Homeowners concerned about high premiums under proposed FEMA flood maps

Homeowners concerned about high premiums under proposed FEMA flood maps

SOCASTEE, SC (WMBF) - As Horry County awaits a response from FEMA on an extension of the appeal period, homeowners are starting to look at the effects the proposed flood maps could have on their flood insurance premiums.

Michael Sichitano lives along the Intracoastal Waterway in Socastee and said he currently pays about $400 a year for flood insurance. The estimate for his premium under the new flood maps is $5,999 a year.

"And that is the highest deductible," Sichitano said.

He added the water level during the October floods was still several feet below his pool deck.

"Then you have another 50 feet until you get into the house," he said.

Sichitano is also a real estate appraiser for FWIW Appraisal. He said he worries for the future of the housing market if the flood maps go through as proposed.

"It will have a trickle-down effect from your real estate to the developers to people buying supplies to what we kind of accommodate to, meaning baby boomers and the older generation, which is not going to buy a house," he said. "Unless it has an elevator, they're not going to even look at a house that has stairs in it. They want single-level living."

Richard Paugh is also worried about retirees already living in Socastee.

"There are people in my neighborhood that are retired who can't afford $2,000 or $3,000 or $4,000 a year for flood insurance and it makes no sense," Paugh said.

He said his house has never come close to flooding in the nearly 15 years he has lived there. He has also never paid for flood insurance. Under the proposed FEMA maps, he will have to start.

"The very back corner of my property is in the flood plain," Paugh said. "My house is way high."

Paugh has already talked to engineering consultants at The EARTHWORKS Group about disputing the maps. FEMA allows anyone to make an appeal, but the process will still cost him up to $600, he said.

"I have to hire an engineer to come out, certify my property that it is above the flood plain, submit it to the regulatory people to get it exempt," Paugh said.

However, paying for an exemption will save him money in the long-term instead of paying for insurance he said he truly doesn't need.

"For my home to flood, there would not be any Rosewood, there would not be any Lawsons Landing, Watson's Riverside," he said. "None of those would be there because they would all be underwater."

Paugh will first wait to see if Horry County makes an appeal and what the outcome of that is.

Maria Lamm, state coordinator for the flood mitigation program, said the Great Pee Dee River was studied for the first time and that river affects the Waccamaw River and the Intracoastal Waterway.

She said even though Horry County might have seen a 100-year storm on the Waccamaw River or the Intracoastal Waterway, the Great Pee Dee River did not experience such a weather event.

Lamm added the Great Pee Dee River's effects are what increased the base flood elevation level to 13 feet.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.