Expert says FEMA flood maps in Wisconsin are outdated

MADISON (WKOW) — FEMA was in Sauk County Friday conducting damage assessments, completing evaluations in La Valle and Reedsburg. Now assessors are moving onto Rock Springs, North Freedom, and Baraboo. FEMA also plans on looking at damage in Black Earth again, as well as in Adams and Juneau counties.

Whether or not those homeowners have flood insurance likely depends on whether or not their homes are in a floodplain. But who determines that? And just how accurate are those maps?

Larry Larson is Director Emeritus of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

“The flood maps are what the communities use to determine how and where to do development. So that development and new buildings and infrastructure are at less risk of flooding,” Lawson said.

For decades, Larson worked to map out where flood water would flow and determine the risk to homes and businesses.

After record rain in August led to flooding across southern Wisconsin, he believes FEMA flood maps, the ones used to determine which homeowners need to buy flood insurance, are out of date.

“FEMA’s lucky if they update maps on a cycle of five to 10 years,” Larson said.

Larson said old maps can lead to a false sense of security.

“If the map was inaccurate and a newer map might show that it would have been in the special flood hazard, they would have been required to buy insurance. So having the insurance would have made a big difference.”

And without flood insurance, homeowners can be left to pay for repairs to their homes on their own.

Costing them thousands of dollars.

Larson said part of the problem is FEMA uses past data to project future flooding, because the agency doesn’t have the necessary process in place to update future conditions.

“For example, they’re looking backwards and mapping yesterday’s flood, not tomorrow’s flood. so that’s an issue,” Larson said.

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