buildings constructed to the elevations shown on a FIRM only safeguard to the base flood, as designated by the BFE [Base Flood Elevation].”

FEMA defines Base Flood Elevation as the “elevation of surface water resulting from a flood that has a 1% chance of equaling or exceeding that level in any given year.”

This image is included in  the July 2023 FEMA document.

“Some storms impacting coasts, rivers, or both result in flood levels that exceed the BFE,” the July 23 document noted.

FEMA’s previous FIRMs had only two coastal flood zones, the county news release added: VE Zones, where the flood elevation risk included wave heights equal to or greater than 3 feet; and AE Zones, where the flood elevation factored in the potential of wave heights less than 3 feet.

The county news release also noted that flood risks change because of new construction and development, environmental issues, the widening or shifting of floodplains, and other factors over time. Thus, it adds, “FEMA’s FIRMs are updated periodically.”

“Standard homeowners’, business owners’ and renters’ insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, making flood insurance an important consideration for everyone,” the release pointed out, as well. Visit or call 1-888-379-9531 for more information or to locate a local insurance agent, the release said.

For additional information, call the county Contact Center at 311 or visit