East Hawaii News

Hilo Flood Map Changes Could Affect Insurance Requirements

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New flood maps are being prepared for Palai Stream in Hilo, a move that could affect flood insurance coverage for homeowners in the area.

Letters are being sent to owners of property along the stream informing them of proposed changes to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps, also known as FIRMs.

The county Department of Public Works submitted the proposed changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in April.

The existing maps were created in 1988, and the proposed changes are based on improved topographical data and computer modeling techniques.

County officials say the updated FIRMs will provide a better understanding of flood hazards for planners as well as detailed information on where to build.


They also will help in the making of financial decisions about protecting a home or business.

That includes possible changes for some homeowners who may be required to obtain flood insurance.

The FEMA maps show flood hazard areas along with letter rankings for the degree of risk for locations inside those areas.

Homes located inside any of the several zones inside the flood hazard areas are required to have flood insurance if mortgaged by a federally regulated or insured lender.

A current FEMA flood map for Hilo.

A current FEMA flood map for Hilo.


Locations considered to have a low- to moderate-flood risk outside of the flood hazard areas are designated as Zone “X,” and homes in that zone are not required to have flood insurance.

However, FEMA advises owners of homes moved by the new maps out of the flood zone into Zone X who have flood insurance to maintain their policies because the flood risk is considered reduced but not eliminated.

A law passed by Congress in 2012 that changed federal subsidies for flood insurance resulted in drastically increased premiums for many policy-holders. However, a law passed in February reinstated some of the subsidies.

After FEMA completes its review of the proposed new flood map, which is expected to take from six months to a year, it will publish notices describing the changes. At that point, homeowners will have 90 days to appeal their particular designation.


The proposed new flood maps are available by emailing Frank DeMarco at [email protected], or by visiting the Department of Public Works at 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 7.

Current FEMA flood maps are available online.

For information on flood insurance questions, call FEMA at 1-800-427-4661.

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