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FEMA to survey damaged homes, businesses


Date: November 22, 2016
Source: Citrus County Chronicles
Author:  Mike Wright


Teams of contractors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived Tuesday in Citrus County to begin inspecting about 800 homes and businesses damaged by Hurricane Hermine to see if should be rebuilt to more stringent flood zone standards.

At issue is hundreds of business and homeowners who did not voluntarily provide county officials with damage estimates from the Sept. 2 storm-surge, which brought the worst coastal flooding to Citrus County in 23 years.

The county has already issued about 100 storm-damage permits for repairs to flooded homes, including removal and replacing drywall, carpeting and electrical work.

Houses where repairs exceed 50 percent of the building’s pre-storm value are considered “substantially” damaged and must be renovated to flood-zone standards that include being elevated to avoid flood risk in the future.

Businesses also have the 50 percent rule, but regulations do not call for their structures to be elevated, officials said. Instead, owners can flood-proof their businesses with specialized door frames and sealing.

The county, in its initial inspections of structures west of U.S. 19, particularly in Homosassa, Ozello and near Crystal River, identified about 900 homes and businesses considered with “major” or “minor” damage.

Inspections and review of repair records provided homeowners identified 25 homes with substantial damage, meaning they would need to be rebuilt under the county’s flood building code.

Baird said those affected homeowners requested letters from the county saying they had substantial flood damage so they could prove damage to their insurance companies.

The county inspected another 100 homes, finding one with substantial damage, Baird said.

He said the county asked FEMA for help in inspecting the remaining 800 homes and businesses because it doesn’t have the available staff to conduct the inspections.

FEMA said three teams of contractors to Citrus County to begin each of the approximate 800 homes and businesses still on the uninspected list to see which ones have substantial damage. Baird said FEMA will provide a report of its inspections when they’re done.

While FEM,A officials say it’s the county or city’s job to determine whether homes must be rebuilt to flood zone standards, Baird said the county will follow FEMA’s reports.

The overriding issue, Baird said, involves the issuing of flood insurance. While FEMA says it does not tell counties or cities which homes should be elevated, the agency can penalize communities that do not follow their flood zone requirements by withholding flood insurance or eliminating the rate discount.

“If we don’t follow the way that FEMA wants us to, they can take points away from us,” he said, adding that Citrus now has a 25 percent discount on flood insurance rates.

The city of Crystal River is going through a similar exercise. It sent letters to nine homeowners, letting them know that flood-damage repairs to their homes exceed 50 percent of the house’s value and they would need to rebuild to flood-zone standards, generally a height of 8 to 12 feet.

City officials know there are many other home and business owners who have not come forward with damage estimates from Hermine, so they will be going door to door in known flooded areas to see if there are homes with undocumented substantial flood damage.