WILLIAMSON – There are now new flood plain maps for Mingo County and there have been changes.
According to Amanda Starr, of the Mingo County Flood Plain Management office, “There has been a lot of changes for the county.”
“FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has remapped Mingo County. The last time the maps were done was back in 2012,” Starr said. “The last time before that was back in 1984.”
“I would suggest that anyone who lives along the Tug River should come in and talk to us,” Starr added.
The flood plain maps include every part of the county, including small streams, creeks and other bodies of water that could flood with heavy rainfall. “If you are near a body of water you are probably in a flood plain,” Starr emphasized.
Starr has the new computerized maps on her computer. She can zoom in to a particular area, much like Google Maps.
Flood maps, known officially as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), show areas of high and moderate to low flood risk. Communities use the maps to set minimum building requirements for coastal areas and floodplains. Lenders use them to determine flood insurance requirements, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses them to help determine what you should pay for flood insurance, according to www.floodsmart.gov.
“We have all of the pertinent information available – the coordinates, new elevations and other info,” Starr stated.
She said the old elevation levels are different from the new ones, especially along the Tug Fork. “There were some discrepancies with Kentucky and West Virginia,” Starr said.
Starr, who was recently certified by the state, is the only person in Mingo County to have completed the course and to have received the training.
“I had worked with the 911 mapping for Mingo County. I know this county like the back of my hand,” Starr added.
For people to put a structure or any development in a potential flood plain area, they have to come in and fill out paperwork and get a permit. Starr said the permits are free, but persons need to get this document before they build or place a trailer along or near a stream.
“Many people don’t know that they need to do this,” Starr stressed.
“A lot of times people build before they get a permit. This could cause them problems and increase their flood insurance,” she said. “Some people are not aware of it or just ignore it.”
In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1-in-4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. All home and business owners in these areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to buy flood insurance.
Starr said many homeowners need flood insurance and may not have it.
She said some dwellings can be built in certain flood plains, but they may need to be elevated on blocks and put up higher out of the projected flood plain. “There are certain stipulations. Like they need to be 2-feet above the elevated flood plain and in compliance.”
“I can walk them through the process and even go out and check out the situation,” Starr said.
Her office also has the authority to issue violations.
Persons who place trailer homes along the possible flood path on any stream, large or small, needs to have them anchored. “It could be washed off during a flash flood. If this happens and the trailer damages another person’s property, then that owner would be libel for those damages,” Starr said. “If there is any changes in the flood plain, they need to get a permit.” This could be bridges, fill dirt or other developments.
“Mudslides are also a problem in this area,” Starr stated. She gave as an example of the huge slide at Big Splint Hollow near Nolan that damaged homes and also blocked the road to several homes and filled up the creek.
“Floods are devastating,” Starr said. She talked about the recent flooding in central West Virginia that claimed lives and damaged many homes, churches, schools and businesses. The Tug Valley area is all too familiar with these types of scenarios, having experienced many floods in the past.
She said if her office doesn’t have the answer, they can contact FEMA, the state or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers was the agency that built the floodwalls, bought out homeowners who lived in the flood prone area back in the 1990s and also placed many homes up to higher elevations to get them out of the 100-year flood plain.
“FEMA comes in every so often and points out potential violations,” Starr said. “The last time they went out in the county was back in 2013. Last winter (2015) they went around to each of the municipalities in the county.
Starr said her office is ready to assist anyone and to help with permits. She can be contacted at 304-235-0566. Her office is located in the basement area of the Mingo County Courthouse.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)